German prisoner of war held at Camp Gruber during World War II returns for visit

MUSKOGEE - A former German prisoner of war who was held at Oklahoma's Camp Gruber during World War II returned for a visit Thursday and Friday.

In 1943, Corp. Frank Mays and his German unit surrendered to British forces while fighting in South Africa.

Mays and his unit were transported to New Jersey by ship before winding up at Camp Gruber.

Mays was held at the internment camp for a little more than a year.

Mays' niece, Patricia Powers-Simonelli, planned the trip as a surprise for her uncle's 90th birthday.  She says Mays often talked of his time at Camp Gruber and how he would like to see it once more.

"At Camp Gruber, he used his skills as an electrician to rig up lights that they used to put on skits," she said.  "He said that the leaders of the camp came to see what they were doing and found it very impressive.

Powers-Simonelli says her uncle remembers how well he and his unit were treated at Camp Gruber.

"The general atmosphere didn't even make it seem like they were prisoners," she said.

On Thursday, Mays visited the War Memorial Park and Museum, which includes the USS Batfish.

Mays and his family visited Camp Gruber Friday.  This afternoon, they will return to Muskogee and participate in a POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center.

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