Lewis Spencer Kirkpatrick was born May 15, 1901. He was the first child born to Dr. Elmer E. and Claudia (Spencer) Kirkpatrick. He attended schools in Oklahoma City, McKinley Elementary School and later Central High School. According to a sketch written by his younger brother, John, about the influence of his big brother on the other children, “[Spencer] led us in practically every activity—from his riding a bicycle, roller skates, milking the cow, newspaper route, Boy Scouts of America….” Before he graduated in 1920, Spencer had been part of the high school football team and debating society in addition to working in the summer as a section hand on the Colorado Midland Railroad.
Spencer was accepted to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1920, and, after he graduated in 1924, he was assigned to the Coastal Artillery. He was stationed as part of the 2nd Infantry at Fort Sheridan located in Chicago, Illinois. The base also served as a major training facility for the Coast Artillery. Spencer was then assigned to the Military Police at Quarry Heights in the Canal Zone in the Republic of Panama. Spencer was then an Air Corps student at Brooks Field, one of the first locations his brother, Elmer, was assigned to as part of the Quartermaster Corps. Finally, in 1929, Spencer moved to the 25th Infantry Regiment, Company “K” at Fort Huachuca in Arizona.
In 1930, Spencer was assigned to Coast Artillery Corps at Fort MacArthur in Los Angeles, California. Later that year he reported to Fort Monroe in Virginia where he attended the Coastal Artillery School there. He also married Elizabeth “Bess” Boyer Cacy in New York on June 30, 1932. The couple honeymooned in Green Mountain Falls, Colorado at the Kirkpatrick family’s cabin.
Near the end of July, Spencer left for his next assignment on Fort Kamehameha located near Honolulu on what was then the Territory of Hawaii. According to one letter from his father, Bess was allowed to go with him. Spencer became the commander of Battery “C” with the 15th Coastal Artillery on Oahu.
In 1935 Spencer received orders to report to the 8th Coastal Artillery Regiment (Harbor Defense) at Fort Preble in Maine. In January 1936, Elmer, John, and Spencer were able to get together in Cambridge, Massachusetts where John was attending Harvard Business School. A photograph was taken which would be the last photograph of Spencer with two of his brothers.
Also while stationed at Fort Preble, both of Spencer’s children were born. On November 5, 1935, Roy Spencer Kirkpatrick was born. Nearly three years later on May 15, 1938, Spencer and Bess had a daughter, Mary Elizabeth Kirkpatrick. Two months later Spencer received orders that he would be sailing for the Philippines in September 1938. Those orders are later amended, and the family set sail together in February 1939 for the islands.
Spencer initially served as Battery “D” Commander for the 59th Coastal Artillery at Fort Mills on Corregidor, Philippines. In April 1940, a ban on visiting Shanghai was lifted and Spencer together with other officers were able to visit the area aboard the USS Augusta. After he returned, he was able to spend several more months with his family before they were evacuated in February 1941. He wrote to his family frequently in the months leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor about possible assignments back in the United States. At the beginning of 1941, Spencer was scheduled to report to Port of Embarkation in New York, Camp Davis in North Carolina, and Fort DuPont in Delaware. Each time, though, his orders were changed before he could depart the Philippines.
In December 1941 Spencer wrote to his wife and children that he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. That same month the Japanese began bombing the Philippine Islands after their original December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor. In February 6, 1942, Fort Drum itself began experiencing significant bombing with, according to one news account, 100 shells hitting the “Concrete Battleship” on the first day. The 200 men stationed on the fort remained through the Japanese take over in Bataan and move into Manila Bay. Finally on May 5, 1942, Spencer was ordered to surrender Fort Drum. He did so only after he and his men destroyed the equipment, rendering the fort useless for the invading Japanese Army.
Spencer remained a prisoner of war at a Philippines internment camp until April 27, 1943 when he died of pneumonia.