31 January 1945 – Eddie Slovik
US World War II Private Eddie Slovik became the only deserter out of 21,000 soldiers to be executed.
General Eisenhower is said to have given the go-ahead so his death could be used as an example to others.
Previously while training, Slovik had asked to be transferred to a non-combat post. But he had been refused, because they needed men on the frontline.
‘I am so unlucky’ he shrewdly wrote to his wife in 1944, before he’d even been posted anywhere. And how right he was. Of the 21,000 soldiers who were given varying sentences for desertion during World War II, 49 received the death penalty. But only Edward Donald Slovik actually came face to face with the firing squad, as he became the only US soldier to be executed for desertion since the American Civil War, which ended in 1865.
He was shot on this day in 1945, and to make matters worse his poor wife had absolutely no idea.
To find out more about this fascinating case check out William Bradford Huie’s book, The Execution of Private Slovik.