Crawling with lice, the Graham native was among the American POWs who survived despite malnutrition, starvation and exposure to bitter 20° below zero winter weather. Long daily Communist brainwashing sessions didn't do much for the captives' morale either.
However, in contrast to other POW camps, the prisoners had free time in the afternoon. During those times, Barnhart made instruments, two guitars, a banjo, bass fiddle and mandolin, which allowed a brief respite from their hellish existence.
“Mother Barnhart,” the special nickname he earned, had amazing ingenuity and skills as a woodcarver and mechanic.
And Barnhart received some cooperation from the Chinese to make five instruments.
Read the full story in the print edition of The Graham Leader.