This article is for quizzes on Wednesday January 20th...
Edward Donald "Eddie" Slovik (February 18, 1920 – January 31, 1945) was a United States Army soldier during World War II and the only American soldier to be court-martialled and executed for desertion since the American Civil War.
During World War II, 1.7 million courts-martial were held, representing one third of all criminal cases tried in the United States during the same period. Most of the cases were minor, as were the sentences. Nevertheless, a clemency board, appointed by the Secretary of War in the summer of 1945, reviewed all general courts-martial where the accused was still in confinement. That Board remitted or reduced the sentence in 85 percent of the 27,000 serious cases reviewed. The death penalty was rarely imposed, and those cases typically were for rapes or murders. Slovik was the only soldier executed who had been convicted of a "purely military" offense.
The execution by firing squad was carried out at 10:04 a.m. on 31 January 1945, near the village of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines. The unrepentant Slovik said to the soldiers whose duty it was to prepare him for the firing squad before they led him to the place of execution, "They're not shooting me for deserting the United States Army, thousands of guys have done that. They just need to make an example out of somebody and I'm it because I'm an ex-con. I used to steal things when I was a kid, and that's what they are shooting me for. They're shooting me for the bread and chewing gum I stole when I was 12 years old."
Slovik, wearing a uniform stripped of all insignia with a GI blanket across his shoulders against the cold, was led into the courtyard of a house chosen for the execution because it had a high masonry wall. The commanders did not want the local French civilians to witness the proceedings. Soldiers stood him against a six inch by six inch post. The soldiers strapped him to the post using web belts. One went around and under his arms and hung on a spike on the back side of the post to prevent his body from slumping following the volley. The others went around his knees and ankles. Just before a soldier placed a black hood over his head, the attending chaplain, Father Carl Patrick Cummings, said to Slovik, "Eddie, when you get up there, say a little prayer for me." Slovik answered, "Okay, Father. I'll pray that you don't follow me too soon." Those were his last words.