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Eddie Slovik Court-Martial: 1944

"i've Made Up My Mind"

Eddie Slovik was then locked up in the division stockade. Charges were preferred and investigated. Lieutenant Colonel Henry P. Sommer, the division judge advocate, offered Slovik a deal: "If you will go back to your outfit and soldier," he said, "I'll ask the General if he will suspend action on your courtmartial. I'll even try to get you a transfer to another regiment where nobody will know what you have done and you can make a clean start"

" I've made up my mind," said Slovik. "I'll take my court-martial."

The colonel was not surprised. He had heard many men prefer to take their court-martials. The fact was that the 28th "Bloody Bucket" Division was facing its most difficult fighting ever. Deep in the Hurtgen Forest, it was being pounded by heavy and terrifying German artillery barrages. Casualties were high, withdrawals were imperative, rookie reinforcements were inexperienced and disorganized, snow was already falling. Men who had marched exuberantly through Paris in August were ready to take dishonorable discharges and serve months or, if need be, Years behind bars to escape from the front lines in November. Desertions were becoming commonplace.

The Slovik court-martial was held at 10:00 A.M. on November 11, 1944 (the anniversary of World War I's Armistice Day). Before nine officers of the court seated behind a long table, the prosecutor, Captain John I. Green, stated the charge: desertion to avoid hazardous duty. On the specific charge of desertion at Elbeuf, a single witness testified that after the rookie troops searching for Company G had dug into foxholes a subsequent order had told them to move out, and that he had heard Slovik's voice among the men. On the specific charge of desertion at Rocherath, witnesses were the MP to whom Slovik handed his confession, Captain Grotte, who told of his interview with Slovik, the cook whom Slovik first encountered at Rocherath, and the officer to whom the cook took him.

Slovik's defense counsel, Captain Edward P. Woods, announced that the accused elected to remain silent. Lieutenant Bernard Altman then read him his legal right to be sworn as a witness. Slovik conferred with Woods, then said, "I will remain silent." The defense rested.

On secret written ballots, the nine officers then found Eddie Slovik guilty on the general charge and on each specific charge. All nine then concurred, on secret written ballots, in sentencing the accused:

To be dishonorably discharged from the service, to forfeit all pay and allowances due or to become due, and to be shot to death with musketry.

The court adjourned at 11:40 A.M.

Under military law, the sentence had to be approved by the division commander, Major General Norman D. "Dutch" Cota, after the division judge advocate prepared a comprehensive review and recommendations. The review produced an FBI check on Slovik. It disclosed that he had a prison record. After serving five years for embezzling small change and merchandise worth $59.60 from a drug store where he worked, and for automobile theft and violation of paroles, he had been paroled in 1942, had married, and had held a good job until he was drafted in 1944. The prison record, the judge advocate told the general, was a reason for not recommending clemency.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1941 to 1953Eddie Slovik Court-Martial: 1944 - A "damn Good Guy", "if I Leave Now, Will It Be Desertion?", "i've Made Up My Mind"