Eddie Slovik

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Edward Donald Slovik (February 18, 1920 – January 31, 1945) was a private in the United States Army during World War II and the only American soldier to be executed for desertion since the American Civil War.

Although over 21,000 American soldiers were given varying sentences for desertion during World War II, including 49 death sentences, Slovik's was the only death sentence carried out.[1][2]

Contents

Early life and draft

Slovik was born to a Polish-American family in Detroit, Michigan.[3] As a minor, he was arrested frequently. The first time, when he was 12 years old, occurred when he and some friends broke into a foundry to steal some brass.[4] Between 1932 and 1937, he was caught for several incidents of petty theft, breaking and entering, and disturbing the peace. In October 1937, he was sent to prison but was paroled in September 1938. After stealing and crashing a car with two friends while drunk, he was sent back to prison in January 1939.

In April 1942, Slovik was paroled once more, and he obtained a job at Montella Plumbing and Heating in Dearborn, Michigan. There he met the woman who would become his wife, Antoinette Wisniewski, while she was working as a bookkeeper for James Montella. They married on November 7, 1942, and lived with her parents. Slovik's criminal record made him classified as unfit for duty in the U.S. military (4-F), but, shortly after the couple's first wedding anniversary, Slovik was reclassified as fit for duty (1-A) and subsequently drafted by the Army. His service number was 36 896 415.

Slovik arrived at Camp Wolters in Texas for basic military training on January 24, 1944. In August, he was dispatched to join the fighting in France. Arriving on August 20, he was one of 12 reinforcements assigned to Company G of the 109th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 28th Infantry Division.

Desertion

While en route to his assigned unit, Slovik and a friend, Private John Tankey, took cover during an artillery attack and became separated from their replacement detachment. This was the point at which Slovik later stated he found out he "wasn't cut out for combat." The next morning, they found a Canadian military police unit and remained with them for the next six weeks. Tankey wrote to their regiment to explain their absence before he and Slovik reported for duty on October 7, 1944. The US Army's rapid advance through France had caused many replacement soldiers to have trouble finding their assigned units, and no charges were filed against them.

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