The American writer Charles Grasse’s “The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II” first disclosed that as many as 50,000 US soldiers were deserted during World War II.
Battlefield fear leads to increased number of deserters
When the United States participated in World War II in December 1941, thousands of World War I veterans had not recovered from the physical and psychological trauma of the last war. After participating in World War II, in order to eliminate the possible impact of mental illness on combat effectiveness, psychiatrists managed to delay the enlistment of more than 1.7 million people. However, in the first few months after the war, there were constant deserters in the US military. A report in May 1942 showed that 2,822 of the US Army were deserters. With the landing of the US military in North Africa in November 1942, the long-running large regiments began to fight, and the phenomenon of deserters gradually increased. To this end, the US military urgently sent a psychological care unit to the theater to help the traumatized soldiers return to the front line.
In 1943, the US military also distributed a booklet called “Psychology of Fighters” as a guide for the mental health of soldiers, which focused on how to overcome the panic of the battlefield. In addition to the causes of panic, some officers and men also became deserters for anti-war reasons.
American deserters ravage Paris
On June 6, 1944, the US-based allies landed in Normandy, France, and some American soldiers used the opportunity to board the European continent as a deserter. After the liberation of Paris, the deserters also organized criminal gangs to collude with the Parisian underworld, bringing an unprecedented wave of crime to Paris. There was an unexpected situation at the time: the Allies fought against Hitler’s army in Europe, and on the other hand law enforcement officers were fighting a deserter gang that threatened the victory of the European War.
These American army deserters who roamed Paris were highly organized and armed to the teeth. They used their American military uniforms to cover the smuggling of weapons, forged passports and hijacked vehicles, and then sold them on the black market. In addition, they are frequent visitors to Paris brothels. Under the trampling of these US deserters, violent crimes in Paris soared. The crimes they committed included rape, murder, beatings, robberies, intrusions into homes and riots. It is said that almost every café in Paris was looted by them. After the US military entered Belgium in the fall of 1944, the deserters also entered, and they often attack civilian and military targets indiscriminately.
Only one deserter was shot
According to the report, from June 1944 to April 1945, the US Army Criminal Investigation Division handled a total of 79,122 cases, 40% of which involved the misappropriation of US military supplies. What is even more surprising is that a total of 50,000 US soldiers were used as deserters in World War II, but only 49 people were sentenced to death, and only one person was actually executed.
The unlucky name was Eddie Slovick, a soldier of the 28th Infantry Division of the US Army. On October 9, 1944, he fled from the first-line infantry unit and was later arrested by the gendarmerie. Compared to many deserters who committed rape and murder, Slovic had no other crimes than to be a deserter. However, at that time, leaving the post in the US military in France has become an increasingly serious problem. Soon after, the Germans launched a counterattack in the Ardennes. In order to stabilize the military, the Allied Supreme Commander Eisenhower decided to kill one hundred. Under the direction of Eisenhower, Slovic was executed by the firing squad on January 31, 1945.
After the war, the history of 50,000 deserters was erased by the US military. In the context of the military’s reluctance to delve into it, many American deserters have left their names in Europe and started their new lives. What makes Eisenhower stunned is that there are hardly any US soldiers on the Pacific battlefield as deserters. However, some historians believe that American soldiers in the Pacific battlefield are no more brave than the soldiers in the European battlefield. They just lack the conditions to be deserters: they have nowhere to escape except the Japanese-controlled islands.