Carroll Barnwell, 'Flying Tiger' and WWII photographer, dies at 90
By Andy M. Drury | The Macon Telegraph | Published: January 17, 2014
MACON, Ga. — A Macon man whose camera captured World War II images from the skies over China and India and whose later work at a local manufacturer went all the way to the moon died Wednesday. Carroll S. Barnwell was 90.
Barnwell wasn’t a household name, but his daughter Carol Neighbors said he lived an extraordinary life.
Born in 1923, Barnwell graduated from Macon’s Lanier High School and volunteered with the Army Air Corps while he was a student at Clemson University. Barnwell, who held the rank of staff sergeant, was a flight engineer on a B-25 bomber as part of the 14th Air Force’s “Flying Tigers.”
During the early 1940s, Barnwell saw much of his life through a camera lens, and he was one of the few who took color photographs of World War II.
His photographs have been featured in the Airmen’s Museum of the Smithsonian Institution and in several books about the war. One of them, “Flying the Hump” by Jeff Ethell and Don Downie, lists Barnwell on the acknowledgements page for allowing the use of his wartime slide collection for the book.
“He has a picture, in color, of the Taj Mahal that he took from the air,” Neighbors said. “He took a lot of photographs of the war, and Mama put them in a collage and framed it.”
He and his wife, the late Joyce Chandler Barnwell, were married 47 years.
Neighbors said Barnwell often talked about the war.
He “refought that war I don’t know how many times,” she said, recalling her father’s stories of combat in a place so far removed from Middle Georgia. “That was a big part of his life. (With war,) you don’t forget.”
Mike Rowland, curator of the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, said the main mission for fighters such as Barnwell was to attack Japanese targets.
“He would have been manning the upper turret and would have had responsibility for a lot of the airplane’s systems,” Rowland said of Barnwell.
“So many did their jobs, served honorably and well and quietly went back to their lives,” Rowland said.
After the war, Barnwell finished a textile engineering degree at Clemson and settled back into life in Macon. He went to work for Bibb Manufacturing Co., where he became director of research and development. While there, he helped create the kind of fabric that was used for the American flag on the first manned moon mission in 1969 and other NASA projects, according to his obituary.
“He always said he never got the credit for it,” Neighbors said.
During his career, Barnwell also worked for the Uniroyal Corp. in Georgia and South Carolina and once was voted Scientist of the Year by his colleagues, Neighbors said.
Outside of work, Barnwell was active in the community. He was a Kiwanis Club member, delivered Meals on Wheels and volunteered in food pantries and at the Ocmulgee National Monument.
Barnwell is survived by four children, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
“He was a very sweet and generous man,” Neighbors said. “We were very proud to call him our father.”
Barnwell’s memorial service is at 11 a.m. Saturday at Christ Episcopal Church in Macon. Visitation is at 10:30 a.m. His burial will be private.