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First Name: Arthur

Last Name: Nicholson

Birthplace: McLean, VA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: D.

Date of Birth: 07 June 1947

Date of Death: 24 March 1985

Rank: Major General

Years Served:
Arthur D. Nicholson, Jr.


Arthur D. Nicholson, Jr.
Major, U.S. Army

Arthur D. Nicholson, Jr. was born on 7 June 1947. The son of a retired Navy Commander, he moved from McLean, VA, to Redding, CT, where he graduated from high school in 1965.

Shortly after he received his bachelor's degree from Transylvania University in Lexington, KY, in 1969, he entered the U.S. Army. He was a member of the American Military Liaison Group and based in Potsdam, Germany. On 24 March 1985, he, along with his driver, Jessie G. Schatz, was on a routine reconnaissance patrol near Ludwigslust, East Germany. He and Schatz pulled to within 300 yards of a restricted area which was used as a training camp by a Soviet tank regiment of the Second Guards Division. Dressed in camouflage fatigues and carrying a 35 millimeter camera and a pair of high-powered binoculars, he emerged from the jeep.

Unarmed, he was attempting to photograph the interior of a shed containing Soviet military equipment. Without warning, a shot was fired by a Soviet sentry hidden in nearby bushes. Schatz yelled to him, "Watch out! Come back!" Then a second bullet flew past Schatz's ear. Still a third bullet was fired, tearing into his chest. "I've been shot, Jess!" he yelled as he fell to the ground. Schatz grabbed the first-aid kit and leaped from the vehicle, scrambling forward to assist Nicholson, but he was forced back into the jeep by Soviet soldiers who held him at gunpoint as he lay bleeding to death. At least 30 minutes passed before he was examined by a Soviet doctor and pronounced dead, thereby becoming the first uniformed American soldier killed by Soviet gunfire in more than two decades.

The following day, his body was received by a U.S. Army Honor Guard at the center of Berlin's Glienicker-Brucke Bridge, which separated West Berlin from East Germany. The U.S. admitted that he had been stretching the limits of his privileges as a member of the Liaison Group, but contended that such conduct allowed the Soviets only the right to detain him, not to kill him. He recognized the dangers connected with his work, volunteering for such duty because, in his own words, he wanted "to be on the cutting edge." His government-issued headstone proudly acknowledges his service in East Germany as part of the U.S. Military Liaison Mission.

Death and Burial

Major Arthur D. Nicholson, Jr. died on 24 March 1985 in East Germany. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Honoree ID: 2902   Created by: MHOH




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