President Carter today informed leaders of several Polish American groups that he supports legislation pending in Congress to provide relief to Mrs. Antoinette Slovik, the widow of Private Eddie Slovik. Private Slovik was the only member of the Armed Forces executed for desertion during World War II.
The President's decision in no way condones the act of desertion. Rather it is a response to the unique nature of the situation and to Mrs. Slovik's personal plight. This case differs from all others, including those in which servicemen died by causes other than execution while in desertion status. The President does not believe that special legislation would be appropriate in such other cases.
The President reached his decision following a personal appeal from Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd and after the Justice Department advised that the President has no independent authority to assist Mrs. Slovik. The White House requested Justice's views following last year's determination by the Department of the Army that Private Slovik's punishment had been lawfully imposed.
Congressman Rangel has introduced in the House the legislation which the President supports. The bill would grant Mrs. Slovik an amount equal to the proceeds of her husband's National Service Life Insurance Policy, plus interest—a total of $70,000. Present law prohibits the granting of such benefits to the survivors of servicemen who die following desertion or who are lawfully executed. The bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate.