Billy Graham Center

Collection 248 - William John Barnett. T5 Transcript

Click here to listen to an audio file of this interview (80 minutes)

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the first oral history interview of William John Barnett (CN 248, T5) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words which were recorded are omitted. In a some cases, the transcribers could not understand what was said, in which case they put "[unclear]" in the place of the missing word or phrase. If the transcriber was not absolutely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted. Also, grunts, verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. Readers of this transcript should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and even rule than written English.

... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence of the speaker.

.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.

() Word in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.

[] Words in brackets are comments made by the transcriber.

This transcription was completed in November 2007 by Bob Shuster and Kirk Haywood.

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Collection 248, T5. Interview of William John Barnett by Robert Shuster, May 30, 1995 (continuation of T4).

They had a summer home near Montrose.

SHUSTER: Montrose, Pennsylvania.

BARNETT: Pennsylvania.

SHUSTER: The site for a Bible conference...


SHUSTER: ...started by R. A. Torrey.

BARNETT: And through that contact Mr. and Mrs. Lane were converted and came to know the Lord as their savior. And they were totally changed, and they had by then, I think, most of their family, kids. Laura was actually born Washington, D.C., at Chevy Chase, and then there was illness and Mrs. Lane became quite ill, and the doctor advised that they get away from their environment, and so they went to Europe as a family, intending to stay for a year but they went to Switzerland and the result of their time in Switzerland was that they stayed on for seven years instead, in Switzerland. And it was actually the oldest one, Carol, who was finishing her secondary school, and ready for college, and so they investigated colleges, Christian colleges, but decided on Wheaton for the college education for their kids. So they moved from Switzerland, actually, at the time when they moved, the wind was blowing for Hitler, and things were brewing in Europe that disturbed Mr. Lane, and he decided it’s time to get out of Europe, back to the States. And so, when I walked into that home that Sunday morning, a Brethren service was...I’d never been to one before, I never knew what a Brethren breaking of bread service was. But here, when we walked in, there was this family, that I had seen walk into the chapel [chuckles], still in their dinks [a small skull cap] and Swiss jackets and so on. And so that was my first contact with the Lane family, a very lovely family, very welcoming. And they invited me for dinner that day. And I’d never sat at a table like that before, they had this big, long table, that sat some sixteen people or so, I think at the table. Beautifully set up, and the home was...aristocratic background, and waited on, they had servants in the home, they’d had from way back when they were in Washington, so they came from that sort of a background. Turned out that we were the only ones, in both families really, that had come to know the Lord, become Christians, and turned out Mr. Lane’s older brother [Arthur Bliss Lane] had been the American ambassador to Yugoslavia, and another brother had been the ambassador to New Zealand, and so this was the sort of background that they came from.

SHUSTER: How many diplomats?

BARNETT: There were two of them that were actually in the diplomatic service, and the third brother that was...[sone static on tape] had become a Catholic in time, and he had become the curator of the...what was it? The arts gallery in Washington, D.C.?

SHUSTER: The National Gallery?

BARNETT: The National Gallery. And so the family itself were well known, and the Yugoslav ambassador, had finally, as Hitler was coming to power, got out of the service because he wanted to express himself on what was going on, and he wrote a book, called I Saw Yugoslavia Betrayed. Which he couldn’t say anything as long as he was in the diplomatic service, so he...he wrote that book, which exposed...was an exposé, of what was happening in Europe, and in.... [pauses] [Arthur Lane wrote I Saw Freedom Betrayed in 1949, which was actually about the introduction of Communist rule into Poland, where he served as ambassador 1944-1947. He had also served as ambassador to Yugoslavia from 1937-1941.]

SHUSTER: When did you and Laura become engaged?

BARNETT: Well, [chuckles] I became a rather frequent visitor to their home, as there were a lot of other Wheaton students that were in and out of it all the time, but she was only fifteen years old when I 1937, when I went there, but we got to know each other pretty well. And it wasn’t very long before the...of the kids that were there (she was the third girl) and...but she was the one I felt the Lord had for me. And interesting, as we got to talking, and got to know each other a lot better. It turned out that...said she had been praying for me for at least a year or two already.

SHUSTER: How did she know about you?

BARNETT: I said, "How’s that, you never knew me.” And she said "Well, I was praying, praying that the Lord would give me the right life companion, and so I’ve been praying for you.” And we had an understanding with each other when she was sixteen, and, but as I said, "If you’re willing to wait for me, we have at least six years ahead to get the education that we need, and medical school.” She wanted to be a nurse. "So it will be at least six years before we can get married.” And that’s what it turned out to be, that’s...that was actually exactly six years.

SHUSTER: That you got married in 1944.

BARNETT: We got married in 1944, we were married and I was in medical school at the time, I had one more year to go in medical school, and she was in nursing school, Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago, and I was in Albany. It was funny, because she graduated from...from the Wheaton College [sic] High there, and at the end of that, she went to Bible school in Albany, Albany Bible School. And she had three years at Albany Bible School while I was finishing up my pre-med work.

SHUSTER: And you were going to the Albany Medical School.

BARNETT: And then I went to Albany Medical School,...

SHUSTER: And she was finishing up her pre-med in Wheaton.

BARNETT: In Wheaton. Then I go to Albany Medical School, she goes to Chicago to go Swedish Covenant Hospital. [chuckles] I said "Well, at least it kept us apart.” But it was kind of a long trip to go on for dates, which we tried to do every now and then.[laughs]

SHUSTER: You ment...oh, go ahead

BARNETT: No, go ahead.

SHUSTER: I was going to say you mentioned that after you graduated, another two years you were taking...still taking courses at the college. Were you also working part time, or how were you supporting...?

BARNETT: I was doing hair cutting.


BARNETT: I was doing barbering work, while I was there at Wheaton. And I actually did a little bit of jewelry work, repair work. I had done a fair amount of watch repair, picked it up myself while I was at Columbia Bible College. And then I did...I learned quite a bit about the plumbing trade. Columbia Bible College, I was doing plumbing, and washing dishes in the kitchen, and so on, to help get through...through college. And...very interesting, because I think I mentioned before, that I was raised on the principle of faith. The Lord...our parents had taught us that the Lord was going to take care of us, meet our needs. My dad would say the thing that he coveted for all his children, that they would get what he didn’t get, and that was college education. And said he didn’t know where the funding would come from, but they were sure that the Lord would meet the need. And so as we went on, we just believed that, and we worked a certain extent, all us kids, to help ourselves through school, but I don’t know where all the money came from, the funds to get us through school, but frequently we would go to the registrar’s office to register for school that year and not know how in the world we were going to get through school each year. Expect them to told that, "You just can’t register if you don’t have the money.” But more than once I went to register, and be told that "Your...your bill’s already been paid for the full year.” Taken care of. Didn’t know where it came from, even. That happened more than....

SHUSTER: Where did your barbering skills come from?

BARNETT: The what?

SHUSTER: How did you learn your barbering skills?

BARNETT: Probably through our contact in the Westervelt Missionary Home. I was in the Westervelt Missionary Home for two years. Well, actually, it was more than that, it was 1931 through ‘, through...through ‘34, ‘31 through ‘34 I was in the Westervelt Missionary Home. Well, through ‘35, I guess. Because there, we learned many skills. We had to do all of our own work there, and...housekeeping, and cooking, and laundering, and barbering, and anything that needed to be done, we did it there, and we cut each other’s hair, and I learned to bake bread there, cooking, and we learned a full course in auto mechanics, went over there so that we learned all about the vehicles, and....

SHUSTER: Sounds like a lot of useful things.

BARNETT: A lot of useful things. Background was laid there, for...that’s where I learned to cut hair, at that time. And actually, for a time, I used to cut my...cut my own hair. With....


BARNETT: With mirrors. Mirror in front and mirror behind. Who sits there and cuts their own hair?

SHUSTER: I guess that’s a real test of your skill, if you can cut your own hair.

BARNETT: [chuckles] So I can do that.

SHUSTER: And so then, as you said, after planning how you came to go to Albany Medical College.

BARNETT: Yeah. Yeah, well, that was an interesting thing, because at the end of my time at Wheaton, which was ‘41, I needed to get into a medical school, I needed to get a bit of money, and I...there was a gentleman from Louisville. Louisville, Kentucky. His daughter was a...a student at Wheaton, and there appeared on the bulletin board there in Blanchard hall a notice towards the end of the year, if any students needed a job, for the summer or for the year, that they could apply to him, he was running a...a business for the manufacture of roofing materials, and so on down in Louisville. And so I applied for the job down in Louisville, and got accepted for it, and so for the greater part of that year, ‘41, ‘41 and on into ‘42, I was in Louisville, working at this Connor Manufacturing Company. Mr. Connor. And they were producing roofing shingles, and so on, and they also were producing these galvanized iron culverts, great big round culverts that were made out of these corrugated steel sheets. And I went to work first back in the manufacturing department where they were producing these culverts. I was learning how to weld back there, welding these big culverts together. They would be pressed out of this big machine that would roll them into the various sizes of culverts that they had to make. And that’s where I got my first lessons in welding, at that time. [chuckles] Later on, they put me up in the office, which I didn’t like at all, I was doing book work, up there, learning how to keep books, and keep track of their money for them. But I worked there for almost a year, not quite a year, and I lived, at the time, in the YMCA [Young Men’s Christian Association]. That was the cheapest place I could find to stay. Had a room in the YMCA. Had my meals there. Had meal a week, that was on Sunday noon, I would go out and treat myself at a restaurant that I liked to go to, and I’d get a couple of lamb chops, and that would be my treat for the..for the time. I was earning, to begin with, between seventy and eighty dollars a month, that was what wages were at the time. By the time I left there, I was getting fairly close between ninety-five to one hundred dollars a month. Where the work....

SHUSTER: When did you start at Albany?

BARNETT: Well, it was while I was at Louisville, that I put in my application to medical schools. And I was still very skeptical, "Will I get into medical school, or won’t I?”

SHUSTER: Because of your grades?

BARNETT: Because of my grades. I was average. I had a B, B+ average, about, through college. And I took some night school courses at University of Louisville, to get still more help in chemistry, biochemistry and so on. But I took that, and then in late November, early December, I put in my application to four different medical schools: to Albany Medical School, to Columbia University, New York, to University of Louisville Medical School, and to...oh, what’s the one there in Chicago and Evanston?

SHUSTER: Northwestern.

BARNETT: Northwestern Medical School, Northwestern.

SHUSTER: Well, Northwestern and Columbia are very well known, and Louisville is where you were. Why did you...why Albany?

BARNETT: Well, I...I applied to Albany because of a very close friend of mine, Bob [Robert F.] Goldie, who had been a classmate of mine Columbia Bible College, and then had also gone to Wheaton to do his pre-med work, and he turned out a year ahead of me, because of my going to Louisville for that year, trying to get a bit of money to start in medical school. And Alb...Bob lived in the Albany area, and he went to the Albany Medical School, got started there, and so it was through that contact that I decided that, "I’ll apply to Albany also.” And it was the smaller school, but one of the oldest schools. It was attached to Union University [Union College] in Schenectady, which is one of the oldest universities in the country. And so Albany had a good background as a medical school as well, though it’s not as well known. And I was simply waiting and praying, and thought "Well, we’ll see [chuckles] what comes of it. If the Lord wants me in medical school, He’ll have to do His work to get me into medical school.” And I remember I was...Sunday morning, December the 7th [1941], I was lying on my bed after church, in the YMCA, with music coming over the radio, listening to the radio, and I was reading. And suddenly the...the program was interfered...interrupted, and the announcement came over the radio that Pearl Harbor [American naval base in Hawaii] had been bombed. And that was it. When I listened to that, I said, "Well, I’m open to the draft [compulsory military service]. I’ll be in the draft now, I’ll be into...into the war.” I said [to God], "If you want me in medical school, you’re going to have to do the...” (what I considered as impossible, at that time.) And you know, that week, the first....

