Alva Review-Courier -

Hometown Hero Lewis M. Kamas

 

September 23, 2020

Lewis Melvin Kamas was born in Beaver County, Oklahoma, on October 24, 1921. At the tender age of 1, his parents decided to relocate. Not entirely sure where they wanted to go, they decided to start driving and decide on the way. Just south of Freedom, Oklahoma, they became stuck and after getting pulled out and back on the road they made it into the town of Freedom only to become stuck again in the dirt on Main Street.

This time they decided it was fate and this is where they were meant to plant their roots. They opened the town's grocery and dry goods store. Lewis grew up attending all 12 years of school in Freedom. After graduation he attended Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva and the following year the former Oklahoma A&M (OSU).

Lewis was called into service in 1942 to the United States Army. He was sent to the Signal Corps, attending his basic training in Santa Ana, California. After basic training, Lewis was shipped to Las Vegas, Nevada, for gunnery training where he requested to become part of the Army Air Corps. His request was granted and he was sent to Carlsbad, New Mexico, where he married Darlien in 1943. He was then transferred to several more training facilities across the United States before Darlien returned to Freedom and Lewis was shipped to the 452nd Bomb Group at Deopham Green in Norfolk in 1944 during World War II.

At this duty station, Lewis was with his flight crew on their 10th mission, which he'd thought would be a "milk run" or an easy mission, but which turned into months of hardship, starvation and pain. Their bomber was struck and shot down over Germany, the entire crew ejecting from their aircraft. One crewmember was never recovered but the rest survived the ejection only to be captured by German soldiers. Lewis told Darlien later that the training for the egress of a crashing airplane is nothing like actually falling through the trees when you have to egress an airplane in real life.

Captured as a POW, Lewis was separated from the rest of the crew and marched through the cold German winter, loaded on a box car and sent to Stalag Luft 1 near Barth, Germany. The POWs there survived on small rations from the Red Cross, and Lewis himself lost nearly 35 pounds in the months he was held captive. After they were released he recalled that they had found an entire warehouse full of Red Cross rations that could have sustained them all during their captivity.

In 1945, German soldiers fled Stalag on May 1, 1945, when it became clear the Russians were going to take over their location, leaving behind the POWs within the camp. Lewis was then moved to Camp Lucky Strike in Harve, France, to recover and prepare for his return home. There, many soldiers became very ill after eating too much too quickly, from having been starved nearly to death. Later on the flight back to the United States Lewis was honored to have a crew member be a young man he had known for years from a little ways down the road in Woodward, Oklahoma.

Darlien mentions that while Lewis was a POW nobody at home was aware. They were only notified that he was missing in action and were worried sick about not knowing how or where he could be. Lewis returned home in late 1945. Lewis and Darlien's first child, Les, was born in 1946, followed by Carol in 1948.

He immediately became involved in the American Legion Hatch-Vincent Post #63 in Freedom and all other city organizations, as well as many of the county and state organizations that were in the area. He was an avid supporter of the Town of Freedom and represented the town with pride.

In 1966, Lewis was asked to enter the race for Oklahoma District 58 Oklahoma House of Representatives, comprised at the time of Woods and Woodward counties. He proudly held this seat for 22 years, living in Oklahoma City and in Freedom while he served. Retiring in 1988, he returned to his hometown to his beloved family and ranch. He passed away in 1996.

Lewis Melvin Kamas, you were cherished and are missed. Thank you for your service. We salute you as one of Freedom, Oklahoma's, Hometown Heroes.

 

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