On New Year’s Eve in 1984, a small group of U.S. soldiers decided to exploit the Soviet weakness for drunken revelry to get as close as they could to a T-80 tank in East Germany. The men weren’t out on their own inebriated lark–they were part of a top-secret mission behind the Iron Curtain. A reporter once claimed that an Army major, Arthur Nicholson, was among them, though former colleagues insist he wasn’t. It hardly matters. The result was an intelligence coup for the U.S., as one of the soldiers not only observed the Soviet tank but also sneaked inside and photographed its interior. Nicholson certainly knew about the operation, even if he wasn’t directly involved. Within three months, however, he would be dead–very possibly as the victim of Soviet retaliation.
Just about every time we left the garrison, we were briefed on the Soviet Military Liaison Mission. The basic rule of thumb was they could look but not touch. As long as they didn’t physically interfere with our operations, we were to ignore them (but report them to higher). But if they touched…
There was a popular story about a SMLM officer who hopped up to take a look in the back of a 5-ton truck stopped momentarily at the side of the road. As soon as he lifted the back canvas flap, the Sergeant in back butt stroked him in the face with his rifle.