SHUSTER: The impossible being an exemption?

BARNETT: Yes, then getting into medical school, an exemption from the draft. And that week I got response from Albany Medical College that I had been accepted into Albany Medical College. If I wanted to go there, I had to reserve my position, I’d have to send in fifty dollars to reserve my position right away. Well, I was scratching bottom as it was, and I said, "Well, this must be where the Lord wants me,” and sent in my fifty dollars, and a week or so later, I got response from Columbia University in New York, they had accepted me there, and if I wanted to get there, I needed to send in fifty dollars for there. I didn’t have fifty dollars, that fifty dollars. And then a few days later, I got a response from Louisville, got accepted there. The same thing there, so I said, "Well, the Lord must want me in medical school. Can’t believe it, accepted in three different schools.” The only place that I got an negative on was from Northwestern. [clears throat] so it was with that, then, that I was able to approach the draft board, and I was exempted to go to medical school that fall, ‘42. I had spent most of my money that I ‘d had that I’d managed to collect to buy an engagement ring for Laura.[chuckles] One hundred and ten dollars it cost me, to get an engagement ring for Laura. And that was my savings for the time I was there.

SHUSTER: Twice as much as medical school.


SHUSTER: Twice as much as the medical school.

BARNETT: Oh, yes, twice as much as the medical school, at least to hold my position for medical school. I hadn’t the faintest idea where the money was going to come from, to go to medical school. But I was sure the Lord was going to provide, in His way. Well, I got to medical school, and within the first week of medical school, the military services took over the medical schools. Virtually.

SHUSTER: How do you mean that?

BARNETT: Well, there was the special program known as the ASTP, Army Specialized Training Program, which was the Army branch for technical training for fields that they were essential and important to the Army, the Navy had its special branch also, and they immediately announced that students in medical schools, if they wanted to continue on in their medical training, this was open to them. And the way it was presented was that if...if you wanted to continue your medical training, you’d better join this.

SHUSTER: And this was....

BARNETT: That’s the way it was presented. And so, within that first week, just virtually everybody except for one or two students who were obviously...plush, had all the means they needed, had joined up either with the Navy program or the Army program. [clears throat] And I was in with the ASTP, and that week, we all were piled into the New York Central train and taken down to Fort Dix, in New Jersey, where we were inducted into the Army. And we spent a week as medical students there, being trained [chuckles] into the Army, received. The first day, we got our uniforms, everything was handed out to us. And I remember that...very traumatic for a lot of these students, you know, you didn’t expect to be going into military service like that. "We’ re going to be doctors,” you know. And we were walking down the path there at Fort Dixon, our uniforms, you know, and there are about three or four of us there. And one of these fellows was from some plush family in New York City, and he was walking down with us smoking his cigarette, and...and he’d took and threw his cigarette butt down on the ground to go on. Unbeknown to us, there were two officers walking along behind us. I think one was a captain, the other a major, so...and one of them called out and said, "Pick that up, soldier!” And this fellow turned around, looked at the officer and said, "You pick it up yourself, I’m not a garbage man.” [laughs] Well, that guy never had anything happen so quick in his life before. [laughs] In no time flat, he was in the brig, and he spent the entire next week in jail...

SHUSTER: Oh, gee.

BARNETT: ...there at Fort Dix.

BARNETT: And he was just plain lucky that he got out of it, and wasn’t taken immediately out of the medical school and simply put into the ranks.

SHUSTER: So the whole time you were in medical school, then you were also in the Army.

BARNETT: We were in the Army. We were in uniform the entire time. And the result was that our entire medical education was paid for by Uncle Sam.

SHUSTER: Was the program also accelerated?

BARNETT: It was accelerated. It was not cut down. We still had the full four-year course, but it was done in three years instead. In other words, we had no summers off. We were in school all through the summers. We got a week off, I think it was, at Christmas time, and I got a special week off to get married in June of ‘44. And I was in uniform, went to Wheaton, and we were married in Laura’s home, there at 512 North Scott Street. And my brother Eric was on furlough at the time, and he was the one that married us. He was home from Kenya.

SHUSTER: Now, did you also do your internship in a military hospital?

BARNETT: No, nope. I did my internship in Ellis Hospital, which was the city hospital in Schenectady. And I think the reason that I elected to go to Schenectady was that the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Schenectady turned out to be a real man of God. Mr. [Herbert S.] Mekeel had heard that we had a group of Christian students at Albany Medical School, and we were trying to organize ourselves as the first chapter, there, of the Christian Medical Society. And we did have a bit of a struggle. We got it going. But he heard about this, and he came over to visit us, and spent time with us, the Christian students, next thing, he was joining with us for Bible studies, and conducting Bible studies, and he’d come up and over, and helped us get...keep the Christian Medical Society group going. And the Lord was using that man, he was a bachelor, he came to the First Pres. Church when it was totally dead, they had one meeting a week, that was Sunday mornings, and it was a dead service, and when he started in there, he said one of the first things he did was to announce to their session [leadership board of a Presbyterian church] that they were going to start having mid-week prayer meetings, and he had a great deal of opposition to that, but as time went on, steadily, they had evening services then in the church, and he said pretty soon either the members of the session got born again, or they left the church.

SHUSTER: And his name again was?

BARNETT: Mekeel. M-E-K-double E-L. He was an outstanding man, this was know in the Presbyterian church that he started going along real Evangelical lines, and before long the congregation began to build the church, the prayer meeting began to build and the amazing thing began to happen, these young engineers from General Electric company, there, began to attend the services and to get saved in their services, and before long, much to the chagrin and amazement of General Electric company, these brilliant engineers of theirs were leaving the engineering profession and going off to seminaries and becoming preachers, and quite a number of them going to the mission field, to serve in the mission fields.

SHUSTER: Did any of them join AIM [Africa Inland Mission]?

BARNETT: Well, we did. [laughs]

SHUSTER: When you were at General Electric....

