US Military Liaison mission established
Shortly after World War II, the United States made an agreement with the Soviet Union to establish small military liaison missions in the German Zones of Occupation. On April 1, 1947, the United States Military Liaison Mission set itself up in Potsdam, near Berlin. Initially the mission was tasked with genuine liaison assignments. Soon, however, the USMLM evolved into an intelligence collection organization. Located in East Germany, it was ideally located to gather information on Soviet troop strength, military exercises and new equipment.
This surveillance mission led to dangerous encounters with Soviet and East Germany forces. Detentions, assaults, vehicle ramming, and shooting occurred frequently. One such clash led to the death of Maj. Arthur Nicholson, Jr. in 1985.
Nicholson, an experienced Army military intelligence and Soviet foreign area officer served as an Army tour and production officer in the selectively manned U.S. MLM.
On March 24, 1985, while performing a mission at a Soviet training area in Ludwigslust, Nicholson was shot and killed by a sentry, prompting a crisis in U.S.-Soviet relations.
Senior Defense Department officials posthumously awarded him the Legion of Merit and Purple Heart at his funeral and later posthumously promoted to Lieutenant Colonel by Congressional action.
With the end of the Cold War, the mission was closed on October 1, 1990.