I was given access for a short time to Newspapers.com, the value of which I was very skeptical. Yet it has provided such a wealth of personal information on my family. This little branch of the Vidunas line is extremely silent. No oral history passed down from one generation to the next. Very little in the way of written information. Until now.
I want to share a newspaper article I found about my Grandfather Joseph A. Vidunas. He was 1st Lt with the 84th, and the article was printed about 3 weeks before he died. Two different headlines, my favourite is "Vidunas Explores Nazi Town"
"With the 84th Infantry Division in Europe -- Lt. Joseph Vidunas, 201 Penn Street, made a personal reconnaissance of the German town of Wurm two weeks before it had been taken by the Railsplitter Division.
"Lt. Vidunas became separated from his company while it was moving into position at the town of Lindern. Arriving at the battalion headquarters in the town of Beeck, he inquired the way to Lindern. Taking the road pointed out to him, he arrived at a railroad underpass. Realizing that he was not on the right road, he decided to find out where he was.
"Entering the apparently deserted town ahead, he spotted a sentry standing in a doorway. He hailed the sentry, asking for some information. Receiving no answer he decided to try the pass word. As soon as the sentry heard this, he turned and ran toward the rear of the house. Glimpsing his German helmet in the shadows, the lieutenant decided that it was time for him to leave. He did.""Entering the apparently deserted town ahead, he spotted a sentry standing in a doorway. He hailed the sentry, asking for some information. Receiving no answer he decided to try the pass word. As soon as the sentry heard this, he turned and ran toward the rear of the house. Glimpsing his German helmet in the shadows, the lieutenant decided that it was time for him to leave. He did."
from The Wilkes-Barre Record, 24 January 1945, page 17
My dad and I never knew anything about his military career. Growing up, I had two photos to look at, and wonder at. As I started my genealogy adventure, I found this. It says:
AGPC-G 201 Vidunas, Joseph
(13 Mar 45) 01053411
8 June 1945
Dear Mrs. Vidunas:
I am referring to my letter of 13 March 1945, which confirmed the death of your husband, First Lieutenant Joseph Vidunas, on 19 February 1945 in Germany.
The military authorities have conducted an investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding your husband's death and the report has now been received in the War Department. This report reveals that Lieutenant Vidunas died instantly on the afternoon of 19 February 1945 in his camp area near Brachelen, Germany, as the result of injuries sustained when a pistol which he was handling, was accidentally discharged. Lieutenant Vidunas was on a duty status at the time of the accident.
|Report of death for Joseph Vidunas. |
On duty, no misconduct
There is very little I can say to mitigate your grief or relieve your sorrow but I cannot refrain from tendering my heartfelt sympathy and expressing the hope that you will find comfort in the knowledge that Lieutenant Vidunas died while serving honorably and faithfully in his country's cause.
Robert H. Dunlop
Acting The Adjutant General of the Army
In this article (which has a spelling error. Yes, I am THAT kind of person) in the local newspaper, Joseph Vidunas has been promoted to Tech Sgt. He's finished his training at the Coast Artillery School, lives now at Camp Davis NC, assigned to the Barrage Balloon Battalion.
But, the most exciting part, the really new news for me, is the last paragraph. Because he had a musical lyre on his lapel, and because the 1930 census has him as a soldier musician, I figured he was in a band. I wondered what kind of instrument he played? Well, here is the answer to my question -- he played in the Army Band and orchestra and was an "accomplished musician on the violin, trombone and saxaphone." My dad was in the Air Force Band and played the Bass Viol and the Tuba. I guess musicality is in our genes! Dad never knew about his father's musical talent. Now, I wonder ... did Joseph also have a camera in his hand?
Suggestions are most definately welcome. You see, I didn't get this much information working alone. I have to thank the Lithuanian Global Society on Facebook, my friend Vikki for lending me access to Newspapers.com; my newly found Vidunas cousins; and the facebook group Friends and Family of the 84th Division. These people gave me snippets (or huge chunks) of information with which I could flesh out the people and the stories, and chase down new information that nobody else seems to know! Well guess what! We all know this now. Feel free to share your information.