Arthur D. Nicholson, Jr. – Major, United States Army

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Contemporary press reports: March 1985

Mar 30, 1985: Vice President Bush called Major Arthur D. Nicholson Jr. “an outstanding officer murdered in the line of duty,” honoring him during a brief ceremony yesterday marking the return of the body of the Army officer slain by a Soviet guard in East Germany.

“We can only hope that the Soviet Union understands that this sort of brutal international behavior jeopardizes directly the improvement in relations which they profess to seek,” Bush told a crowd of about 150 military officials, reporters and others gathered at Andrews Air Force Base to meet the plane carrying Nicholson.

Nicholson, 37, was shot to death last Sunday afternoon by a Soviet sentry while on a monitoring mission. He was one of 14 officers assigned to East Germany under a 1947 US-Soviet agreement that provides for the exchange of intelligence-gathering missions in East and West Germany. The Soviets have maintained that Nicholson was trying to take photographs in a clearly marked restricted area, a charge the State Department denies. Earlier in the week, US officials publicly referred to Nicholson's death as “murder”, but in the last couple of days their statements had been less critical. State Department officials said there is a possibility Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin will meet today to discuss the case.

Nicholson's flag-draped coffin was accompanied on the Air Force flight from Frankfurt yesterday by his wife, Karyn, his 9-year-old daughter, Jennifer, and the 13 other members of the US liaison team. “It was their desire to come home to attend his funeral,” said US Army Lieutenant Colonel Miguel Monteverde said of the officers. “. . .Right now their function in East Germany is not being performed.”

Under dark, opalescent skies, Nicholson's widow greeted Vice President and Mrs Bush and moved down a line of relatives, friends and officers, shaking hands with some and hugging others. Her daughter, holding a yellow-haired Cabbage Patch doll, waited with bowed head beside Nicholson's parents from Redding, Connecticut. Nicholson's fellow liaison officers stood at attention beside the silver hearse that held his coffin. Sgt Jessie Schatz, who was on patrol with Nicholson when the shooting occurred, stared straight ahead. Schatz told officials earlier this week that Nicholson cried out, “Jess, I'm shot.” He also said Soviet soldiers prevented him from administering first aid.

Nicholson will be buried at 1 p.m. today at Arlington National Cemetery.

March 31, 1985: Family, friends, colleagues and top Army officials gathered yesterday in a military chapel at Fort Myer to honor Major Arthur D. Nicholson Jr. and eulogize him as a man who had volunteered for a stressful assignment because he wanted to be on “the cutting edge.”

Nicholson, 37, a liaison officer to East Germany, was shot and killed by a Soviet sentry near a garage-like storage shed one week ago. Nicholson, whose hometown was West Redding, Connecticut, had been attached to the 14-member liaison mission in Potsdam since 1982.

As several hundred people honored Nicholson at a service in Fort Myer's Memorial Chapel and a military burial in Arlington National Cemetery, Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin met at the State Department and agreed on discussions to prevent similar incidents.

In the chapel, family, friends and colleagues sat silently as the muffled beats of a drum corps outside signaled the arrival of the major's flag-draped casket. Colonel Roland LaJoie, commander of the liaison mission, recalled Nicholson as a man who “not only passed the tests, he set the standards.” Nicholson was “my officer, my professional colleague and, most importantly, my personal friend,” LaJoie said. “I was the last of us to see Nick alive and the first to see him dead.” LaJoie praised Nicholson's heroism and decried the circumstances of his death. “It was not a battle, it was not a fair fight; he was unarmed, in uniform, in broad daylight . . . . ” And he stressed that Nicholson believed in the value of his work. “He constantly sought ways to increase contacts with Soviet officers so we could get to know each other better. Nick immensely enjoyed what he was doing, and I can tell you unequivocally, he was very good at it. “He wanted to be out there, and he needed to be out there, close to what he considered the cutting edge,” LaJoie said.

Following the chapel service, the funeral procession wound slowly through the cemetery. The horse-drawn caisson bearing Nicholson's casket came to rest near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. More than 200 people ringed the grave site under ashen skies, listening to the music that resounded for minutes before members of the US Army Band marched into view. Six white horses pulling the caisson halted near the gravesite, and Nicholson's family stood behind–his parents, his wife Karyn and his 9-year-old daughter Jennifer, who clutched a sprig of flowers in one hand and a doll in the other. Riflemen fired three volleys into the chilly air, and a single bugler played Taps.

After a brief, quiet service, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Howard Taft IV presented flags to Nicholson's wife and father; Army Secretary John O. Marsh Jr. gave the Legion of Merit award, and Army Chief of Staff General John A. Wickham presented The Purple Heart. Nicholson's family rose and, one by one, placed roses on his casket. His daughter, then his wife, bent to kiss the lid. The funeral party dispersed quickly, and a few people drifted down the hillside from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to stare at the casket, the mounds of flowers and the empty chairs.

Born: June 7, 1947. Killed by Russian Border Guards, East Germany, March 24, 1985. He is buried in Section 7-A of Arlington National Cemetery.

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