Del Hayes Press

Quietly Exploding

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.

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