Edward Donald Slovik (February 18, 1920 – January 31, 1945) was a United States Army soldier during World War II and the only American soldier to be court-martialled and executed for desertion since the American Civil War.
Although over 21,000 American soldiers were given varying sentences for desertion during World War II, including 49 death sentences, Slovik's death sentence was the only one that was carried out.During World War II, 1.7 million courts-martial were held, representing one third of all criminal cases tried in the United States during the same period.
Most of the cases were minor, as were the sentences.
Nevertheless, a clemency board, appointed by the Secretary of War in the summer of 1945, reviewed all general courts-martial where the accused was still in confinement, and remitted or reduced the sentence in 85 percent of the 27,000 serious cases reviewed.
The death penalty was rarely imposed, and usually only for cases involving rape or murder.
Slovik was the only soldier executed who had been convicted of a "purely military" offense.