Today marks the 67th anniversary of the execution of Private Eddie Slovik. His is a story that government education is often too ashamed to tell. Eddie was convicted during World War II of desertion after he told superiors that he was too afraid to participate in combat. Then-Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower felt the need to make an example out of Eddie, as desertion rates within the military began to rise. He was tried in a military court in November of 1944, and shot to death on January 31, 1945. He is the only American to be executed for desertion since the American Civil War.
As he was being led to his death, Eddie said to his fellow soldiers, “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.” Eddie Slovik was 24 years old at the time of his death.