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Prisoner of War Art – Hope Inspired Artwork

There is no courage unless you are first scared.

by M. Cardinal

Prisoner of war art

John had been a prisoner of war for 3 1/2 years. So, there was hardship and adversity seen on his face from those years. John chose to turn his struggles as a POW into an art form. He created a wartime log of World War II. Creating caricatures of the soldiers captured and the events surrounding his imprisonment.

prisoner of war art

How John got in his predicament

John Cordwell was only 20 years old at this time. He had taken classes in architecture but never took the test. John had a premonition that he would not return from the war alive. He believed that there is no courage unless you are first scared. As a result, the pain and loneliness from that fear are represented in his deep wrinkles.

After entering the military and being given his assignments, he said he noticed a light above the head of some of the officers sitting in those instructional meetings. Eerily, those persons did not return from their mission. As he looked around during a meeting one day, he did not see a light. It took a few minutes before he realized the light was above his head. Thus, he felt he would not survive his mission. He was sure of his demise.

On November 7, 1941, Black Friday, his plane crashed but he was pulled out by a surviving soldier. It was not known whether he survived or was captured, the sad news was relayed to his family. His family struggled with this news. It was years before the really knew his fate.

The enemy found both he and his comrade. As a result, took them both into custody. Entering the prison camp where he lived those years and the wrinkles represented, he realized he had lost a most precious gift… LIBERTY… FREEDOM.

John in uniform, before he became a prisoner of war.

His prisoner of war art

His prisoner of war art depicts those days. Furthermore, the hope for survival and escape held them all together. Meanwhile, they had to keep their mind occupied. His most famous caricature of that time was Dhobie Day. Mr. Cordwell depicts their plans to escape and the results. With soldiers of many professions and knowledge, they strove every day to accomplish the ultimate… escape. To escape the harsh discipline was first on their minds. Actually, their very means of survival.

In conclusion, On May 7, 1945 the survivors were liberated. His log is a tribute to the people who did not make it home. To Liberty, Freedom, and the will and courage to survive. To sum up, John is a master storyteller. His stories complimented his artwork. His complete log depicts it all. John, no doubt, an everyday hero.


Video Production: Rocko Productions
Review Written By: M. Cardinal
Date Written: Feb 27th, 2020
Your Everyday Hero: John Cordwell – Prisoner of War Art

Prisoner of War FAQs

What happens to a prisoner of war?

A prisoner of war (short form: POW) is a non-combatant who has been captured by the forces of the enemy, during an armed conflict. In past centuries, prisoners had no rights. They were usually killed or forced to be slaves.

What are the rights of a prisoner of war?

POWs must be treated humanely in all circumstances. They are protected against any act of violence, as well as against intimidation, insults, and public curiosity. IHL also defines minimum conditions of detention covering such issues as accommodation, food, clothing, hygiene, and medical care.

Are there still prisoners of war?

According to the Pentagon’s Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, there are currently 83,204 unaccounted for U.S. personnel, including 73,547 from World War II, 7,883 from the Korean War, 126 from the Cold War, 1,642 from the Vietnam War, and six from Iraq and other recent conflicts, including three Defense

What was the longest-held prisoner of war?

Floyd James “Jim” Thompson (July 8, 1933 – July 16, 2002) was a United States Army colonel. He was the longest-held American prisoner of war in U.S. history, spending nearly nine years in captivity in the jungle camps and mountains of South Vietnam and Laos, and in North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Who Are Everyday Heroes?

Everyday heroes are regular people who inspire others by overcoming obstacles, helping others, and giving back to their communities. Everyday heroes perform selfless acts for the good of other people, rather than for their own personal benefit. They give back to society by providing their wisdom, being caring to those who are less fortunate, and exemplifying moral behavior.

Why We Tell Everyday Heroes’ Stories

Everyday heroes are all around us, but many of their stories go untold, because their uplifting acts often serve marginalized communities that are underrepresented in mainstream media.

While acts of valor performed by brave first responders and courageous soldiers make national headlines, the achievements of regular everyday heroes like teachers, healthcare workers, and volunteers are less likely to be reported on.

Your Everyday Heroes has created a space where normal people who carry out extraordinary deeds are recognized for their contributions to the communities they live in and society at large.

It is our mission to make sure that we put a spotlight on the everyday heroes’ stories that would otherwise go untold. 

Inspiring Hero Stories

Get to know the incredible everyday heroes that we are we are proud to feature on our website:

Everyday Heroes – Brett Eastburn

Brett Eastburn has been overcoming obstacles since he was born with a congenital birth defect that robbed him of his arms and legs. Despite standing at only 2 feet and 10 and a half inches tall, Brett has not let his disability prevent him from playing an array of sports, from football to baseball to wrestling, nor has it stopped him from traveling the world.

Brett has written a book titled “I’m Not Missing Anything,” and is an inspirational speaker that teaches others to overcome obstacles as he tours around the globe.

During his down time Brett is an avid gamer that has gathered a hefty following on Twitch for live steaming videogame battles, where he manages to wipe out the competition by playing with his face.

Learn more about Brett’s story here:

Everyday Heroes – Sheryl Abel

Sheryl Abel was convicted of a twenty-year prison sentence for home invasion and robbery in 1991. While serving her sentence, Sheryl used her time for self-improvement and not only earned her GED, but became licensed in cosmetology and food sanitation. She also chose to help other incarcerated inmates by counseling young women in a support group that she created and volunteering for Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI).

Sheryl was paroled for good behavior after 9 and a half years, and immediately began working as a hairdresser in her mother’s basement beauty salon and as a transportation coordinator for LSSI.

After successfully working both positions for five years, Sheryl decided to launch the non-profit Helping Ourselves, Prisoners and Ex-offender Women (H.O.P.E.) to work with inmates and ex-offenders get a second chance at life on the outside. 

Since H.O.P.E.’s inception in 2007, Sheryl has worked to provide ex-offenders with GED programs, counseling services, drug treatment, housing assistance, life skills coaching, and career training.

Learn more about her story here:

Everyday Heroes – Bart Hickey

Bart Hickey has had a passion for cars since he was a child and a dream of racing a high-performance vehicle at the Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah…. Just one problem, Bart has been blind for his entire life.

Despite his disability, Bart loved everything about cars from a young age, he voraciously read the braille edition of Popular Mechanics as a boy, and went on to become an automotive mechanic as an adult, eventually purchasing his own shop, Bart’s Automotive and Towing.

With the help of his son Brandon, and Mercedes-Benz, Bart was able to race a car at the Salt Flats in 2011.

Learn about his story here:

Everyday Heroes – Alex LeVesque

Alex LeVesque saves lives by preventing gun violence. He founded a non-profit, the Automotive Mentoring Group (AMG), to help reduce Chicago area gang membership by mentoring at risk youth and getting them back into school to earn their high school degrees. 

Not only does he help kids stay out of trouble when they’re minors, once they graduate, he aides them in getting into colleges with automotive programs and works with more than 50 hiring partners to assist them with job placements.

Learn more about his story here:

In addition, look for more videos with our artistic heroes:

Intro to everyday heroes – Meet the heroes

Recycled Art – A beautiful new life

Mural Art – The walls speak of hope

Good Picture – Worth a thousand words

Flying Circus – Motivated artists

Bright Future – Art for inspiring minds

Loss of a Child – A tribute as art

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