Court-Martial of U.S. Soldier Eddie D. Slovik

About the court-martial of U.S. soldier Eddie D. Slovik during World War II who deserted and was tired and executed.

EDDIE D. SLOVIK (1920-1945)

Eddie Slovik was not a carbon copy of the proverbial clean-cut all-American boy who enters military service with bright eyes and equal amounts of uncertainty and enthusiasm. Slovik's life had been a series of frustrating events that had thrust him 1st into reform school and then into prison.

When, via the draft, he entered the service during W.W. II, he had been out of prison 2 years, was happily married, and had a reasonably good post-prison work record. But underneath this facade of normalcy, Eddie Slovik hadn't changed all that much. In training, he had told a buddy that he wouldn't fire his rifle in combat.

Fighting was heavy for the Allies in 1944 when, in August, Slovik arrived at Omaha Beach to be assigned to the "jinxed division"--"G" Company of the 109th Infantry, 28th Division. Before Slovik and other replacements arrived at Elbeuf, 5 truck hours from the Beach, the convoy ran into artillery fire and had to stop and dig in. When his unit continued on toward Elbeuf, a frightened Slovik remained in his foxhole.

For 6 weeks he stayed as "house-guest" with Canadian forces before reporting for duty with the 28th. There, he confessed to desertion, was placed under arrest, and ordered to stand ready to be court-martialed.

The Court-Martial. The confession of Private Slovik played a major role in his speedy trial. He wrote in part: "I, private Eddie D. Slovik #36896415 confess to the desertion of the U.S. Army... I turned myself over to the Canadian Provost Corps. After being with them for 6 weeks, I was turned over to American M.P. They turned me loose. I told my commanding officer my story. I said that if I had to go out there again, I'd run away. He said there was nothing he could do for me, so I ran away again AND I'LL RUN AWAY AGAIN IF I HAVE TO GO OUT THERE."

The trial, held on November 11, 1944, was one of the shortest court-martials on record, lasting only one hour and 40 minutes. Nine judges convicted Slovik for violation of the 58th Article of War: desertion to avoid hazardous duty. The sentence: to be dishonorably discharged from service, to forfeit all pay and allowances due or to become due, and to be shot to death with musketry. After a lengthy review, the sentence was upheld by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. For Private Eddie D. Slovik, his lifetime of frustration came to an end before a firing squad in the snowcapped Vosges Mountains in January, 1945.

Significance. The sentence of death by a firing squad given to Eddie Slovik was the last such sentence to be carried out in the history of the U.S. military. Eddie's execution was intended as an example to discourage desertion, but men like Slovik will continue to desert a system they cannot understand.

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