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The Execution of Private Slovik Paperback – October 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews


"A remarkable story reported by a master." -- W. E. B. Griffin

"A tremendously moving book." -- Atlantic Monthly

"Huie unravels the tragedy of Eddie Slovik, a 24-year-old soldier executed in 1945. Gut-wrenching." -- Library Journal

"The story raises questions to which our wisest leaders still lack satisfying answers." -- S. L. A. Marshall, New York Times Book Review

About the Author

William Bradford Huie (1910–1986), author and journalist, is widely recognized as among the chief correspondents to bring attention to the civil rights struggle in the South. He is the author of twenty-one books, many made into movies, including Can Do!: The Story of the Seabees, The Americanization of Emily, Three Lives for Mississippi, The Revolt of Mamie Stover, and The Klansman. Born in Hartselle, Alabama, Mr. Huie served in the U. S. Navy in World War II and afterwards was the editor and publisher of the American Mercury. His articles appeared regularly in national magazines and he was a host for the CBS television program, Chronoscope, a precursor to 60 Minutes.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Westholme Publishing (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594160031
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594160035
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #665,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A reader from Chicago on October 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
I could not put this book down once I started. "Wow" is all I could say at the end. This is an incredible World War II story of how an uneducated kid from Detroit full of lovesickness for his new bride ended up being shot for refusing to fire his gun in anger. He was accused of desertion--but it isn't that he ran from fighting it was the fact that he refused to fire. When he became separated from his unit after a night time artillery barrage, he ended up being a productive member of a Canadian reconn group that found him and another guy. He acted as their cook. It was then that he took to carrying writing paper in his ammunition pouches. And he wrote to his wife every day until he died. When he finally was able to get back with his unit, he did not want to fight. Instead of finding something else for him to do, the Army ended up killing him. He apologized according to the priest who spoke to him as he was tied to a post and he told the priest to let the boys know that he didn't blame them for what they had to do. The irony, of course, is that thousands--THOUSANDS--of American soldiers deserted duty during World War II, including officers, yet only Slovik was executed. The book opens with the author contacting the other guy who got lost with Slovik and he was stunned that Eddie Slovik was shot. He had absolutely no idea. The impetus behind the book is that the whole story was hushed up--the author happened to stumble upon a reference right after the war and began his investigation--so that even though at the time the reason given for killing Slovik was to create a deterrent for desertion, no one outside of the small execution group ever found out! I enjoy reading military history and I highly recommend this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By motts on February 17, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Execution of Private Slovik reads somewhat like a college term paper but because of the gripping subject it maintains the reader's interest. Thoroughly documented and cited, the author goes to great pains to challenge the reader to question why this event occurred. The author's question centers on whether Eddie was accurate in his belief that he was really being punished for the petty crimes of his youth. Great book for WWII buffs as well as people interested in Death Penalty issue.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By TomTomTara on March 29, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book recounts a series of events during WW2 wherein a guiless and simple soldier finds himself in front of a firing squad for desertion. The book reads like a sociology paper and has no interviews with the subject as he was long dead. However, you do read his letters to his wife - the only person he corresponded with - and get a pretty good impression of his character. To me, the operative word would be "childlike."

Rejected on his military physical exam, he was later called up when reinforcements were desperately needed. What is known is that he was a nice, helpful person according to those he trained with, without vices, a lousy shot, borderline physical stamina. He was not a troublemaker and not insubordinate. His correspondence reveals the one lucky break in his life - meeting his sick, crippled wife and having a home life for the first time. She was his one human connection and was the sun in his universe.

He spoke no word on his own behalf at his trial and it's certain he didn't understand the deadly repercussions of his insistence to serve in a non-combat position. He was under the mistaken impression that he'd go to jail for a few years and go home with a dishonorable discharge. He faced a firing squad instead. He was made an example of. Unlike Robert Morgenthau's son - (and other "Fortunate Sons") -who had a nice, non-combat position because his father was who he was, Slovik was completely without any helpful connections. His was not Abbie-Hoffman-like rebellion; Slovik was unsophisticated, unlearned, and just had a laser-focus to get back to his ailing wife.

Duty calls and soldiers must serve and God Bless the Greatest Generation who served heroically. But this punishment did not fit this "crime.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Shen on August 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
When I was reading this book, I could not stop reading it and never got bored reading it.

Here is a tragic story of a young American man, Eddie D. Slovik, who had straightened out his life, after a life of spending approximately a total of 5 years in reformatories and jails for petty crimes and thefts, then found a steady job during World War II on the home front, and married a strong woman, whom he loved very dearly. Then, his promising life as a truly reformed ex-convict with a potentially bright future was abruptly disrupted and ended, when he was drafted into the Army as a "replacement private" to fight in the final bloody stages of World War II.

It was the first tragedy in Private Slovik's short life for this to happen to him, as he went from being classified by his local Draft Board from 4-F (not fit for military service and when the US Military did not want any part of him) to 1-A (immediately available for military service). His promising life truly was wasted and went up in smoke.

The second tragedy in Private Slovik's life is when he was the only soldier in World War II to be executed for desertion, since the U.S. Civil War in the 1860's. Despite desertion during time of war is very wrong and a very serious offense, and in my opinion should be severely punished, it was unfair to single him out for execution. "Although over twenty-one thousand soldiers were given varying sentences for desertion during World War II--including forty-nine death sentences--only Slovik's death sentence was carried out." (Source/Cited from Wikipedia, [...] Private Slovik should have of course been tried by General Court Cartial, then given a sentence of prison or should NOT have had his execution actually carried out.
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