90-Year-Old Former German POW Returns To Camp Gruber

Friday, September 14th 2012, 5:23 pm
By: Craig Day

At one point, thousands of German prisoners of war were held in Oklahoma during World War II.

One of those former POWs on Friday made a special return to Camp Gruber where he spent some of his time during the war.

At 90 years old, Frank May is enjoying a birthday present from his niece and nephew.

He's traveled all over the world, but always wanted to return to Oklahoma to Camp Gruber.

"I felt like it was very good for me here and we got very good treatment," May said.

May was a young man fighting for the Germans in North Africa when he was captured by the British, eventually ending up at Camp Gruber as a POW.

For decades, he's wanted to see it again.

May spent a year at Camp Gruber, which had an operating POW camp from 1943-46.

The internment camps were capable of holding up to 4,000 prisoners. He worked as an electrician and on other projects. But he remembers the experience in Oklahoma fondly, otherwise he wouldn't have wanted to return to a place where he was a prisoner.

"I had to work, that's OK," May said. "We had our food, we had our rest, and we had our sports later on inside the camp."

May is thankful he ended up in Oklahoma instead of being on the war's eastern front with the possibility of being killed or captured by the Russians.

"Everyone knows that it was a very, very hard time and most likely you wouldn't come back," May said. "That's a fact. That's the way it was."

As he toured Camp Gruber, he shared many of his memories.

The place has changed a lot over nearly seven decades, but there is still enough to take him back in time to an important part of his past.

"I had to come back and say ‘hello and thanks a lot,'" May said. "Thank you so much."

May was also held as a POW in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.  But he's only visiting Camp Gruber because of the way he was treated in Oklahoma -- even as a prisoner.