View Full Version : Pentagon Record Lists Military Executions

12-13-2003, 03:41 PM
Dec. 12, 2003

ROBERT BURNS, Associated Press

WASHINGTON - On moving day in Cheryl Irwin's Pentagon office, she chanced
upon an artifact of American military history that had been tucked away
for decades in a nondescript cabinet.
"The first thing I saw was that it was handwritten," she said.

Next she noticed the title: "Executed Death Cases Before 1951."

The document is a ledger with the names of 169 members of the U.S.
military, plus seven German prisoners of war, who were convicted of crimes
punishable by death and executed. Also listed were a few dozen other
death-sentence cases in which the convicted person was not executed.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information
Center, which collects research on military and civilian death penalty
cases, said he had never heard of an official Pentagon list of executions.

Some are listed only by last name. Case number 315055 was "Norman," whose
rank is listed as corporal, convicted of violating Article 92 of the
Uniform Code of Military Justice (disobeying an order or regulation) while
in the "West Pacific" in January 1947. Nothing more specific is mentioned
about his offense, but the result is clear. He was sentenced to death, and
the final entry behind his name, in the "remarks" column, is "Executed

Article 92 has been used to punish capital crimes that the UCMJ does not

Another, Pvt. Boston, was executed Aug. 1, 1945. "To be shot," says a
handwritten notation.

The fact that these executions occurred is not a revelation, but it is a
reminder that death sentences for offenses by military members are rare
today. Seven men are on the military's death row today, and military
judges have put no one to death since 1961.

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 15 offenses are punishable by
death. Many of the 15, including desertion and disobeying a superior
officer's order, carry the death penalty only in time of war.

The ledger became known, purely by accident, as the Pentagon prepares to
hold military trials for some of the accused terrorists held at a
detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. President Bush has designated
six prisoners who could be tried, and with one exception - Australian
David Hicks, accused of training with al-Qaida terrorists - each could get
the death penalty if convicted.

Irwin unearthed the execution list Thursday while clearing out a file
cabinet in the Pentagon's main public affairs office, which is moving to a
newly renovated section of the building. When she grabbed an armful of old
files to throw out, a document fell to the floor.

The neat, orderly list is partly handwritten, partly typed on seven sheets
of slightly yellowed paper. It does not indicate who compiled the list or
why, nor is it dated. It carries the handwritten title, "Executed Death
Cases before 1951," although some were later.

Most were from 1944-45. The earliest was in 1942.

The latest case was Pvt. John A. Bennett, hanged April 13, 1961, after he
was convicted of rape and attempted murder. He was the last member of the
U.S. military to be executed.

Of the nearly 200 listed, many were hanged. Some were shot. In some cases,
the means of execution is not mentioned.

Details of the crimes are not listed, although in one, "German rape case"
is noted after the May 30, 1944, execution date.

The list includes one case that was the subject of a television movie, the
desertion case of Pvt. Eddie Slovik. He is the only member of the American
military executed for desertion since the Civil War.

Slovik was 24 when he was shot by a firing squad Jan. 31, 1945, and buried
among the graves of other U.S. soldiers hanged for charges that included
rape and murder. His execution, approved by then-Gen. Dwight D.
Eisenhower, was kept secret by the Army until nine years later.

The Slovik entry on the execution list is case number 290498, and it says
simply that he was shot, listing the date of the execution and the date of
his trial (Nov. 11, 1944). In an apparent clerical error, he is listed as
having violated Article 58 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It
actually was Article 85, the provision that says it is unlawful to desert.

After the 1974 movie, called "The Execution of Private Slovik," starring
Martin Sheen, supporters of the Slovik family waged a campaign to clear
his name, asserting he had been denied a fair trial.

The Pentagon reviewed the case and ruled in 1977 that the execution had
been justified.

The State Department and Army approved the exhumation of his remains from
a cemetery in France after one of Slovik's sisters made a formal request.
He was reburied in Detroit in July 1987.

Other cases on the execution list are seven POWs - all Germans listed as
having been hanged July 28, 1945, after being convicted of disobeying an
order or regulation. No details are provided.


Source : Associated Press

12-14-2003, 11:37 AM
I spent time at the 'old USDB' ... known as 'the Castle' ... while I was there I saw several 'Death' sentences converted to 'Life' ... and many 'Life' sentences converted to 'numbers' ... big numbers ... like 99 years, but to a guy with 'Life' ... numbers means there is a chance to leave eventually and such conversions are rather happy events in there lives.

I worked in the SHU there and as part of my job I would have to clean the 'old execution chamber' ... an electric chair ... and also clean the new 'execution chamber' ... Leathal Injection ... so I guess I'm one of the few people who have been up close to the mechanisms of execution in the US Military. It was not a pleasant feeling in those rooms.

The story on the 7 Germans executed was that they were all POWs brought over from WWII. They were caught plotting not just an escape, but an insurgency to follow. There were many German POWs here then, and the idea was to get free ... get weapons ... free the rest of the greman POWs ... and raise havoc in the Heartland of America. They were found out ... given a hasty 'trial' and then hanged inside the stairwell of building B6 within the old USDB compound. I beleive they were burried in the USDB's inmate graveyard there on Ft Leavenworth. That graveyard is a sad place ... for it is mostly full of the folks who die at the DB who have nobody who cares to 'claim the remains'. I was told that the German Consolate places flowers on those graves once each year.

Later on this building, B6, was made into a Dorm for Minimum custody inmates at the USDB ... all sorts of rumors flew about unusual noises and 'sightings' in that Building.


12-14-2003, 01:21 PM

From what I understand the Consolate does place flowers on the graves at USDB as is done here. There is a German Military Graveyard in Hampton Roads for the POWs and the U-Boat crews that died off shore here.

My father participated in the internment of a U-Boat crew many years ago. There was a German Embassy representative at the service. The modern German Flag flys over one Graveyard here. A little piece of Germany in Virginia. We place flowers there every year, as well as, a local U.S. Military cemetary.

Dad's career with the German Navy was from 1930 to 1964, he went in very young, I believe 16.

This was the only time I had seen him in his WWII era uniform. I had seen him many times in his uniforms, before he retired in 1964, but never that one. I was a bit shaken.


10-31-2004, 03:18 PM
I was also at the DB and read that the Germans were executed because they had conspired and killed one of their fellow German POW's who was cooperating with the Americans.

11-07-2004, 12:08 AM
I think the Germans A-Z refers to are the men the case ex parte Quirin,317 U.S. 1, is about. This is one of the main cases the Bush Administration is relying on to detain Yasir Hamdi and other American citizens involved with al-Qaida, the Taliban and other terrorist groups. I've researched this issue fairly thoroughly and knew they were executed after their appeals were exhausted, but didn't know it took place at the DB. Interesting.