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The Execution of Private Slovik

The Execution of Private Slovik (1974)

March. 13,1974
| Drama War TV Movie

The story of Eddie Slovik, who was executed by the Army in 1945, the only American soldier to be executed for desertion since the Civil War.


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Since only one US serviceman has been executed for desertion since the Civil War, "The Execution of Private Slovik" stands out as a unique piece of history. But Private Slovik wasn't the only US Serviceman executed during World War II, just the only one executed for "desertion." Over a hundred GIs were executed after D-Day for a variety of offenses during the final year of the war, and many of them were Black soldiers. Their story has yet to be told. This movie concentrates on Eddie Slovik, a manipulative and somewhat dim-witted private who believes that the worst thing that can happen to him is a short prison sentence at Fort Leavenworth. Unfortunately for him, desertion during the brutal Battle of the Bulge was becoming a big problem for the US Army command, and Slovik's "open and shut" case gave the brass just the "example" they were looking for. Martin Sheen does fine work here in one of his more memorable roles. He portrays the nervous and misguided Slovik as someone who has convinced himself that his earlier career in petty crime is the basis for all his troubles. Ned Beatty matches him with a sterling performance as the chaplain assigned to remain with Slovik during his ordeal. The movie stays close to the facts and tries its best to steer clear of any easy judgments. It's obvious that Slovik would've received a lighter sentence in a civilian court, but Army justice in 1945 was harsh, swift and unforgiving. In reality, Slovik had few friends and the firing squad, made up of his former comrades-in-arms, didn't flinch when the order to "FIRE!" rang out. They firmly believed that Slovik got what he deserved. Viewers may be split on that verdict. Significantly, it was future US president General Dwight D. Eisenhower who gave the final approval for Slovik's execution. According to all reliable historians, Ike didn't lose any sleep over the decision.


I actually saw this film in New Delhi, India of all places in 1987. I was visiting India, the Taj Mahal when I got back to my hotel room. I was looking for an English program because I couldn't understand Hindi and I saw this movie. It was very gripping especially Martin Sheen acting. Also, the title itself was compelling because I caught the movie in mid-flight. I kept wondering what is this guy going to be executed for stealing, or murder which I thought was impossible because he was a nice guy. I remember the final scene and was very confused by There was no internet at the time and I did find an article said he was killed because of desertion which I didn't understand. Why didn't they put the guy in jail or exile for a long time was my thought?Every said he was a coward but I thought he did the right thing which was his heart. He is not a soldier. There are so many folks who try to be a soldier and kill somebody by mistake or miss their assignment. This whole "America" thing please everybody loves America but nobody likes other Americans as strangers. Period. You may like your group, infantry, team, bible study, family, sqaud, platoon, and friends, but not Americans as a whole. You see more killings, beatings, and hatred of Americans by other Americans. Ask your policeman, domestic violence counselor, doctors, and teachers.The bottom line is every man for themselves is the mentality because everything is treated as a sport whether its being in the army, the office, schools (elementary, high school, college or grad), music stage, choir, or Hollywood. It is a jock thing everywhere. Yes, that is a correct assessment of why Hollywood produced this film. However, I dare you former soldiers to go against Hollywood. You can bring your bayonets and whatever but you can't beat the word anti-semitic. So, you come with this word "liberal". What is that? Of course, now they are the army side and you guys have to kiss "butt". What is that term "a pen is mightier than a sword".I do appreciate people who fought for the United States but I also know that most treat it like a business of being the best "jock" soldier mentality. If you don't have that mentality, you will be eaten alive like the American soldier in Japan who got brutally killed by another American soldier in Japan for being gay or the "Tailhook" scandal.In short, very few Americans fight for other Americans. If you are one of those, you are blessed. You see old-timers who criticize how Americans are today, Bob Feller. Big time, Jock but he can't beat media or Hollywood.


This was made-for-TV movie shown about 30 years ago about the only American since the Civil War to be shot for desertion. Slovik (Martin Sheen) was a strange person and I didn't know how to react to this story, frankly. I knew Hollywood was going to give it its usual liberal bias, especially with Sheen in the starring role, so I tried to look at this objectively with no prejudices - something I don't see here with any of these reviews.Unfortunately, in trying to be totally neutral, it's easy to watch this film and come away with no definite stance. On one hand, you can't blame the military because it would be in chaos if every soldier who didn't want to fight could get out of it. That's ludicrous. On the hand, Slovik was such a nice, gentle guy, the death penalty for his actions seemed severe, too. Couldn't something else have been worked out? I don't know, and at least I'm being honest. I never was in the military and maybe if I was, it would be an easier call. It is a tough call....but at least the film - except for a couple of lulls with the romance angle - kept my attention and made me think about an issue, so it served its purpose.


This is a film that will leave you crying, angry and filled with righteous indignation, as it should.Of the thousands of GI's who deserted during WW2, only one, Eddie Slovik, paid the ultimate price. His story is one of sheer bad luck on an appalling scale. Having done time for a minor offence (it was Grand Theft Auto), Slovik is determined to put the past behind him and start afresh. He gets a job, finds a wife and settles down, happy in the knowledge that his prison record means he's a 4F when it comes to military service. But when the army changes the rules and he registers as 1A, he finds himself in a situation he's emotionally unable to cope with.Eddie Slovik should never have been on the front line. He was terrified of guns and at boot camp they had to cheat to get him through the rifle range. Right from the start it was clear this was not the sort of man any soldier would want defending his rear, since he was incapable of doing it. Despite this, he was sent into Europe after the D-Day landings. Separated from his platoon he found a niche for himself as a forager for a Canadian unit and there, frankly, he should have stayed. When ordered back to his own unit, which was on the front line, he deserted, having made his situation plain. It's a downhill run from there.The film uses actual letters written by Slovik and comments from people who knew him to fill out the background of this tragic story. Sheer bad timing, combined with a belief that no one would see the sentence through (since it had never been down before) contributes to the film's heartbreaking conclusion.Martin Sheen's performance is stunning. He manages to capture the pathos, fear, confusion and final terrified resignation of the man in the face of the inevitable. Slovik is the victim of fate and circumstance; the little guy, totally unprepared for the world in which he finds himself, more than willing to apply those skills he does possess to the war effort, but incapable of fulfilling what the army demands of him. While you can appreciate the army's need to make a point, you are left with the unalterable conclusion that here they picked the wrong man.This film left me feeling extremely angry, and it's a rare one that does that. It also made me want to find out more about the circumstances surrounding the events and I was pleasantly surprised to find the film, by and large, stuck to historical fact.Highly recommended.