BARNETT: I don’t remember any of the General Electric ones joining AIM, but they did...others of them went down to South America, HCJB, several of them went to west Africa, Iran, and places like that, and they served the Lord. And the amazing thing to me was that [pauses] we started going to the church when we went over to Schenectady to start in the internship.

SHUSTER: And that was in ‘45, you went there?

BARNETT: That was in ‘45, the fall of ‘45 that we moved over there, and the war was on, of course, and we were attending the church, and towards the end of my internship, it was well understood that we were intending, when the time came, to go to the mission field. The pastor along with the session called me in with Laura and asked wether we would be willing to allow them to take on our support for the mission field.

SHUSTER: Your complete support?

BARNETT: You ever heard of that before? I’d never heard of anything like that before.

SHUSTER: They took on your whole support?

BARNETT: They took on our entire support when we were ready for the mission field. And in all the forty...forty-two years that we were out, they never...never failed once. Entire amount. I mean, this is...the support levels have to go up, for changing the times. They, instead of raising their amount to us began to work on satellite churches that had grown out of the church, around, and to work on them so that there were at least two or three other churches that began to take on that additional support of ours, and we never lacked. Never. Never had to go out and do deputation work. Never had the feeling when I was getting up to speak in churches that I had to try and raise support for it. It was a very...absolutely wonderful. Anyway, what happened was, at the end of my intern year, practically all my classmates that had gone into internship were called into active duty. The war was over by the end of the intern year, the war was over, but all of the doctors that were in active duty were filtering back as quick as they could into...into civilian life, and so the military services were hurting for doctors, medical work. So all these that had finished the internship got called into active duty, and almost every one of them got stuck out into field dispensaries. And throughout...scattered throughout the US and out into other satellite places, like other countries. But for some reason or other, they didn’t touch me.

SHUSTER: This is in ‘46?

BARNETT: This is in ‘46. The end of ‘46, when we finished the intern year. And I couldn’t figure why, because here, my classmates were all gone, including the Christian ones that I...that we had fellowshipped with. And what happened was that I went on to start a surgical residency there at the same hospital, accepted into the surgical residency, and I spend virtually a full year in surgical residency, and at the end of that year of residency, I got called into active duty. And that was in December...December ‘47. I can still remember it. I was told to report for duty at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. And we had to get rid of our home (we had two children then, two babies) and closed up everything, and piled everything into our car, reported down there before Christmas at Fort Bragg, only to be told, "Fine, come back after New Year’s.” [Shuster chuckles] Here we were, total strangers down there, nowhere to stay, had to find a spot to stay. [chuckles] Thankfully, the Lord provided a place in a farmhouse, way out in the farm. It was the dead of winter, [unclear]. These farmers were just as gracious as could be, but the place that they had was a room that was only heated by a potbelly stove in the place, and big cracks like that under the doors and around the windows, and so on. [chuckles] So our kids, we would have to get put to bed in their snow suits, and so on, at nighttime. And so on, before....

SHUSTER: Now, you went from Fort Bragg to Japan, is that right?

BARNETT: I went from Fort Bragg. The interesting thing was that because of my year residency and internship, I did not get sent to a dispensary. I got sent to the main hospital in Fort Bragg. And in Fort Bragg, I got assigned to the orthopedic department, and that was one department in the Army there that was...they had retained a top board surgeon in orthopedics. Because it was the headquarters of the 82nd Airborne division, and these airborne fellows were jumping in parachutes every day, and everyday, they were coming in with their fractures and injuries, and so they retained this man there to help. And I was put into that department, so I was there for almost a full year getting what was virtually what was one of the best residency training programs in orthopedics that you could have gotten anywhere in the country. The Lord had just prepared that. That’s the reason He had kept me in the surgical residency there. And so with that training, I very briefly got sent down there to Fort Jackson, in Columbia, South Carolina. I was there for about a year or so. And...

SHUSTER: So you were there in Fort Jackson....

BARNETT: Not a year, not a year, about a month, I was in Fort Jackson.

SHUSTER: Beginning of ‘49, then, you were in Fort Jackson?

BARNETT: This was the end of...


BARNETT: ...the end of ‘48, yeah. And then...‘46, then the end of ‘47, it was that I was into Fort Bragg, the New Year’s ‘48, and then at the end of that period that I got sent to Korea.

SHUSTER: To Korea?

BARNETT: Well, it was supposed to be...supposed to be Japan. They told us, "No, nobody’s going to Korea.” Korea was the end of the line as far as the Army as concerned, and nobody wanted to go to Korea. It had the reputation that anybody that goofed off in the Army got sent to Korea. And that that was....

SHUSTER: And had you been goofing off?

BARNETT: [chuckles.] No, but this was the attitude. We had...we had heard of the numbers of suicides, including two doctors that had committed suicide in Korea. Things were really rough there. And so it wound up that I got sent supposedly to Japan. We went to Seattle to catch the boat there. Laura went with me out there. She was...we had decided to leave her...with the kids in Wheaton with her...with her parents, there in Wheaton. And so Laura’s mother took care of the two children while she went with me by train out to Seattle. And waited in Seattle for two or three weeks before finally the orders came to get on this ship. And...and there were about ninety doctors, all on that ship together, heading for Japan. It took us almost a month to cross in the worst weather that I’ve ever been in, in a boat. It was just heavy, heavy weather all the way across to Japan. And we landed in Yokohama, spent about a week in Yokohama before the orders appeared. We were all supposed to be going to duty in Japan. Well, out of the ninety doctors, there were about eighteen, I think, that the orders landed up to go to Korea. And I was among them.

SHUSTER: Where in Korea?

