The Execution of Private Eddie Slovik, Born & Raised in Michigan
The Execution of Private Slovik was a TV movie that starred Martin Sheen and aired in March 1974. Who was Private Eddie Slovik?
Eddie was an army soldier during WW2 and became a worldwide figure for being the last U.S. Soldier to be executed for desertion. He was also the only one to be executed during WW2, even though there were a good handful of soldiers that were found guilty of desertion. Unfortunately for Eddie, he was the one that got marked.
Michigan homeboy Eddie Slovik was born on February 18, 1920 in Detroit and raised in Dearborn. As a youngster, Eddie was becoming a known troublemaker. In 1932 when he was twelve years old, he was arrested with his friends for breaking & entering a foundry and stealing brass. His lawbreaking continued all throughout the 1930s, with arrests and jail time for robbery, drunk & disorderly, petty theft, and auto theft.
He served two terms in prison – the second from 1939 to 1942, when he was paroled after three years. After acquiring a job at a plumbing & heating company in Dearborn, he met his future wife Antoinette. Thanks to Eddie's criminal record, his draft classification was 4-F; but one year after his wedding, he was re-classified as 1-A and drafted into the army, thanks to the country's need to help fight in the escalating war.
According to History.com, in 1944, after seeing blood and death at the Battle of the Hurtengen Forest, Eddie decided he wasn't cut out for military duty...especially doing battle. Time and again he confessed to deserting and swore he would keep it up if he wasn't allowed a court-martial and prison time. He figured that way he would eventually be dishonorably discharged and do no more frontline combat time.
It was General Dwight D. Eisenhower who accepted the verdict and ordered the execution to be carried out (Eisenhower also tried to stop the book from being published). Out of 21,049 U.S. soldiers who were court-martialed for desertion during WW2, Eddie was the only one to meet this fate, in order to set an example. He was given the death penalty which was carried out by a 12-man firing squad on January 31, 1945; Eddie's body was buried in an unmarked (except for ID numbers) grave in France. He was the first U.S. Soldier executed for desertion since the Civil War.
Back in the states, Antoinette sought a pardon for Eddie with every president from Harry Truman to Jimmy Carter, all with negative results. Carter was president when Antoinette passed away in 1979.
Finally – 42 years after he was executed – Eddie Slovik's body was shipped back to Michigan where he was buried next to Antoinette in Woodmere Cemetery, Detroit.