January 31, 2006

This date in Michigan History

This date in Michigan History

January 31, 1945
Private Eddie Slovik becomes the only U.S. serviceman executed for desertion during WWII.

During World War II, more than 21,000 American military personnel were convicted of desertion; 49 were sentenced to death, but only 24-year-old Private Slovik was executed.

The only American soldier to be executed for desertion since the U.S. Civil War, Slovik was born in Hamtramck, Michigan. Slovik was a petty thief who had spent part of 1942 in a reform school. A change in his draft classification from 4F to 1A led to Slovik's draft into the U.S. Army, where he served in Europe as an infantryman with the 28th Division. Slovik went AWOL twice, being returned to his unit both times.

Slovik's wife was not told of his death sentence. Slovik was buried in a secret cemetery with 94 American soldiers that had been executed for crimes of rape and murder. Thanks to the efforts of Bernard Calka, a former Macomb County commissioner, Slovik's remains were returned to the United States and buried next to those of his wife in 1987.
Courtesy Michigan History Magazine.

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