BARNETT: And we...we went to Seoul, and again, because of the surgical residency that I’d had, and the orthopedic training that I’d had, I found that almost all the others were assigned out to outside dispensaries in the countryside. I was assigned to the station hospital in Seoul, military station hospital. It was an ex-Japanese department store, about a four or five storey building, that had been made into this hospital. And the chief of surgery there was leaving the next day, to go back to the States, and out of the army. And he made rounds with me, showed me around. I was appointed as chief of surgery to the hospital. I said, "I can’t do that.” I hadn’t had any sort of traumatic experience, in, oh, gunshot wounds and things of that sort. I’d had some, a little bit, but certainly nothing like I was going to see here. But, he said, "You’re it.” That’s it, chief of surgery. He took me around, and he shook hands with me as he finished making rounds, he turned to me and said, "I just want to tell you this: that in the entire time this hospital has been here, we have never admitted a Korean to this hospital.” He said it just that way.

SHUSTER: And that was something he was proud of?

BARNETT: He was proud of it. Yes. The whole hospital was that way. That was their attitude. The Koreans were a bunch of gooks, and we have no responsibility to them. Meanwhile, our jeeps and trucks were rushing around the streets of Seoul, with all these people walking out in the streets, which the...our vehicles were knocking them down, killing them, breaking their legs and so on, and they’re taking pride in not taking any of the people into this hospital. [chuckles] And, I didn’t say anything to him, but I’d suddenly taken off, I said, "Well, I think things are going to be different.” But the...the entire staff of the hospital were built up around that philosophy. I found the hospital totally...well, the morale was rock bottom, the...the my operating room was being used as a brothel! These nurses, American nurses, and GI’s were just shacking up all the time, up in the operating room. And it was just rock bottom. And so I had to take over as that. I hadn’t been there more than about a month or so, for the...the regular army colonel, who was a doctor also, he was the commanding officer of the hospital, got shipped out back home. And....

SHUSTER: You became chief of staff....

BARNETT: It turned turned out that I was the ranking officer, as a first lieutenant. I was the ranking...I was the ranking officer of the hospital, and as such, I found suddenly that I was the commanding officer of the hospital. [Shuster laughs] I said, "Good grief, I don’t know anything about administration, and carrying on in a hospital like this.” Well, it turned out that the...the officer, who was, again, Regular Army, in the administ...administrative department of the medical corps, a fellow by the name of Caudell, Major Caudell, (he was a very nice fellow). He came to me, he said, "Don’t worry. Just don’t worry.” He said, "You can come into the office once a day, I’ll have all the papers ready for you, and you can just go over them and sign your name to the papers, and so on.” So he virtually took care of the actual administration. I walked in there once a day, and I...he’d have all these papers lined up and I had to sign my name, seven copies to every one. Seven copies I’d have to sign my name to, and so I was the administrator.

SHUSTER: How long were you in Korea?

BARNETT: Almost a year. Almost a year.

SHUSTER: What effect, if any, did having all this responsibility have upon you?

BARNETT: Well, I’ll tell you some of the things did change. I got tremendous training. For me, it was a great experience in surgery. I had all kinds of gunshot wounds coming in, and street accidents, car accidents and whatnot were coming in all the time, then we had to take care of them. I had another young Jewish doctor that was my assistant at work. And learning to work with the other doctors that were there was a great experience, several of them were Jewish. And I hadn’t been there very long, about a week, I suppose, when the first accident case was brought in, involving a Korean. And he was brought in on a stretcher [clears throat] and a train had run over him. He had been riding the train, these trains were all being run by the army, American army department, and he had slipped, and got under the wheels of the train. And the train had gone across him this way.

SHUSTER: And you’re indicating it’s...came across his left-hand side, just almost straight across.

BARNETT: Just like this. Just like this, across, just below the groin here, and across his legs, just r...I’m trying to remember, just above or below the knee. And he was covered with blankets, and I saw this arm there, and I reached out to put my finger on the pulse, and I find I came away with this arm in my hand. Somebody had just picked it up off the ground, thrown it on the stretcher. And I thought he was dead, completely gone, but I got my face down next to his mouth, and my glasses clouded a bit, so I figured "Well, he is just breathing.” Couldn’t get any pulse on him anywhere. [clears throat]

SHUSTER: And would you do re-attachments in those days, of arms?

BARNETT: No. There was...that’s a science that has developed entirely since then, within the past few years. But at that time I jumped, I said, "We’re going to try and save this man’s life,” to the G.I. staff that was around me, the soldiers. And then, to their credit, it was just wonderful, because they jumped to it, [snaps fingers] like that. We got blood from the man, and got his sample, and these G.I.’s ran to the lab, and started giving their blood for him. And meanwhile, the two of us, assistant doctor and I had him in the operating room, and we were putting clamps on all the bleeding, [clears throat] the spots...of course, he was in such deep shock, he was unconscious, and that he was doing very little bleeding, but we got the major blood vessels all clamped off, and meanwhile, one of us got an intravenous started on him, which was not a very easy thing to get with collapsed blood vessels. And we’re pouring solutions into him. And within a good ten minutes, blood was going into him from our own G.I. soldiers, and we stood there, working on this man, and suddenly, eyes opened, he looked up at us, and started talking in Korean to us.

SHUSTER: He wasn’t under anesthetic?

BARNETT: He hadn’t anesthetic. He’d been totally unconscious the whole time. Well, we completed our job of cleaning up the stumps, and getting him sewn up and so on, and but the...the thing that was so remarkable was that the...our American nurses (these are female nurses, now) the one who was the...the operating room supervisor, and the commanding officer of the nurse’s team, both of them, stood in the doorway of the operating room, through the entire procedure, and just looked. Didn’t raise a hand to do anything at all, because he was...because he was Korean. They wouldn’t help.

SHUSTER: Did that continue?

