November 1, 2007
In Commemoration of All Souls Day
And Veterans’ Day
THE WEST SIDE DETROIT POLISH AMERICAN HISTORICAL
Pays Tribute to
EDWARD DONALD SLOVIK (Pvt. Eddie D. Slovik)
18, 1920 – January 31, 1945
Eddie D. Slovik
was a Polish American born and raised on
Detroit’s west side. He served as a private in
the U.S. Army during World War II. He was the
only American soldier to be executed for
desertion since the American Civil War.
As a child and teenager, Slovik ran up against
the law on numerous occasions. His first arrest
came at twelve years of age, for breaking into a
foundry with friends and stealing some brass.
Other breaking and entering incidents followed,
as well as incidents of disturbing the peace.
In 1939, he was sentenced to a jail term after
stealing a car and crashing it after a drunken
joy ride with two friends.
Although he was classified as unfit for duty
because of his criminal record, Slovik was
subsequently reclassified and drafted into the
U.S. Army about a year after taking Antoinette
Wisniewski as his bride on November 7, 1942. On
January 24, 1944, Slovik was assigned to Camp
Wolters, Texas, for basic military training, and
in August was dispatched to France as part of
the twelve reinforcements assigned to Company G
of the 109th Infantry Regiment, U.S.
28th Infantry Division. Afraid to
fight, Slovik, along with his friend, Pvt. John
Tankey, hid out during an artillery attack.
After becoming separated from their detachment,
they hid out for six weeks with a Canadian
military police unit. When they returned to
their regiment, no charges were filed since
Tankey had written their commander and explained
The next day, Slovik told his company commander,
Ctn. Ralph Grotte, that he was too frightened to
serve in a rifle company and threatened to run
away if assigned to one. He asked to be
reassigned to a rear area unit and questioned
whether running away would be considered
desertion. Grotte confirmed that it would and
refused to reassign him, instead assigning him
to a rifle platoon.
Slovik’s repeated written requests for
reassignment were denied and he deserted several
times. He signed a confession declaring himself
unfit to fight and stated he would rather face a
court martial. Nine officers of the court found
Slovik guilty of desertion and sentenced him to
death. The sentence was reviewed and approved
by the divisional commander, Major General
On December 9, Slovik wrote to the Supreme
Allied commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower,
pleading for clemency. Because desertion had
become a problem, Eisenhower was unyielding,
intent to make an example of Slowik. The
execution was carried out before a firing squad
on January 31, 1945, at 10:04 a.m. Slovik was
twenty-four years old.
Slovik was buried in
“Plot E” in Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and
Memorial in Fère-en-Tardenois, alongside
ninety-six other American soldiers in who had
been executed for crimes such as murder and
rape, his grave marked with an obscure marker.
forty-two years after his execution, Slovik’s
remains were returned to his home state and
interred in Woodmere Cemetery on Detroit’s west
side. Antoinette, who died in 1979, had tried
unsuccessfully for years to collect her
husband’s insurance death benefit, which was
refused since he died under dishonorable
circumstances. She lived her last days on
Social Security in a Detroit nursing home,
disabled and suffering from heart trouble and
breast cancer. Pvt. Slovik’s re-interment was
due to the efforts of former Macomb County
Commissioner Bernard V. Calka, a Polish-American
World War II veteran, who lobbied for years on
Slovik’s behalf and spent approximately $8,000
for the transfer of the remains from France to
Detroit’s Woodmere Cemetery, where he rests next
Twenty-one thousand soldiers were given varying
sentences for desertion during World War
II—including forty-nine death sentences.
However, Slovik’s death sentence was the only
one carried out. Although Antoinette and others
petitioned seven U.S. presidents, Pvt. Eddie D.
Slovik has not been pardoned.
For an in-depth story about the life of Pvt.
Eddie D. Slovik, see:
The Detroit News: Rearview Mirror Story