The new softer Army

Published 10:00 am Thursday, June 5, 2014

Eddie Slovik is rolling over in his grave thanks to Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

When Bergdahl was returned to the U.S. in exchange for Taliban operatives this past weekend, he bestowed the public dishonor of becoming the most infamous American soldier accused of willfully deserting his post and walking off the battlefield.

Slovik had previously held the disgraceful title.

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Bergdahl is accused of willfully leaving his post in June 2009 at the height of combat in Afghanistan after sending a damning email to his parents.

“The future is too good to waste on lies. And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend helping fools with their ideas that are wrong,” he wrote. “I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be American. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting.”

Slovik walked off duty in October 1944 after telling his commanding officer, Capt. Ralph Grotte, that he was too scared to serve in front-line combat and asked to be assigned to a rear-guard unit.

Grotte of course refused Slovik’s request, so the 24-year-old private from Detroit took off before surrendering the next day.

“I was so scared, nerves and trembling, that at the time the other replacements moved out, I couldn’t move. I stayed there in my foxhole till it was quiet and I was able to move. I then walked into town,” Slovik wrote in his confession.

The U.S. Army has said it will pursue an investigation into Bergdahl’s conduct, which history tells us can mean harsh punishment.

Army Secretary John McHugh, however, said the government will take “as long as necessary” for Bergdahl recover from his time in captivity.

“The Army will then review this in a comprehensive, coordinated effort that will include speaking with Sgt. Bergdahl to better learn from him the circumstances of his disappearance and captivity,” McHugh said in a statement. “All other decisions will be made thereafter, and in accordance with appropriate regulations, policies and practices.”

That’s more time than Slovik got.  In late 1944, he was found guilty of desertion in order to avoid hazardous duty and sentenced to death.

“Given the situation as I knew it in November, 1944, I thought it was my duty to this country to approve that sentence. If I hadn’t approved it—if I had let Slovik accomplish his purpose—I don’t know how I could have gone up to the line and looked a good soldier in the face,” Gen. Norman Cota wrote of the decision.

On January 31, 1945, Slovik was executed by a firing squad.

What he did wasn’t right, but he was just a scared kid from Detroit. Bergdahl has already said he’s ashamed of us all.

The Army’s gotten a lot softer since World War II.

Josh Edwards is a reporter and can be reached by email at or by phone at 601-636-4545.