Monday, March 24, 2008

Major Arthur D. Nicholson, Jr. was killed by Soviet forces 23 years ago today. Actually, he was murdered -- he was shot and allowed to bleed to death while his companion, a fellow soldier, was prevented at gunpoint from providing any assistance.
Major Arthur D. Nicholson, Jr.
The following article is from the National Review on the 20th anniversary of this cold-blooded murder:

The Last Cold War Casualty
The heroic story of Major Nicholson.
John J. Miller, National Review

Twenty years ago today, Army Major Arthur D. “Nick” Nicholson drove into East Germany to survey Soviet military activity. It was a bright Sunday morning, and he was about to become the last American to die in the Cold War.

Relatively few people have heard of Nicholson, even though his killing dominated newspaper headlines around the world for several tense days two decades ago. A handful of people won’t ever forget him: A small band of former comrades gathers at his Arlington National Cemetery each spring. They’re meeting again this Saturday. Today, at the site of his death near Ludwigslust, the Allied Museum will join Nicholson’s widow Karyn and his former commander, Major General Roland Lajoie, in dedicating a memorial stone.

I wrote about Nicholson’s story in National Review last year. Since then, the Pentagon has made available a large batch of documents on the U.S. Military Liaison Mission, which is the organization Nicholson was serving when he died. Many of these papers describe in detail what happened on his final day. It would be an exaggeration to say they contain shocking new revelations, but they do deepen our understanding of what happened on March 24, 1985.

That morning, which was a Sunday, Nicholson headed into East Germany with his driver, Army Staff Sergeant Jessie Schatz. As members of the USMLM, Nicholson and Schatz were basically licensed spies. Their organization was a holdover from the Second World War, when the Allies assigned representatives to work with each other in Germany’s various zones of occupation as Hitler’s minions disarmed. These special liaison units did not disband with the onset of the Cold War. Instead, they were given something of a carte blanche to roam around the countryside and observe military activity. The Americans, British, and French had soldiers assigned to East Germany, and the Soviets had teams tasked to West Germany.

This awkward arrangement remained in place because both sides found it a useful way of collecting information on the opposition’s troop movements and military hardware. Yet there were enormous tensions, and these always carried the potential of deadly violence.

Sometime in the afternoon, Nicholson and Schatz followed a convoy of Soviet tanks returning from target practice. It was a typical USMLM activity. Nicholson was probably counting the tanks and studying their exteriors. A little while later, the Americans broke off and approached a tank shed. They thought they were alone. The USMLM’s 1985 unit history describes the scene and what happened next:

This facility served the Independent Tank Regiment of 2 Guards Tank Army. Known to be frequently guarded under normal conditions, it had a varied history of occasionally violent reaction. Thus, the tour [i.e., Nicholson and Schatz] entered the area with considerable caution, stopping in the forest to watch and listen at intervals as they did so. SSG Schatz, who had just visited the area a few days prior pointed out an area which had been recently occupied, but the Soviets had departed it. The tour then approached the sheds, photographed signboards displayed nearby, and positioned the vehicle to permit the tour NCO [Schatz] to pull security while the tour officer [Nicholson] checked for armor.

Unbeknownst to the tour, and despite its best efforts at observation, a sentry remained undetected, concealed in the adjacent woods. According to information obtained later, he had been walking near his post on the far side of the sheds as the tour approached. Hearing the vehicle, the Soviet soldier made his way through the flank of the range to a position about 50 meters behind the tour; SSG Schatz noticed him just before he opened fire. The Soviets claim that the sentry issued a challenge in two languages (Russian and German), fired a warning shot into the air, then shot to disable. This is simply not true. SSG Schatz, a native German, heard no challenge in any language. The sentry’s first shot whizzed narrowly over the heads of the tour; it was not a warning, but a miss. And one of the two remaining rounds struck MAJ Nicholson, by this time running back to the tour vehicle, near his center of mass: the upper abdomen. SSG Schatz shouted a warning as the first shot resounded — too late to help. He then slammed the hatch shut, started the car, and threw it into reverse to reach MAJ Nicholson. Hit by one of the shots, Nicholson groaned, fell, called to Schatz, and promptly lost consciousness. The tour NCO sprang from the vehicle to administer first aid, but the sentry refused to permit him to do so. Using sign language, SSG Schatz communicated his intent to the Soviet and took a step toward the fallen officer. The sentry, who had held Schatz at gunpoint the entire time, then shouldered his AK-47, took aim at Schatz’s head, and motioned him back to the vehicle. Seeing the futility of further action and the hopelessness of the situation, SSG Schatz complied. He secured and covered the tour equipment, check to be sure the doors were locked, and waited. Shock set in quickly. ...

Over the next three hours many Soviet officers and soldiers arrived to secure the area, collect data, and investigate the situation; considerable confusion reigned. Yet no one, including the obvious medical personnel, rendered even rudimentary first aid. Finally at 1605A (one hour, 5 minutes after the shooting) an unidentified individual in a blue jogging suit took MAJ Nicholson’s pulse, which had ceased. The protracted failure to provide or even permit any medical attention at all ensured that the wound proved fatal.

An international furor ensued, as the Americans and Soviets traded accusations. The United States demanded an apology and compensation for Nicholson’s wife; the USSR claimed, outrageously, that Schatz had refused to leave his car to help his companion. After a while, the controversy subsided and the Cold War plodded on for a few more years.

One thing is not in dispute: Arthur Nicholson fell a hero, the last American casualty of the Cold War. “Nick did not want to die, and we did not want to lose him,” said his widow. “But I know that he would lay down his life again for America.”

More here.

Never Forget:

more - I discovered today 3/27/08, that I merely saved this as a draft, instead of posting it as final. Apologies.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Iranian Checks and Drafts.

