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Eddie Slovik Court-Martial: 1944 - A "damn Good Guy", "if I Leave Now, Will It Be Desertion?", "i've Made Up My Mind"

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Defendant: Private Eddie D. Slovik
Crime Charged: Violation of the 58th Article of War (desertion to avoid hazardous duty)
Chief Defense Lawyer: Captain Edward P. Woods
Chief Prosecutor: Captain John 1. Green
Judges: 1st Lieutenant Bernard Altman, Captain Stanley H. French, Captain Benedict B. Kimmelman, Major Orland F. Leighty, Major Robert D. Montondo, Captain Arthur V. Patterson, Captain Clarence W. Welch, Major Herbert D. White, and Colonel Guy M. Williams.
Place: Rotgen, Germany
Date of Trial: November 11, 1944
Verdict: Guilty
Sentence: Execution

SIGNIFICANCE: Private Eddie Slovik was the only American executed for desertion of military duty from 1864 in the Civil War to the present. His court-martial during World War 11 stands as an example of the precise application of the letter of the law. It leaves disturbing questions about whether, all things considered, it was a fair trial.

In August 1944, as American forces in World War II fought across France into Germany, replacement troops, fresh off the troopship Aquitania and just out of basic infantry training, were moved toward combat. As one truckload of 12 soldiers neared the city of Elbeuf, some 80 miles northwest of Paris, they passed miles of bloody and charred remains of men, horses, guns, trucks, and tanks left behind by fleeing Germans. The Americans expected to join G Company of the 109th Infantry, 28th Division—Pennsylvania's famed National Guard outfit, known since World War I as the Keystone or "Bloody Bucket" division.

Toward midnight, not having found G Company and with shellfire exploding around them, the raw troops were ordered to dig in for the night. Two men, Privates Eddie Slovik and John F. Tankey, holed into side-by-side foxholes as German shells continued to pummel them. In the morning, Slovik and Tankey, saying they could not find their 10 companions or their unit, presented themselves to a Canadian unit in the vicinity and were welcomed.

Errol Flynn Trial: 1943 - "j.b." And "s.q.q.", Suggestions For Further Reading [next] [back] Dennis v. United States - Significance, "clear And Present Danger", "beyond These Powers We Must Not Go", Dissenters Cite Prior Censorship

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almost 7 years ago

Military Justice yeah right. Where was the justice for his family? He was scared and afraid as we all would be in war but that was no reason to have in execute him. The government jsut does not want to admitt that they made a mistake in this case and his family has had t suffer with the governments decision all these years. Give his family closure and give them his benefits and pardon him that would be Military Justice in action

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3 months ago

He did not deserve it, a book was written then TV movie. The movie could not be made until after Eisenhower died. That tells you something, it was a bad decision by Eisenhower to have him executed. The reason he was executed is because he had a criminal past so IKE said let’s kill him. Others never were executed but him, there was no need to do this, by this time the war was won, and the last time someone was executed was civil war!

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over 2 years ago

I know these comments were years ago, but let me address a couple:
"Where was the justice for his family?"
Not our problem. His problem, like the pain any other criminal causes throough their actions. Pardon, benefits for family? Bull5hit!
"Eddie was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
No, Eddie was not in the right place at the right time, voluntarily. Well deserved sentence.
"he was guilty of disobeying a direct order, not dersertion

Disobeying a direct order in wartime gets you shot, as it should!

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almost 8 years ago

This was indeed a sad story. Did Eddie Slovik deserve to be executed. Probably not, but Eisenhower wanted to make an example of him for others considering desertion. Eddie was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.



A sad postmark to this story is the fate of my Uncle, 1st Lieutenant Bernard Altman, a Washington DC Attorney, who was assigned at the Law Member of the court that judged Eddie. After the trial my Uncle returned to Wiltz in Luxembourg, Headquarters of the 28th Infantry Division just at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge. He was assigned to Headquarters Company. On December 19, 1944, while leading a platoon of men trying to fall back to Bastogne he was wounded in the leg, but refused medical attention to direct the actions of his men. Many of the men were able to escape, but my Uncle's wound finally imobilized him and he was taken prisoner. Although his wound was not fatal, he died of an infection due to the poor care given our solders by the German Army. His death, on February 16, 1945, was just a few months before the end of the war.



For his actions at Wiltz, he was Posthumously awarded the Silver Star for Gallantry in Action. Since he was listed as missing and then POW, no further word was sent so after the war,his wife, Tempa Altman, also a Washington attorney went to Europe to search for him. She discovered his grave in St. Avold France in 1946. Our family had him re-interred at Arlington National Cemetary in Virginia in 1949. He is buried next to his brother, Jack, who was with the 2nd Marine Division and was killed in action on June 15, 1944 during the invasion of Saipan.

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over 8 years ago

Sad story. What bothers me is that Pvt.Slovik was executed as an example to other potential deserters. Actually he didn't desert. He turned himself in to the Miltary and, foolishly claimed in writing that he would desert. In my view, he was guilty of disobeying a direct order, not dersertion. What did him in was

declaring his intensions in writing. If he had simply deserted and vanished from the area, he would have survived the war, like so many others

who deserted. He wasn't very bright.

Still, it's a shame that of the tens of thousands of deserters in WW 2, he was the only one executed.