WASHINGTON — A Soviet army truck rammed a U.S. Army vehicle in East Germany last weekend and injured an American officer, the Pentagon disclosed Tuesday. The incident prompted the second U.S. protest in four months over Soviet abuse of American servicemen in the German Communist state.
Pentagon spokesman Fred Hoffman said that Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger "is very disturbed" about the incident, which followed the fatal shooting last March 24 of Maj. Arthur D. Nicholson Jr. by a Soviet sentry.
In the latest episode, Col. Roland Lajoie, 48, commander of the 14-man U.S. Military Liaison Unit in East Germany, suffered a fractured eye socket when the vehicle in which he was a passenger was struck early Saturday by the Soviet truck, Hoffman said. Lajoie, of Nashua, N.H., was briefly hospitalized after the accident, then readmitted Tuesday for minor surgery and released.
"The U.S. military authorities have made a protest to the Soviets, and the Soviets have said they will look into it," Hoffman said.
Nicholson's death prompted protests by the Reagan Administration, and the United States said that Moscow had agreed last spring to ban the use of force against the Americans in the liaison mission, whose presence is authorized under a 1947 U.S.-Soviet agreement. The Soviets later denied any agreement to ban the use of force.
Observing Soviet Unit
Last Saturday, Lajoie and Maj. Wickie Lyons of Durham, N.C., were riding in a four-wheel-drive Land Rover driven by Sgt. Jesse G. Schatz, a German-born soldier who had also accompanied Nicholson when he was fatally shot. Hoffman said the U.S. vehicle, plainly identified by its license plates, was observing a Soviet military unit returning to a garrison at Satzkorn, northeast of East Berlin, as part of current large-scale maneuvers by the 300,000 Soviet troops stationed in East Germany.
Hoffman said the Americans were driving on a highway when a 5 1/2-ton Soviet truck with at least two soldiers in it approached from the rear and flashed its headlights. The American vehicle sped up, he said, and then pulled off the road to turn around. At that point, the truck rammed the U.S. vehicle from the rear.