31 January 2015

On This Day: American soldier executed

American soldier Pvt. Edward Donald “Eddie” Slovik was executed On This Day in 1945 for desertion. He was the only American soldier to receive this punishment during WWII and the first since the Civil War. 

Slovik was drafted, beginning as an 4-F. He had a prison record which lowered his rank automatically until, due to personnel needs, those standards were lowered. Then he was reclassified as an 1-A. In August 1944 he was sent as a replacement to France to fight with the 28th Infantry Division. He got lost on the way to the Front and ended up with a Canadian until 5 October when the Canadians turned him over to the military police. Men got lost all the time so that incident was accepted as is, so to speak. Once back though, Slovik told his commanders he did not want to fight and would not. His commanding officers did not accept this and Slovik deserted the next day. He returned, admitted to running away and was sent to the stockade. 

He was offered a deal which required rejoining the fight. Slovik refused and was tried on 11 November. In just two hours the verdict came back that he be executed. He appealed but the verdict remained. Finally on 31 January 1945 a 12 man firing squad executed Slovik in eastern France. He was just 24 years old at the time when he was killed in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Departement du Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France. 
 
 

Slovik was born on 18 February 1920 in Detroit, Michigan. He was left in France, buried in the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial Cemetery in a special section for American soldiers who had also been executed for crimes. The Cemetery is located in Fere-en-Tardenois, Departement de l'Aisne, Picardie, France.  

Eddie and Antoinette met at the Montella Plumbing Company in Detroit, where they worked. They married on 7 November 1942. In 1987 his remains were returned to Michigan to be reburied next to his widow, Antoinette Wisniewski Slovik. They are buried in Detroit’s Woodmere Cemetery.

Since then, several articles and books, even a movie staring Martin Sheen, have reviewed Slovik’s execution. Was he executed to discourage others from deserting? This seems to be the primary focus of much discussion.  

Sources:

Ancestry.com. Global, Find A Grave Index for Non-Burials, Burials at Sea, and other Select Burial Locations, 1300s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. 

Ancestry.com. U.S. Rosters of World War II Dead, 1939-1945 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. 

Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011. Number: 370-20-1029; Issue State: Michigan; Issue Date: Before 1951 

Antoinette Wisniewski Slovik. Find A Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7006200.  

Kimmelman, Benedict B. (September–October 1987). "The Example Of Private Slovik". American Heritage Magazine. Accessed online 31 January 2015. 


“The execution of Pvt. Slovik,” History.com. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-execution-of-pvt-slovik  

 

On This Day is a prompt I started this month to further explore historical events.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.