Was Eddie Slovik Naive to Expect Clemency After Deserting the Army?


In March 1974, NBC performed a serious marketing campaign to advertise “the tv occasion of the 12 months!”—a made-for-TV movie about World Warfare II soldier Eddie Slovik, the one American shot for desertion for the reason that Civil Warfare. A big commercial, extensively positioned in newspapers, confirmed a uniform-clad man standing, head bowed, as two troopers tie him to a submit in preparation for his execution, his plaintive expression considerably harking back to a pet within the rain. The advert left little doubt for viewers about how they need to really feel: “For the primary time in his life,” its textual content learn, “Eddie had a great house and a great girl. Immediately—warfare, panic, a court-martial and…The Execution of Personal Slovik.”

If this weren’t sufficient to tug on the heartstrings, the promotion continued: “Thousands and thousands served. Hundreds abandoned. And one—just one in over a century—paid the complete value for desertion. Why Eddie Slovik, who lastly had one thing going for him?”

Why certainly? The reply is straightforward: by no means thoughts what Slovik had going for him. He received what was coming to him. No one made extra certain of that than Slovik himself. 

The movie poster for the 1974 made-for-TV-movie, which recounts Personal Slovik’s fateful last days. (MCA Common)

Directed by Lamont Johnson and starring Martin Sheen within the title function, The Execution of Personal Slovik is much extra nuanced—and highly effective—than that treacly newspaper advert; the movie respects its viewers far an excessive amount of to inform it tips on how to really feel. Its first 20 minutes focus not on Slovik, however on the hapless assortment of soldiers plucked from the entrance strains and saddled with the duty of executing him. They’ve executed their responsibility killing Germans within the warmth of battle. Now their nation calls for that they need to kill a fellow American in chilly blood. They don’t prefer it. Neither does military chaplain Father Stafford (movingly performed by Ned Beatty), who has been assigned the duty of serving as Slovik’s religious adviser in his last hours however who additionally makes some extent of offering pastoral care to the execution squad.

When Stafford prods the lads to inform him how they really feel concerning the job forward, they’re reluctant to talk. Lastly one opens up: “If you wish to know the reality,” he says, “all of us really feel fairly unhealthy about this,” including that he tried to get out of the task. “He’s a deserter,” one other man states with out conviction. “A number of males are deserters,” observes a 3rd. “None of them have been shot.”

Finally a truck arrives carrying a gaggle of MPs together with the condemned man himself, 24-year-old Edward Donald Slovik of Detroit, Michigan. He’s soft-spoken and courteous to his captors, who plainly assume he’s a pleasant man. He is a pleasant man. The next flashback, comprising many of the film, makes that abundantly clear. 

The flashback kicks off a number of years earlier, with Slovik’s launch from jail on parole following a string of minor crimes. He goes in quest of an sincere job and finds not simply good employment however a great girl, Antoinette (Mariclare Costello), who quickly turns into his spouse. Slovik cares about Antoinette and the life they’re constructing collectively, and never a lot else; actually not his nation’s battle to defeat the Axis powers.

The couple regards Slovik’s jail file as a defend from separation, since as a convicted felon he’s robotically categorised 4-F and exempt from the draft. However when heavy battlefield losses drive an pressing want for replacements, Slovik is reclassified as 1-A and conscripted into the military. He views this as inexcusably unfair; after useless makes an attempt to get out of his service, he decides that if he should stay, he can not less than ensure that he survives to return to Antoinette. He deserts—not from a need to flee, however with an pressing need to get caught, figuring jail is preferable to dying in fight. He even writes an uncoerced confession stating that he has abandoned. It guarantees, in all capital letters, that if despatched to the entrance, he’ll desert once more.

Slovik is court-martialed and convicted, which he expects, however is then sentenced to demise, which is unsettling. He doesn’t consider he’ll be shot, however he figures that when the military commutes his sentence, he could find yourself in army jail a 12 months or two longer than he calculated.  In spite of everything, not one of the different guys convicted of desertion have been shot.

True, however not one of the different convicted guys ever tried to sport the system so blatantly.

The Execution of Personal Slovik insists that audiences empathize with Slovik, nevertheless it doesn’t require that they view his destiny as a miscarriage of justice. Slovik anticipated clemency from the military justice system, however clemency is an act of mercy, a magisterial present of forbearance by a strong authority. Slovik didn’t see it that method. He mistook forbearance for weak point—and power by no means permits itself to be confused with weak point, even when the individual confused is a pleasant man. And the lads assigned to take away the confusion have been—because the movie makes clear—different good guys who would reasonably have been anyplace else. 

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