Updated: 30 Jun 2006


Lieutenant Colonel Arthur D. Nicholson, Jr., US Army

7 June 1947 - 24 March 1985

UPDATE:  USAREUR publishes The Nicholson Incident - A Case Study Of US-Soviet Relations, April 2006.  Available on USAREURs History web page in five large parts. 

USMLM Association: 

BRIXMIS Association: 

FMLM Veterans Association (Amicale des Anciens de la Mission Militaire Française de Liaison):

Arlington Cemetery (Nicholson page):

Lajoie, Roland, “The Last Casualty of the Cold War,” The Intelligencer – Journal of US Intelligence Studies, v. XIII, №1 (Spring/Summer 2002), pp. 60-65.

USAREUR Historian: .  Most of the Annual Histories written by USMLM for the years 1962-1990.  Annex F of the 1985 volume provides USMLM’s account of the shooting and ensuing period.

LGK, 20  March 2005


See also:

More documents coming...


Major Arthur D. “Nick” Nicholson, Jr., was an experienced Army Military Intelligence and Soviet Foreign Area Officer (FAO). In his final assignment (1982-85), he served as an Army Tour (i.e., reconnaissance) and Production (i.e., reports) Officer in the selectively manned US Military Liaison Mission to the Commander-in-Chief of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (USMLM to CINC GSFG). On 24 March 1985, while performing a mission at a Soviet training area in Ludwigslust, Nicholson was shot and killed by a sentry, prompting a crisis in US-Soviet relations.  Six days later, in the presence of his comrades-in-arms from the three Allied Military Liaison Missions, the Army laid him to rest with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery (Section 7A, Grave №171). Senior Defense Department officials posthumously awarded him the Legion of Merit and Purple Heart at that ceremony. 


Personal Data:

                Place of birth – Mount Vernon, Washington

                Son of a career Navy officer

                Married to Karen V. Nicholson, one daughter – Jennifer (1976)


Formal Education:

                West Redding High School, Connecticut

B.A. – philosophy, Transylvania College, 1969

M.A. – Soviet and East European Studies, Naval Postgraduate School, 1980

                Defense Language Institute (DLI) Russian Course, 1979-80

                US Army Russian Institute (USARI), 1980-82

                Army Command and General Staff College, ca. 1984


Commissioned in US Army: 1970


Overseas Operational Assignments:

                Korea – Missile Battalion S-2, 1973-74

                FRG - Military Intelligence units in Frankfurt and Munich, 1974-77

                GDR - USMLM, 1982-85


Personal Decorations:

                Legion of Merit (posthumous)

                Purple Heart (posthumous)

                Defense Meritorious Service Medal

                Army Commendation Medal (3)


Other Awards/Forms of Recognition:

Promotion to lieutenant colonel, 1985 (posthumous – by Congressional action)

National Armed Forces Award of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, 1985 (posthumous)

Military Intelligence Hall of Fame - induction 1991 (posthumous)


Award Named in his Honor:

                National Military Intelligence Association Award – for conspicuous achievement


Facilities Named in his Honor – at/in the:

                Berlin Military Community (now the Allied Museum-Berlin)

                Defense Language Institute, Monterrey, California

US Army Russian Institute (now the George C. Marshall Center for European Security Studies), Garmisch, Germany

                Fort Huachuca, Arizona

                National Ground Intelligence Center, Charlottesville, Virginia

                Fort Belvoir, Virginia (tree planting)



During a White House press conference on 25 March 1985, correspondents raised the issue of Nicholson's shooting, and the following exchange took place:

Q. “There seems to be a lack of outrage on your part, Sir.”

President Reagan. “A lack of outrage?  No, you can't print what I'm thinking.”  [Laughter]


On 29 March, on behalf of the President, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush met the aircraft bearing MAJ Nicholson's remains on the tarmac at Andrews AFB and described him as "an outstanding officer murdered in the line of duty." Further, he took the opportunity to issue a warning to the Kremlin:  "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." Mikhail Gorbachev had ascended to power only two weeks earlier; the Nicholson shooting was the first international crisis that he had to confront.

Maj Nicholson far left


Selected References:

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