Rural Missouri - February 2021 - 17

Holden's
Hero
Heroism brought Medal of Honor -
but little fame - to John Lewis Barkley

by Jim McCarty | jmccarty@ruralmissouri.coop

On this particular date John found himself facing a full
battalion of Germans preparing to assault the hill. Under
the cover of a smoke screen, he grabbed an abandoned enn the months before the U.S. entered World War I, an unemy machine gun, repaired it and mustered all the ammuderaged young man entered the Holden post office where
nition he could carry. He hid inside a French tank that had
the postmaster doubled as the Army recruiter. He applied
been knocked out and waited for the smoke to clear.
for the service and was promptly turned down. " It's no
As the Germans advanced John opened fire. " I took a
use, Johnny, " the postmaster lamented. " There's no place in
breath, worked the barrel of my gun out through the port,
the Army for a fellow who stutters as badly as you. "
picked the direction of fire that promised the greatest
Eventually the 18-year-old slipped into the service using
results all the way across the farther flank, let out a little
his brother's draft summons. From this inauspicious beginbreath, laid the gun waist-high on the man who was closest
ning he would go on to become one of the most decorated
to me and eased down the trigger, " John related in his
Americans to fight in the Great War, earning the
memoir.
highest honor from six nations. His exploits on
Confused at first, the Germans quickly figured out
the battlefield rival those of Sgt. Alvin York, the
Holden
where the bullets were coming from and returned
Tennessee farmer whose heroics were retold in a
fire, their bullets ricocheting off the tank's armor.
1941 movie starring Gary Cooper - yet few today
" It sounded as if a thousand triphammers were
have ever heard of John Lewis Barkley.
battering against the metal, " John wrote.
On the night of Oct. 6, 1918, Private Barkley
The enemy soldiers threw everything they had
was ordered behind enemy lines to relay informaat the lone Doughboy, including rifles, grenades,
tion about German troop movements near a stramachine guns and even shells from a 77 mm field
tegic French hill. No stranger to infiltrating German
gun, to no avail. Finally, the cannon found the range and
lines, he used skills gained from hunting along Scaly Bark
hit the tank, knocking John out for a while. He recovered
Creek back home in his role in an intelligence unit. He
and continued the fight, singlehandedly halting the German
served as an observer, scout and sniper, often far from
advance until the overheated gun refused to fire.
friendly forces.
At this time an American counterattack came to the res " He was used to going out and staying late at night in the
cue and John was able to slip away and return to his unit,
woods waiting for an animal to come along, " his daughter,
one step ahead of the artillery that was raining down on the
Joan Barkley Wells, recalls. " He was a fan of Daniel Boone,
tank. He told no one what he had done. However, others
so growing up he in a way patterned his exploits after Danhad witnessed his bravery. One soldier estimated there were
iel Boone. There is a family relationship. "

I

FEBRUARY 2021 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP

17


http://www.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Rural Missouri - February 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2021

Contents
Rural Missouri - February 2021 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - February 2021 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - February 2021 - Contents
Rural Missouri - February 2021 - 4
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Rural Missouri - February 2021 - Cover3
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