During World War I, the British military condemned over 3,000 soldiers to death, but only executed 12% of them; the others received commuted sentences, unbeknownst to soldiers at the time. I verify that variation in commutations and executions is consistent with a random process. Using this result, I identify the effect of executions on subsequent desertions. There is limited evidence that executing deserters deterred absences, while executing Irish soldiers, regardless of the crime, spurred absences, particularly Irish absences. I present a model where perceived legitimacy of authority affects why people obey the law.

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