BARNETT: No, I thought.... This Korean, by the way, fully recovered, and had a very lovely young wife, and I took them back to their home, and visited them on a number of occasions, afterwards, and both of them became real Christians, and turned to the Lord through this experience. But I said myself, something I just asked the Lord, "I don’t know just what to do, something has to be done, because we cannot allow this to continue this way.” So I...I finally called a meeting, of all of the staff, of the surgical staff, and the..the nurses were all called in, and we simply talked. And the nurses included the ones from the X-ray department and so on, who’d had a part in it. And the...the commanding officer of the nurses, all of these were there. And I just prayed that the Lord would guide me in what to say. And I didn’t say very much. I simply started out by saying, "You know that we’ve just been through a major war, and the United States is being touted around the world as the one that was the savior of the...of the..of the world, really, and coming out on top from this...from this war.” And I said, "the United States is being held up as the example of democracy around the world today. The example of democracy. And of fairness to the various nations and people of the world, and so I don’t know what you people believe in your hearts, your religious beliefs and so on, but we can just lay that aside, whether you have any truths or religious beliefs or not. But,” I said, "I...I know that we’re all Americans, and as Americans, we have certain standards, and,” I said, "what we do right here is going to make all the difference in the world with what happens to a country like Korea, what their attitudes are. What are they going to think about democratic principles? Fairness, and rights of people, and so on. Human rights.” I said, "As far as I’m concerned, a Korean is just as important as you and I are. God made us all, and we’re important to him, and these Koreans are important to him too. And the way we act here may well spell the difference which way this country is going to go in its future.”

SHUSTER: And how did the staff react?

BARNETT: They were dead silent, they listened to every word I said. They left the meeting, I didn’t say anything more than that. From that time on, I never have any problems whatever. We admitted every Korean that had any problem to do with our American army, any connection with them, was admitted to that hospital, was cared for with real concern and love, and we never had a problem. And after that, within a day or two after that, two of the nurses came to me, one was the chief nurse in the X-ray department, the other, I believe was one of our surgical nurses that came to me, and thanked me for what I had said, and said, "You know, we’re Christians too, but we’ve been hiding our lights. But thank you for speaking up for the Lord.”

SHUSTER: And letting your light shine [Matthew 5:16].

BARNETT: Letting your light shine. And said, "We intend to let ours too, from now on.” Made all the difference. And, another one, very interesting on that, was my roommate. We were living there, B.O.Q. (Bachelor Officers’ Quarters), was just round hovels down on the ground outside in the yard, outside the hospital. And we...winter is bitter cold, and all our heat in this place was just these potbelly stoves, and the fuel for them was coal dust, just as fine as powder. Powdered dust. That’s all they had for fuel. I mean, how in the world do you use coal dust for...for fire? But the Koreans taught us how to do it. You’d make a thick paste out of it, a mud, mix water with it, into mud, and put the little kindling in the bottom of the place, and then you’d pack this mud in on top of it. And then you’d take your poker, and poke holes down through the mudpack, and the more holes you put through it, the bigger draft you’d get, so you get the thing going. You’d get a good fire going, and you could fix it so it would keep on going all night long in there, and keep you warm, [chuckles] you could get that thing cherry red, keep warm in there. But Ernie Salvage [sp?] my roommate, he was chief of the X-ray department. Doctor, nice fellow, very nice fellow, but we’d get into discussions, occasionally. Didn’t say very much on religious subjects, and so on, but he knew where I stood. And I’d have my own personal devotions, Bible reading, I’d get down on my knees, in the room and pray before going to bed, mornings. And one day, I...Ernie says to me, "Hey Bill, you don’t have another Bible, do you? I’d like to have a Bible, like to start reading.” I found a Bible for him, pretty soon, he was reading. One day, sometime later, I got up from my knees and there was Ernie, down on his knees, praying. And Ernie got discharged from the hospital, from the army, about a month or two before I did. He went home. I had been writing to Laura, told her of our activities, and so on, and I told her that Ernie was coming home, and that he’d like to stop in and visit her in Wheaton, on his way through to New Jersey and Maine, where he was from, from Maine. And so I said, "You know, it’d be nice if you had a...a nice Bible, autographed from us, the two of us, and give it to him when he comes through there.” So she did, she had a very lovely leather bound Bible to give to him, and gave it to him as a gift, when he came through there. The interesting thing on this was that when we were the Comoros [Comoro Islands; the Barnetts went there in 1979] this article appeared in the...the what do you call it? [tape recorder shut off]

SHUSTER: You were talking about how an article had appeared when you were in the Comoros about your work there.

BARNETT: That’s right. And the result of this article, a newspaper reporter had come over and...and written up this article, after she’d spent several weeks there, observing the work in the Comoros. And I began...many letters began to come from all over the world, in response to this article that was in this magazine. And one letter came from Maine, and it said, "I don’t know if you’re the same Bill Barnett that worked together with me and roomed with me in Korea. But,” it said, "I think probably you are, and if you are, I just want you to know this, that the Bible Lois gave to me in Wheaton when I came home has proved to be the most important book in my library...”

SHUSTER: Praise God.

BARNETT: "...ever since, and it has its place on my bedside table, beside my bed, all the time.” This was the response we got from that.

SHUSTER: Was this from seeing you do your devotions each day?

BARNETT: Just...just living, just living before him.

SHUSTER: Now, you mentioned that it was about the end of ‘49, that you were discharged from the army. Is that correct?

BARNETT: It was the end of actually ‘48, that we got home. No, what is this anyway? It was...I got my dates somehow a little mixed...

SHUSTER: I was going to’d said that you were trained in ‘45, and then the internship was in ‘45 and ‘46.

BARNETT: ...because I was in ‘46, ‘45, ‘46, and the internship was nine months, instead of a full year, it was cut to nine moths.

SHUSTER: And then there was the surgical residency.

BARNETT: And so I started that inter...I was through my internship by June or so of ‘46. And then I had my residency for another...’46 June, went right on into the next ‘47.


BARNETT: And it was the.... [pauses]

SHUSTER: But you were saying in December ‘47 you went to Fort...Fort Bragg.

BARNETT: Yes, it was....

SHUSTER: And they told you to report back at New Year’s Day of ‘48.

BARNETT: ‘48. So it was ‘48, no it’d have to be ‘49 that I was back, at the end of ‘49, that I...that I was back, and landed in California, and then got out of the army. And then I went...we went back together to Schenectady, and had another virtually almost full year back into residency in Schenectady, and I was doing then a residency in anesthesia, with a bit of time spent in ob-gyn [obstetrics and gynecology], also in Schenectady.