Here's a memo from a bank I worked at in the 1970's:

Click on image to see large version.

President Jimmy Carter declared a national emergency on November 14, 1979, but the freeze on bank accounts and assets other than that of the actual "government" of Iran took awhile to work out. In the mean time, banks sought to proceed carefully.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Meditations on the Last Supper. For Holy Week, this year I would like to meditate on the Last Supper in the Gospels. This website on the chronology looks like a good springboard.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Saturday Night Alive.

This vibrant ministry was active in Fairfax Virginia from the mid- to late-70's (I think 1977 or 78) until sometime in the 1980's. It had a big role in my spiritual development - wonderful worship and great teaching. Because of H. Lawrence "Renny" Scott, I ended up at Church of the Apostles and became an Episcopalian.

Click to see larger picture

If you look in the picture of the Praise Band, the person on the back row, second from the right? That's Rick Lord who is currently the Rector at Holy Comforter in Vienna; his blog is here.

Benny Phillips is now down in Orlando with his wife Sheree (who was also in the Praise Band). Renny is the Headmaster at Christian Heritage School in Dalton Georgia.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Garden Hotel Menu, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

This was probably from about 1964. (click on the picture to see a larger version)

Note that the menu was typed and then the Chinese was handwritten in -- in ink.
Swim Meet Entry Card - 1975.

Here it is, nice and efficient. Each swimmer picked one of these up at the Clerk of Course when checking in for your event. You handed it to the timer before the event and swam.

Monday, March 10, 2008

DC101 (1976). I'm going through some of the really old stuff I have squirreled away in my basement and have found some interesting things from the 1970s. I'll post some scans here over the next few days/weeks/months.

First up, an easy one. Here's a bumper sticker for the FM Radio Station, DC101. It broadcast the cutting edge rock stuff. I guess back in the mid-1970's this classic rock format was cutting edge:

The VW Bug I drove back then was exactly the same color of orange:

That's my girlfriend Debbie in the beetle.

Here's the link to today's 101.
Galactic Cowboys.

In looking up stuff on Larry Norman, I came across this video by another favorite band, The Galactic Cowboys; it's called "If I Were A Killer:"

(Warning -- this is very hard rock)


This is just a hypothetical story
Of someone, let's just say it's me
I'd gain acceptance for my murderous ways
By stalking a defenseless prey

If I were a killer, I'd smile just like the boy next door
If I were a killer, I'd say I do it for the poor
If I were a killer, You'd bring me victims more and more
If I were a killer!

Supreme Court would agree to hear my case
And find me innocent of crime
Holding public rallies to incite sympathy
Creative actuality

If I were a killer, I'd hide behind a doctor's door
If I were a killer, I'd scrape you off my office floor

Other songs of a similar vein(no pun intended):

I always like this from the band's FAQ:

6. Are you a christian band?


7. Are you Christians?


Here's a great fan page.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

I'm Blue.

I'm feeling melancholy. I learned this morning that an attorney I worked with years ago just died. Apparently she had four young kids. She died of a virus. She didn't feel well a week ago and went to the doctor and they hospitalized her, but couldn't do anything for her.

Gone -- just like that.


Here is her obituary:

Kelly Martin Calahan, Age 45, of Manassas, Virginia passed away on March 8, 2008. A life-long Virginian, Kelly was born in Atkins and graduated from both Virginia Tech and the George Mason School of Law. Kelly is survived by her husband, Louis Calahan; one daughter Carleigh, age 7; two sons, Quinn, age 9 and Luke, age 4; her parents, + and Robert Martin of Atkins, Virginia; her sister and brother-in-law, Karen and Mike Haga of Coppell, Texas and one brother and sister in-law, Dennis and Jenny Martin, St. Petersburg, Florida and a host of friends. Kelly was a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church, in Manassas, Virginia and had a passionate commitment to helping the less fortunate throughout her life. Kelly became a committed wife and mother after marrying Lou, the love of her lifetime in 1998. Kelly was actively involved in all aspects of her children's educational and recreational activities. Professionally, Kelly spent her career as an attorney in a variety of government positions and was serving as Associate Counsel at the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C. at the time of her death. Kelly was an avid home decorator. Her other interests included reading, shopping and cooking. A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 11 at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 5460 Hoadly Road, Manassas, Va. Arrangements are being handled by Miller Funeral Home of Woodbridge In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Kelly's favorite charity, the St. Jude Children's Hospital Memorial Program, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, Tennessee 38105.


The memorial service today was very beautiful. As I expected, the Church was packed and there was no place to park. Kelly touched many lives -- indeed she was a person full of life. Her brother and sister both spoke eloquently of her and you could see in them and in J. Kelly Martin Callahan that this was (and is) a sterling family.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Laetare Sunday.

This is Laetare Sunday, one of the two Sundays of the Liturgical year in which rose-colored vestments are authorized. The other is Gaudete Sunday in Advent (hence the rose-colored candle in the Advent wreath).

These traditions hearken back to pre-literate times when instruction was given through stained glass windows, vestments and the like of the liturgical year. Both Advent and Lent are times of fasting, with Lent focusing on Jesus fasting in the wilderness. During these times of fasting the vestments and altar cloths are purple (or blue) to reflect the sober times. The "pink" vestments remind us that even in these times of fasting, God gives us grace. Even as He sent angels to His Son during His time in the wilderness, Laetare Sunday reminds us that in tough times He is always there with grace and mercy.

I love these traditions and I believe they speak to a need in all of us for something more than the written word, the spoken word. We see it in the pink and yellow ribbons being worn by so many, the message bracelets and so on.

This is a Sunday to remember there is Joy in the journey. Laetare is latin for rejoice (the opening words of the introit were "laetare Jerusalem" or "rejoice Jerusalem). So this is a day to celebrate and rejoice!