From Artillery to Management: 120th Anniversary of Col. Dr. Pranas Lesauskis

Beginning of Military Service and Studies

17 November marks the 120th anniversary of the birth of the Colonel of the Lithuanian Army, Chief of the Armament Board, Doctor of Science in Mathematics Pranas Lesauskis. The young man was inclined to science; however, since he did not receive the approval of his father, he registered as a volunteer in the Lithuanian Army in the autumn of 1920. At the end of 1921, he graduated from the Military School and started service at the 4th Artillery Regiment. In 1922, he passed the final examinations at Kaunas I Gymnasium externally. In 1923, he was appointed to the Artillery Supply Division. Combining military service and studies, P. Lesauskis received the captain’s rank in 1925 and graduated from the Mathematics-Nature Faculty in 1927. In the same year, he was sent to study at  Turin Artillery School in Italy from which he graduated in 1931. Simultaneously, he wrote a dissertation in mathematics “Sviedinių derivacijos teorija” (“Projectile Derivation Theory”) which he successfully defended at the University of Rome in 1930. He met his future wife Barbora Mėginaitė in Italy – she was the niece of the Canon Juozas Tumas Vaižgantas working at the Lithuanian Embassy – and married her in 1928. In 1930, their son Vytautas was born in Rome; his Godparents were Canon Juozas Tumas Vaižgantas and the wife of the Lithuanian Ambassador Valdemaras Vytautas Čarneckis Eleonora Čarneckienė.

Career in the Lithuanian Army and Destiny

P. Lesauskis returned to Lithuania with his family in 1931. He was appointed as the head of the Ballistics Cabinet of the Armaments Board and later, the head of the Studies and Technology Division. He was posted to the weapons factories in various European countries and the USA for military affairs where we was testing and accepting the weapons ordered for the Lithuanian Army. On 23 November 1936, by the Act of the President, he was appointed as the head of the Armaments Board. P. Lesauskis organised the rearmament of the artillery units, the equipping of the most modern Research Laboratory in Europe and the construction of the Linkaičiai Workshop. He was awarded the rank of colonel in 1938. Colonel P. Lesauskis was known as a polyglot – he knew a dozen or so foreign languages, could learn a new language in 3 months. P. Lesauskis was actively involved in social life – he was elected as a member of the Construction Commission, the secretary of the Board and the manager of the assets of the Lithuanian Officers Palace, a member of the College of the War Museum, a member of the editorial board of the war science journal “Mūsų žinynas” (“Our Guide”), he was a member of the Lithuanian Society of Naturalists and Society for Economic Studies. In 1938, P. Lesauskis became the chairman of the Scientific Management Society and was involved in the activities of the club of intellectuals “Naujoji Romuva”; he often gave presentations and published papers on management in the journal “Naujoji Romuva”. He also gave lectures at the Higher Courses for Officers.

When the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania, the Lithuanian Army was dissolved and the Research Laboratory was merged with Kaunas University (currently – Vytautas Magnus University) at the initiative of col. Juozas Vėbra. P. Lesauskis began working as an adjunct professor at the Technological Faculty of the University.  On 4 January 1941, he was appointed as a professor but he did not know that because on the night of 2 January, he was arrested by the NKVD. On 19 March 1941, he, 2 of his former colleagues and a businessman Leonas Račiūnas were accused of “deliberately causing damage to the Republic of Spain by transferring them the weapons unsuitable for use” and sentenced to 8 years of Gulag imprisonment. On 27 November 1942, col. P. Lesauskis died of famine at the Camp in Suchobezvodnoj, Gorky Oblast. P. Lesauskis was rehabilitated by the Military College of the SSRS Supreme Court in 1958.  It was a tragic end of the life of a gifted officer and scientist whom his former manager General Motiejus Pečiulionis called the star of the army.