b. 03/06/1892 Mount Vernon, Missouri. d. 25/11/1936 Blue Springs, Missouri.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 31/10/1918 Bois de Bantheville, France.
Barger was born in Mount Vernon, Missouri to George and Cora (Lake) Staffelbach. In 1897, his father, a member of the notorious Staffelbach gang from Galena, Kansas, was sentenced to life in prison and his mother gave him up for adoption. He did not see her again until after World War I. He was taken in by Sidney and Phoebe (Owens) Barger, who eventually adopted him, and he grew up in Stotts City, working as a farmhand.
On April 1, 1918, Barger enlisted in the United States Army in Mt. Vernon and received his Basic Military Training with the 23rd Company, 164th Depot Brigade, at Camp Funston, Kansas. Upon completion of accession training on April 24, he was assigned to Company L, 354th Infantry Regiment, 89th Division., which absorbed most of the men from southeastern and eastern Missouri. This regiment arrived in France in June 1918, and two months later Barger earned promotion to private first class. Having earned the Expert Rifleman Badge during training, he was selected as an automatic rifle gunner upon reaching France.
Barger served in the St. Mihiel Offensive, but it was during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive that he really proved his metal. The 177th Brigade, to which he was assigned, was situated on the southwest edge of Bois-de-Bantheville, France, during the last couple of weeks of October 1918. For more than a week, the enemy fired high-explosive shells, often containing mustard gas, and gas fumes lingered for days. No one escaped the effects, although some suffered more than others and required medical treatment or evacuation. Barger never reported for medical treatment, so was not allotted a wound chevron for his infliction.
Barger was a member of the Occupation forces in Germany after the Armistice was signed in November 1918, and returned stateside on May 31, 1919. Barger returned to farming with his adopted uncle, Henry McFerron, and later as a construction worker in Waco, Missouri, but had a rough time making ends meet. He had difficulty adjusting to civilian life and struggled to stay employed.
On January 1, 1921, congress approved the recruiting of new soldiers, and he enlisted in Joplin on the tenth. He was assigned as a machine gunner to Company D, 38th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Division, at Camp Pike, Arkansas, until being permanently discharged from the Army on July 15, 1921.
While stationed in Arkansas, Barger married Audrey E. Hurst in Hardy, Arkansas, on March 2, 1921, and on June 6, 1922, they had a son named Charles Denver Barger, Jr. This marriage was short-lived, and he went on to marry Ruth Irene Bailey. They had two children, Joseph Elmer Barger, born on January 25, 1925, and Mabel Louise "Dodi" Barger, born on April 13, 1928.
In January 1922, Barger was hired as a police officer in Kansas City. On February 22, he and Officer Howard Pollard were dispatched to 1724 Holly Street where two men were involved in bootlegging and one was suspected of murder. The suspects holed up on the second floor of the residence and decided to shoot it out with the officers. Pollard was hit in the arm and went down, and Barger was shot in the left wrist, right arm, chest and head—a total of five times. Nonetheless, he returned fire, shooting one man in the abdomen and hitting the other three times. While the latter fled, the man hit in the abdomen was taken into custody and died from his injury a short while later.
Barger recovered from his injuries, but his head wound coupled with the effects of mustard gas and post-traumatic stress eventually took its toll on his physical and mental health. He remained with the police force for twelve years before they left him go with no compensation or pension.
In the Spring of 1936, Barger moved to a farm four miles southwest of Oak Grove, outside of Kansas City, and began working for the Civilian Conservation Corps in Blue Springs.
On the night of November 23, county police were called to his home where they found him wielding a large hunting knife and setting fire to his farmhouse. He had three self-inflicted wounds to his throat, and the deputies reported that "his clothing was torn and his body burned in a dozen places." When the officers attempted to arrest him for threatening to kill his wife, he lunged at them with the knife. Deputy Frank Ridenour fired in self-defense, inflicting a non-life-threatening wound to Barger's right thigh. He was taken to the Kansas City General Hospital and died two days later from third-degree burns to his face and arms.
Learning that 2 daylight patrols had been caught out in No Man's Land and were unable to return, Pfc. Barger and another stretcher bearer upon their own initiative made 2 trips 500 yards beyond our lines, under constant machinegun fire, and rescued 2 wounded officers.
BURIAL LOCATION: BLUE SPRINGS CEMETERY, BLUE SPRINGS, MISSOURI. 1 East 7