SHUSTER: Had you had any contact with AIM at this point about returning?

BARNETT: Yes, yes. It was then...then when we came back, that I actually...we applied to AIM Ralph Davis was then the home director for AIM We knew Ralph very well.

SHUSTER: Did you consider other missions, or apply for other missions?

BARNETT: We actually didn’t, no. Actually didn’t. When I was in Korea, during that year, missionaries were just beginning to come back into Korea, and Sam Moffett had come back then, in that year, to the hospital, and...(what is it?), there, where the big Presbyterian hospital is there, down south of Seoul, can’t think of the name of the town now. And so, a number of the missionaries were trying to put pressure on me to stay on in Korea...stay on in Korea. I said, "No, I really have committed and believe the Lord has called us Africa, and we’re on our way back there.” So we applied just to AIM, and at that time there was a big need for a doctor at Kola Ndoto in Tanganyika. Doctor Nina Maynard was the one that had started the work there in the hospital, and had built the hospital in Kola Ndoto.

SHUSTER: And this was in Tanzania?

BARNETT: That was Tanganyika at the time, yes. Mr. Maynard was a banker from Philadelphia. His wife, Nina, had gone through the women’s medical college there in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. And they were among the early pioneers. I think they arrived on the field 1913 or so, and they hiked into Tanganyika on foot, a safari, down through Mwanza, and on foot wound up at this place called Kola Ndoto, which was about eight miles from Shinyanga, which was on the railway line. Shinyanga. I don’t know wether they had the railway through at that time, or not, to Mwanza but [pauses] Tanganyika, of course, at that time, was still under the Germans, it was German East Africa, really, what it was at the time. And Dr. Maynard built her...her first dispensary there, was a tent. Put up on a cement slab, that they laid down a tent under a tamarind tree. That tamarind tree is still there. And that cement slab was still there, at the time that we were there. She went from that, and then built...the first buildings of the hospital were all made out of sun dried mud brick, the first wards that were put up. Men’s ward, women’s ward, and then she went on from that, the hospital at that time was about sixty, eighty beds, something like that. And then she developed a...a leporsarium. And....

SHUSTER: Did you...have you ever visited there when you were in Africa?

BARNETT: Never, no. Never. We had never been to Tanganyika, at that time, before the war. My dad had helped in a lot of the pioneer work, had developed the work in Kenya, but the main one that...that my dad had been with was Mr. [John] Stauffacher. [See BGC Archives Collection 281] And Mr. Stauffacher, along with Mr. [Charles] Hurlburt, were the ones that did the first pioneer exploration into Tanganyika, to get the work started down there. But these and then Mr. and Mrs. [Emil and Marie] Sywulka, I suppose, were one of the first missionaries that went in residence, into Tanganyika.

SHUSTER: What was your application process like, when you applied?

BARNETT: Well, the application process for us was very informal, very brief. Ralph Davis was very much behind our going to the mission field, and he was anxious to see us get out there, he knew about this big need of the doctor in Tanganyika, and so we simply went through the formality of filling in their...their application papers, that we didn’t even meet one of their committees, which normally, any of the candidates are supposed to spend time, and today, it’s not only a meeting at candidate committee, but it’s going to candidate school, and [clears throat] all of this, but we didn’t...didn’t go through any of that at all.

SHUSTER: Is that primarily because your family had been....

BARNETT: I suppose that a large one was because they all knew me already. And Ralph Davis knew me...knew me well. And we’d been in touch from time to time, through my schooling periods, and we, in the application papers had to give our testimony and everything in the application, and what our goal was in leaving for the mission field. So, that was it, but Dr. Nina [Maynard] had died [in 1946], I can’t remember the na...the year it was, that she died, but it’d have to be in forty-something or other, and had left Kola Ndoto without a doctor. And so, there was a call for a doctor. Now, my brother Arthur was also, at that time, he was ahead of me. My older brother, in fact, he’s the main reason I applied to Columbia University, because he was a graduate of Columbia University Medical School, there, and I think he never got over the fact that I didn’t go to Columbia, and went to Albany instead. But, they, he and Peggy, had been heading for what was Belgian Congo, at the time, to work at the Rethy Hospital there. And he had also been through the army, but actually during the wartime, he was in the army, in the air force, as a doctor. And, the war was over. He was...he and his...he and Peggy had been heading for the mission field earlier, before America was in the war, and they were among the passengers that were on the famous Zamzam.

SHUSTER: Oh, yeah.

BARNETT: That was sunk, out from under them. So they went through the Zamzam experience. [The Zamzam was a Egyptian freighter carrying over one hundred American, British, American and other Western missionaries. It was sunk by a German warship in 1941 and the missionaries were taken to German-occupied Europe.]

SHUSTER: We have photographs, and reports, and postcards from internment camps in the Archives from different members of the Zamzam. [BGC Archives Collection 624, among others]

BARNETT: It was a great story, great story. But, when they got back to the [United] States from the Zamzam experience, I guess the U.S. was virtually in the war, and so Arthur immediately went into active duty in the army, and was in the Army Air Corps. And he saw active duty in North Africa, as a doctor there in North Africa.

SHUSTER: As a doctor?

BARNETT: As a doctor. He was a doctor. And so at the end of the war, then, they headed for the mission field again, and this time...they had originally been heading for Kenya, to work at Kijabe which at that time was just a very small setup, under Dr. Elwood Davis. But [clears throat] then the second time that they were going, they felt their call was to Tanganyika...or to Belgian Congo. But, meanwhile, this major need developed in Tanganyika because of the death of Dr. Maynard. And so they asked Arthur and Peggy if they would go to Tanganyika, which they did, but still felt very strongly that their call was Congo.

SHUSTER: It was a stopgap measure.

BARNETT: Yes, a stopgap measure to go there. So they did go to Tanganyika, and were filling in at Kola Ndoto, and were there when we arrived there in the fall of 1950, towards the end of 1950, we arrived there, and we worked together for about a year, before they went home on their furlough, and so we were left there alone. By the way, I’m going to use the toilet, just a minute.

