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Execution & Yankee Racehorse

US Military History Throughout The Years

Short bits of history you know and some you may not!

  • Eddie Slovik: Wednesday, January 31, 1945 – US Army Private Eddie Slovik becomes the first and only US Soldier to be executed for desertion during WW2. Slovik was a minor criminal before the war, having been arrested and in prison multiple times, and was for considered morally unfit for military duty during the early years of the war as a result. In 1944 the US Military changed their standards and Slovik was drafted in January. After completion of training he was sent to France and while en route to his new unit he and another Solider became separated from their unit and ended up staying with a nearby Canadian unit for 6 weeks. Once reunited with their unit on the front lines Slovik quickly informed his commander that he was too scared for front line duty and wanted to be reassigned to a rear unit, away from combat. He said if he was assigned to a front line rifle company he would run away, even after his commander told him he would be court-martialed for such actions. Sloviks request was denied and he ran away only 2 days after being reunited with his unit. He approached a unit several miles into the American rear lines and handed a cook a letter stating his actions. He was quickly handed over to the local military police who urged him to destroy the letter, which he refused to do. Multiple officers would urge him to destroy the letter and in doing so all charges for desertion would be dropped, along with reassignment to a new unit and a fresh start. He again would refuse and the letter would be used against him in court. All this time Slovik only thought he would face some jail time, something he was accustomed to and thought mush better than front line combat. In court Slovik was charged with desertion and sentenced to death by the officers composing the trial. He would write a letter soon after to the Supreme Allied Commander, Dwight Eisenhower, pleading for clemency. Eisenhower would refuse. His refusal came about as a result of desertion becoming a systemic problem throughout France and because the Battle of the Bulge was raging. With moral at the lowest yet during the war Slovik was to be used as an example. On this day he would be executed by firing squad for being found guilty of desertion. He was buried among other executed American Soldiers in France, those others having been executed for rape and murder, with his grave not being marked with his name but a series of numbers only known by the Army. In the years after his wife would petition for his remains and pension but never see any of it. It was not until 1987, after his wife’s death, that his remains were reburied next to his wife. Multiple parties have approached 7 US Presidents seeking a pardon for Slovik, with none ever granted. PVT Slovik is the first and only American Soldier executed for desertion since the Civil War.
  • Yankee Racehorse: Saturday, February 1, 1800 – During the Quasi-War with France the USS Constellation engaged the French Navy’s La Vengeance. The La Vengeance was a slightly lighter ship but was more heavily armed on its broadsides. During a tense 5 hour battle the two ships would twice come close enough that boarding parties would be called forward, with each time the ships fighting each other off. During one such action when the ships closed in on each other, US Marines on the deck of the Constellation would fire so much that the deck fo the La Vengeance would be covered in dead and wounded. The USS Constellation would emerge victorious after the battle as the ships broke contact. Both ships were riddled in holes and damage, with the La Vengeance just managing to escape. The La Vengeance would ground itself near the closest port while the USS Constellations rigging was so damaged that it was not sailed upwind for fear of losing the ship. Upon return to port the Captain of the La Vengeance was so embarrassed of his loss that he claimed that the USS Constellation was a much larger Ship of the Line. Due to the speed and power displayed by the USS Constellation the French would give her the nickname the “Yankee Racehorse”.
  • Go for Broke: Monday, February 1, 1943 – The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, “Go for Broke”, is created. The unit was comprised almost entirely of Nisei, second generation Japanese Americans. At the time the Japanese Americans were under heavy scrutinization, with many along the west coast held in internment camps. The units members were a mix of initial volunteers and conscripted Soldiers, which made of the bulk of the unit. Upon entry and recruitment to the unit members had to undergo a loyalty questionnaire, which many protested due to resenting thought that they ever held allegiance to Japan in the first place. The unit would fight in Europe during the war and quickly create an impressive combat record. By the end of the war the regiment would become the most highly decorated unit for its size, around 4,000 Soldiers made up the units fighting force, in the entire US Military history. In two years of fighting its members would earn a over 18,000 awards including, more than 4,000 Purple Hearts and Bronze Star awards each. The unit would earn eight Presidential Unit Citations, five of those in the same months time, and 21 members were awarded the Medal of Honor. In 2012 all surviving members were made chevaliers of the French Légion d’Honneur for their actions in Frances liberation. The actions of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team along with several similar units would change Americas opinion of Americans of Japanese ancestry, leading to the easing of restrictions and release of those held in internment camps well before the ending of the war.

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