Wednesday, January 31, 2007

In Memory of Private Slovik

Today is Wednesday, 31 January 2007.

On this day in 1945, Private Edward Donald “Eddie” Slovik became the only American soldier executed for desertion since the Civil War.

Slovik had informed his commanding officer that he was “too scared” to serve in a rifle company, and requested duty behind the lines. The request was denied, he deserted, was court-martialed, sentenced to death, and murdered by firing squad.

General Dwight Eisenhower could have commuted the sentence, but refused, since desertion had become a problem. President Franklin D. Roosevelt could have commuted the sentence, but did not.

The practice of murdering soldiers is known in French as --- I can’t recall the French, but it translates as “for the encouragement of others”.

Courage, indeed.

Slovik’s story is told in a book by William Bradford Huie, The Execution of Private Slovik, and in an excellent 1974 TV movie of the same name, starring Martin Sheen as Slovik.

I am reminded of a poster I plastered up around New York City in 1990: “Wars can never be ended, only never begun”.

A light snow fell this morning on Tulsa. This afternoon, I will lay an iris bloom at the foot of one of the trees on our property, naming it "The Slovik Tree".


Anonymous RtR said...

Your theme that references the French, cowardice and ritual murder brought this one to mind:

Paths of Glory

8:25 PM  
Blogger HH said...

Right on, Comrade RtR.

PATHS OF GLORY, a magnificent 1957 film about war's tragedy, directed by the sainted Stanley Kubrick, starring Kirk Douglas.

Run, don't walk; see it and weep.

9:55 PM  
Anonymous Hari said...

Paths of Glory also speaks to the disconnect between troops and their immediate superiors, and the top brass.

1:09 PM  

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