On March 24, 1985, Major Arthur D. Nicholson, Jr. was shot in the chest by a Soviet sentry while observing a tank shed near Ludwigslust, in East Germany. The 1947 Potsdam Agreement for the military occupation and reconstruction of Germany made provision for US, UK, French and Soviet military liaison missions which carried out observations of restricted areas and military exercises behind the Iron Curtain. Major Nicholson was on one of these “tours” when he was shot.
Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger was rightly incensed, but reacted wrongly. He sought to shut down the annual consultative meeting of US and Soviet naval officers implementing the 1972 Incidents at Sea Agreement, which obligated the two navies to talk to each other about proper conduct when operating in close proximity. President Ronald Reagan overrode Secretary Weinberger’s objections and decided to proceed with the maritime consultative meeting, as the US Navy wished.
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