Quietly Exploding: The Life of Medal of Honor Hero Charles Barger
More decorated but less well-known than his legendary counterpart, Alvin C. York, Charles Staffelbach Barger had every reason to go bad. Born into a family of serial killers, used for farm labor by an elderly couple who adopted and orphaned him, poverty-stricken and homeless in his early teens, Charlie’s future looked only bleak.
War changed that. Drafted into the Army in April 1918, Charlie could prove himself, regardless of his past. He went to France as a gunner, distinguishing himself repeatedly in combat and earning a fearless reputation. In October 1918, he and his assistant gunner performed a harrowing rescue for which both men received the Medal of Honor and decorations from multiple Allied governments.
Barger returned home a hero, but like so many of his fellow soldiers, also haunted. What should have been the beginning of a bright upward arc proved instead to be a peak. With a government bureaucracy failing to provide for its veterans, the inevitable pressures of life mounted. Charlie held it in as long as he could, but an eruption was inevitable.
Quietly Exploding: The Life of Medal of Honor Hero Charles Barger is meticulously researched and objectively conveyed by his paternal cousin, MSgt (Ret.) Joseph P. Bowman, with the editorial assistance of Charlie’s maternal cousin, Chris Kraft. This compelling biography takes the reader through Charlie’s tumultuous childhood, where murder was commonplace, deciphering fact from fiction regarding his infamous kinfolk. The war years provide unique insight into Charlie’s heroic feats, but also include a comprehensive perspective of the war in general, and the routine of the common doughboy specifically. Finally, Charlie’s difficult postwar years are detailed, culminating in his tragic end, the details of which have never been disclosed. Charlie Barger’s ascent and fall are potent testimony to the human ability to rise above one’s past, no matter how bleak, as well as to just how much the men who fight need support after the fight as before and during.
The first world war generation are the true greatest generation and it's a real shame that people don't know Charlie Barger like they know Audie Murphy. MR. Barger , like all U.S. WW1 veterans was screwed over by his own government including by every president from Harding to FDR. Suffering from PTS and many other related battlefield illnesses yet the government did nothing for them , now they've finally started to get a little recognition long after they're all gone. Thank God for these incredible and amazing heroes of the so called Lost Generation. Let us never forget there courage and bravery.
A must read! A Firewall five(5)! Accurate, Well researched, gut wrenching, soul searching and accountable. Author Joseph Bowman USAF(Ret) is a “Silent Warrior” as his World renowned family is. Well known, respected and admired in the Special Operations Community,
I should state upfront that I'm the manager of Del Hayes Press, the publisher of Quietly Exploding, but I write this review as the finicky reader that I am. We only publish stories that reflect our interests, values, and attention to quality, and it was on that basis that we were more than happy and privileged to publish Joe Bowman's latest book.
I can honestly say that as a fan of biographies, military history, stories of bravery, and deep research, Quietly Exploding seems to have been designed in the lab just for me. Having previously read Mr. Bowman's work, I was already disposed to believe it would be good, but what he has done, with help from his co-author Chris Kraft, is exceptional even by the current high standards of the genre.
As someone who has written such biographies myself, I know the difficulty of balancing research with narrative. The temptation is always there to show off all the research that one has done, regardless of the impact it has on moving the story forward. In Quietly Exploding, Bowman has managed to expertly thread that needle. The incredible depth of research—as evidenced by the more than eight hundred endnotes and extensive bibliography—never makes a show of itself, only lends to the comprehensiveness of the story being told, and the confidence with which it is. For all the information being presented, the story of Charles Barger never flags. On the contrary, it provides for a surprisingly brisk read, especially considering the deep knowledge it yields not just of its tragic subject, but the cast of characters surrounding him and the variety of situations which defined him.
The story of Charlie Barger is almost Greek in the scope and arc of its tragedy, but to his credit, Bowman never lets authorial moralizing intrude. He lets Charlie's tale tell itself, without lecture; lessons are left to the events and actions in the story to impart, and in the case of Mr. Barger, they are many and obvious. In a country that has always celebrated underdogs and everyday heroes, it's hard to accept how much—then and still—a government that fosters and benefits from such inspiring stories allows them to wither after the climax, especially in the case of the private from Missouri. Charles Barger had every reason to live a life of no account. The story of how he rose far beyond that—above and beyond—is inspiring, but I think it's the life he led after that which, at least for today, has the most to teach us.
This story of World War I hero Charles Barger turned out to be of interest to me on several different levels. Certainly it should be read by those interested in that time period and that war. The level of detail that the authors provide about, for example, the induction and training processes, the development of trenches as lines of defense, and the gases used in WWI is well-researched, remarkable and revealing.
But adding to the readability of this book is the story of Charles Barger's desperate upbringing. The history of the Staffelbach clan is appalling; at no stage does he have what one these days would call a role model, a man or woman who could set him on the path of anything resembling a future toward success, and yet reading of his heroism on the battlefield vs his difficulties in civilian life makes one ponder even more the influences of nature vs nurture.
And finally when we factor in the underlying message about how we treated our veterans after that horrific war, and sadly how even today we fall short in providing all our veterans with the support they so sorely need after serving our country, a book like Quietly Exploding is a timely reminder of how essential it is that we always remember. Kudos to Joseph Bowman and Chris Kraft for bringing this tragic story to life.
I absolutely loved this book! So informative and hard to put down!
It was a great book started reading it and read it all the way in one day it was fascinating Sgt Bowman is an excellent writer I would love to see more of his work. A must read