SHUSTER: Sure, let me just.... [tape recorder turned off and back on]. How did you travel to Tanzania?

BARNETT: Well, when we went, we...we knew that the hospital had certain needs, they had been carrying on without...without water, no running water on the place at all. We found that the hospital had hired about eleven water carriers that carried water from a sand riverbed about a mile away, each day, this carrier would carry two cans, four gallon tins on a shoulder pole, the cans suspended on either end of this thing. And they would make one trip a day, carrying each one, eight gallons of water up to the hospital. Eleven water carriers, and they would fill up drums with water for the hospital, and that’s the way the hospital had been getting along, for years and years, that way. They had no electricity in the place, and so on. And no X-ray machines at all in the place, the equipment was very minimal. And the...very little surgery was done in the hospital, under Dr. Maynard. So they were lacking in a great deal of equipment, and so, before we went out, we collected various things. We...we got an ex-army X-ray unit, picker unit that was a field unit. Fortunately, we were able to get one that had never been used, so it was virtually brand new, in its box and everything, it was fixed up in such a way that these trunks, they could be thrown out of an airplane. Found out they were suspended by springs inside these boxes, these X-ray tubes and everything like that. So, we took that with us, we got a...a generator, electric generator which was one of these oil well field units, Witte engine, good American machine, these were the sort of things that were used for pumping oil from the oil wells out in the fields. These one motor diesel engines running a 12-KVA electric generator that would run these pumps. And this was what we took along with us, for electricity for the hospital, and for the station. And we were able to get a...a two ton Chevy truck that we took along, and our church there, in Schenectady, helped getting all this equipment, and checking out the various technical equipment, the X-ray unit, and made sure that this power plant was sufficient to run the X-ray unit. They tested it all out, there in Schenectady, for us, first. And so when we left this big two ton truck was filled with all these cases of the medical equipment, and so on, that we had took along. And when they put it on the boat there, in New York, which we went by boat at that time, in 1950, they simply lifted the whole truck up, with everything in it, and put it down in the hold of the truck...of the boat.

SHUSTER: What route did you travel to get there?

BARNETT: We was one of these freight boats, that carried twelve passengers. And the route was from New York down to Philadelphia, I believe it was, either Baltimore or Philadelphia, I can’t remember, and then across to South Africa, Capetown, directly to Capetown.

SHUSTER: And then you....

BARNETT: And then up the east coast of Africa.

SHUSTER: But still on the freighter?

BARNETT: On the freighter, all the way until we got to Mombasa, in Kenya, and then we were off at Mombasa, we actually had two vehicles, we had this truck, which was for the hospital, and then we had our own personal car, which was one of these Chevrolet van type of thing, carryall, they called them in those days. It was like a steel bodied van. And actually, my brother, Arthur, and his wife, had come out to Kenya to meet us at the boat, and my dad and mother met us also, at the boat, in Kenya, so we had a bit of a convoy from Mombasa on up to Nairobi, and family reunion in Nairobi, because several of the members of our family were there, and then from Nairobi, we drove these two vehicles, my brother and his wife were also in there car, and so the three vehicles that drove all the way from Nairobi up to Musoma on the lake, Victoria, and then down to Nassa, which was the first AIM station that was ever built. Mwanza on the southern end of the lake, and then down ninety miles south of there to Kola Ndoto hospital.

SHUSTER: How many days drive was that?

BARNETT: That drive, taken from Nairobi, was about, I think, just three or four days, it took us to drive it. All dirt roads, you know.

SHUSTER: I just have one last question for you, for our interview today. By the time you came back to Kenya again, at Mombasa, you’d been out of the country for most...out of Africa for most of two decades.

BARNETT: 1931 is when we...when I went to the States.

SHUSTER: So it was nineteen years, when you came back.

BARNETT: Nineteen years, that I had...since I had been in Africa.

SHUSTER: How did Africa strike you when you came back, I mean, how did it seem to you?

BARNETT: Well, in many ways, it was different. You’d seen great developments. The of Mombasa was a much bigger town. There were some things that hadn’t completely changed. Like dad and mother, when they met us there in Mombasa, one of the first things they wanted us to do was to go buy helmets to wear. Most important, you must wear a helmet.

SHUSTER: Pith helmets?

BARNETT: Pith helmet, or cork helmet, or felt hats, double layered felt hats with red flannel between the layers, otherwise, you’re going to get sunstroke. And that’s very important, so we followed suit, and got ourselves hats, for it, and people were still generally wearing hats, but you were seeing quite a number of young people, the foreigners that were walking around Mombasa, with no hats on, and I can still remember my dad and mother clucking over them. It’s a "Huh, you just watch, they’re going to be in trouble”sort of thing. Now, of course, today, there are people running all over the place, no hats at all, and just fine.

SHUSTER: Were you humoring your parents, or did you as a doctor still think that you needed the helmet?

BARNETT: Well, I was still accepting, let’s say, because we had been raised that way. We wore spine pads, and helmets all the time, never went out in the sun. Some people actually wouldn’t go out in the the moonlight, a nighttime, without wearing a hat, worried about getting moon-stroke. [chuckles] You know.

SHUSTER: Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but the belief was that Europeans, as opposed to Africans, couldn’t stand the....

BARNETT: Far more sensitive...

SHUSTER: And couldn’t stand the heat.

BARNETT: the sun, sun’s light, and rays, and so on. But, that of course has been proved wrong. And some people do get the heat stroke, there’s no question, you get heat stroke here in this country too.

SHUSTER: So there were some things that changed, and some things that stayed the same.

BARNETT: Yeah. There were a lot of changes, like in Nairobi itself, was tremendous changes and developments, and that’s in Nairobi. Of course, a lot of the developments have been encouraged since 1950, since we were there. [clears throat] Size of the cities has grown tremendously. Nairobi I think is running somewhere around two or three million people now. So, you know a lot of changes in Africa, of course. And we...we lived through the period of the political developments and changes that have rocked the continent of Africa.


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