1400 Washington AveAlbanyNY
1400 Washington AveAlbanyNY

Violet and Irwin F. Bender, Sr. Papers


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The Violet and Irwin F. Bender, Sr. Papers document the Pennsylvania couple’s shortwave radio monitoring and subsequent correspondence about prisoners of war during World War II. The papers also contain correspondence about Axis Sally, an American radio broadcaster who was working for the Third Reich during the war and was later tried and convicted of treason in the United States.


Bender, Irwin F., Sr. (Shortwave radio monitor)
Bender, Violet (Shortwave radio monitor)
Date Coverage:
.4 cubic ft. (about .4 boxes)

During World War ll many citizens in the United States monitored shortwave radio transmissions for information and news updates. It was often possible to hear updates about prisoners of war during these broadcasts. Irwin (born June 7, 1899-death unknown) and Violet Bender (born February 27, 1906-death unknown) of Oberlin and Harrisburg, Pa. were active in shortwave radio monitoring during this time. Irwin worked as a milkman at the Philadelphia Dairy and Violet was a homemaker. After receiving a message about a prisoner of war, the Benders attempted to contact the respective prisoner’s family to give them updates about where the prisoner was being held. The FBI investigated Irwin because of his shortwave monitoring and asked him to cease and desist which he did, but Violet kept monitoring.

It was through these radio transmissions that Irwin and Violet were introduced to a woman named Mildred Gillars (November 29, 1900-June 25, 1988), known as Axis Sally. Axis Sally was a radio broadcaster and propagandist for Germany during World War ll. After the war she was returned to the United States, convicted of treason on March 10, 1949, served 12 years in prison, and then released on June 10, 1961. Violet and Irwin maintained that Axis Sally was innocent of her charges and worked tirelessly on behalf of her defense, writing letters to lawyers, politicians, and past POWs and their families in hopes of freeing her. During this time, Irwin and Violet corresponded frequently with Axis Sally’s sister, Edna Gillars Herrick, which began a friendship that lasted throughout Axis Sally’s incarceration.

The Violet and Irwin F. Bender, Sr. Papers was donated by Irwin F. Bender Jr. The collection has been kept in the order implemented by Irwin F. Bender, Jr. The collection contains correspondence between Violet and Irwin Bender, Sr. and family members of prisoners of war during World War ll with the bulk of letters dated 1943 to 1945. There is also correspondence relating to shortwave radio monitoring during World War ll of Berlin and Tokyo and corresponding newspaper clippings of that and prisoners of war.

The collection also contains correspondence pertaining to Axis Sally (Mildred Gillars) and a manuscript written by Edna Gillars Herrick about her sister Axis Sally. The correspondence relates to Axis Sally’s trial with letters from the Benders to politicians, lawyers, Edna Gillars Herrick, and other possible supporters of their cause to get the charges brought against Axis Sally dropped. The bulk of correspondence pertaining to the trial are from 1947 to 1950 with addition materials from 1952, 1959, and 1964.

The archivist elected to retain explanatory notes from the son of Irwin F. and Violet Bender that were donated with the collection in select folders.

The collection is arranged chronologically. There are no series.

All items in this collection were donated to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives in 2013 by Irwin F. Bender, Jr.

Processed by: Melissa McHugh

Collection record created by: This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on

Published: 2018-09-14 23:00:13 -0400

Collection-level record encoded in EAD by Brian Keough., 2016 December 26

Archival materials can be view in-person during business hours in our reading room, located on the top floor of the Science Library on the Uptown Campus.

We can also deliver digital scans for remote research for a fee.

Access to this collection is unrestricted.

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Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Violet and Irwin F. Bender, Sr. Papers, 1941-2012, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Bender Papers).

Contents of Collection



11Papers, Letters, Notes Relating to World War ll and Correspondence from Shirley Spence to Irwin Bender, Sr. and Jr.1941, 1943, 1945, 1996, 2012


12Correspondence about Shortwave Radio and World War ll POWs1943


13Correspondence about Shortwave Radio and World War ll POWs1944


14Revised List of 106th Division Men Who Have Been Reported Missing, Pittsburgh, PA1945 February 21


15Correspondence about Shortwave Radio and World War ll POWs1945


16Correspondence about "Axis Sally's" Trial1947-1950, 1952, 1959, 1964


17Letters and Carbon Copies to Mrs. Herrick and Mrs. Herrick’s Letters to Me (Irwin Bender), M-G’s Letters to Me (Irwin Bender)1948-1952, 1954


18Newspaper Clippings on “Case”1948, 1988, Undated


19Alphabetical List of Names of Soldiers with Addresses and Numbers, April and MayUndated


110Alphabetical List of Names of Soldiers with Addresses and Numbers, AugustUndated


111 Axis Sally is My Sister Undated