Monday, December 24, 2018

THIS DAY IN HISTORY – The execution of Eddie Slovik is authorized – 1944

On this day, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower endorses the finding of a 
court-martial in the case of Eddie Slovik, who was tried for 
desertion, and authorizes his execution, the first such sentence 
against a U.S. Army soldier since the Civil War, and the only man so 
punished during World War II. 
Private Eddie Slovik was a draftee. Originally classified 4-F because 
of a prison record (grand theft auto), he was bumped up to a 1-A 
classification when draft standards were lowered to meet growing 
personnel needs. In January 1944, he was trained to be a rifleman, 
which was not to his liking, as he hated guns. 
In August of the same year, Slovik was shipped to France to fight with 
the 28th Infantry Division, which had already suffered massive 
casualties in the fighting there and in Germany. Slovik was a 
replacement, a class of soldier not particular respected by officers. 
As he and a companion were on the way to the front lines, they became 
lost in the chaos of battle, only to stumble upon a Canadian unit that 
took them in. 
Slovik stayed on with the Canadians until October 5, when they turned 
him and his buddy over to the American military police, who reunited 
them with the 28th Division, now in Elsenborn, Belgium. No charges 
were brought; replacements getting lost early on in their tours of 
duty were not unusual. But exactly one day after Slovik returned to 
his unit, he claimed he was “too scared and too nervous” to be a 
rifleman and threatened to run away if forced into combat. His 
admission was ignored-and Slovik took off. One day after that he 
returned, and Slovik signed a confession of desertion, claiming he 
would run away again if forced to fight, and submitted it to an 
officer of the 28th. The officer advised Slovik to take the confession 
back, as the consequences would be serious. Slovik refused, and he was 
confined to the stockade. 
The 28th Division had seen many cases of soldiers wounding themselves 
or deserting in the hopes of a prison sentence that would at least 
protect them from the perils of combat. So a legal officer of the 28th 
offered Slovik a deal: Dive into combat immediately and avoid the 
court-martial. Slovik refused. He was tried on November 11 for 
desertion and was convicted in less than two hours. The nine-officer 
court-martial panel passed a unanimous sentence: execution-“to be shot 
to death with musketry.” 
Slovik’s appeal failed. It was held that he “directly challenged the 
authority” of the United States and that “future discipline depends 
upon a resolute reply to this challenge.” Slovik was to pay for his 
recalcitrant attitude-and he was to be made an example. One last 
appeal was made-to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied 
Commander. The timing was bad for mercy. The Battle of the Bulge in 
the Ardennes forest was issuing in literally thousands of American 
casualties, not to mention the second largest surrender of an American 
Army unit during the war. Eisenhower upheld the sentence. 
Slovik would be shot to death by a 12-man firing squad in eastern 
France in January of 1945. None of the rifleman so much as flinched, 
believing Slovik had gotten what he deserved.

1 comment:

TSE said...

Please - Lord Krishna - Not in my Name!

Got blood on your hands?