Remains of World War II Deserter Buried Next To Those Of His Wife
DETROIT (AP) _ The remains of Pvt. Eddie Slovik were laid to rest today next to those of his wife, ending a 42-year effort to bring home the body of the executed soldier.
About 45 people, including family, neighbors and passionate strangers, attended the brief Roman Catholic burial rite at a Detroit cemetery. Two of Slovik’s three sisters clutched red roses and American flags as they gathered around the steel-gray casket.
″I’m glad it’s finally over,″ said Slovik’s 70-year-old sister, Margaret Sobolewski. ″It’s always been on my mind.″
Slovik was 24 during World War II when he became the only U.S. soldier executed for desertion since the Civil War. He was shot by a firing squad on Jan. 31, 1945.
The remains, exhumed Wednesday, were buried beside the grave of his wife, Antoinette, according to her last request. She died in 1979 after years of unsuccessful efforts to obtain a presidential pardon for him.
Slovik had been buried in France among the graves of 94 other U.S. soldiers, hanged for charges including rape and murder.
A Roman Catholic ceremony in Polish and English was scheduled to be held for him today.
A letter-writing campaign to return his remains to his hometown was led by Bernard Calka, 60, a Macomb County commissioner.
″After seven years and all those obstacles we faced, he’s finally here,″ Calka said Friday at Detroit Metropolitan Airport after the 70-pound box containing Slovik’s remains was flown in, 21 hours behind schedule because the crate mistakenly was shipped to San Francisco.
″I talked to his relatives this morning and they’re very joyous,″ Calka said. It seems like an impossible task, but I guess by not giving up, I succeeded at bringing him home.″
Calka said his next step is to pursue a presidential pardon for Slovik ″to restore some sense of dignity to a family that has suffered.″
His sisters and a sister-in-law were expected to attend the funeral, Calka said.
″There was some bitterness in the past and a lot of hurt for the family,″ he said. ″Every time I talked to them, there was never a smile, never a laugh. But since they heard Eddie’s coming home, there’s joy, smiles, laughs - they’re so light on their feet.″
Slovik’s troubles began when he was 12, growing up in the Polish enclave of Hamtramck. He was arrested for breaking and entering. He later served time on charges of embezzlement and stealing a car. After parole, he married in 1942 and was drafted on Jan. 3, 1944.
Slovik was declared a deserter a day after he reported as a replacement in an infantry company during fighting in Europe. He was absent without leave for 43 days, returned to his unit and deserted again, the Army said.
A Pentagon review said in 1977 there was no convincing evidence he was ″unable to control his actions″ and declared his execution justified.
The State Department and Army approved the exhumation after Slovik’s sister made a formal request and Calka paid the costs. Calka, a retired firefighter who served in World War II as a military police officer in the Philippines, said he spent about $5,000 on the effort.