b. 28/08/1895 Blairstown, Missouri. d. 14/04/1966 Shawnee Mission, Kansas.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 07/10/1918 Cunel, France.
Born in Blairstown, Missouri in 1895, John grew up on a farm and was one of the millions of men inducted into the Army when the U.S. declared war on Germany in 1917. He went to France with the 4th Infantry Regiment of the Third Division in 1918, and participated as a private first class in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, the largest American military operation of the war. On Oct. 7, in fighting near Cunel, France, PFC Barkley, on his own initiative, repaired a captured German machine gun, mounted it on a disabled French tank, and manned it through repeated German artillery barrages and counterattacks, enabling his regiment to gain and hold its objective. For his actions that day he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
After the war, John returned to Missouri, joining the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, and was active in many veterans’ observances. On Nov. 1, 1921 he participated in the site dedication for the future Liberty Memorial across from Union Station in Kansas City. The parade to the reviewing stand was led by Vice President Calvin Coolidge and the commanders of the Allied military forces in the Great War: France’s Marshal Ferdinand Foch, U.S. General John J. Pershing, General Armando Diaz of Italy, General Alphonse Jacques of Belgium and Great Britain’s Admiral David Beatty. Immediately behind them were automobiles carrying John Barkley and other Medal of Honor recipients, followed by wounded veterans and American Legion members numbering some 25,000 among the crowd of 100,000.
Five years later, on Armistice Day 1926, John was present at the dedication of the completed Liberty Memorial. Coolidge, then the President of the U.S., addressed a crowd of some 150,000, the largest crowd ever assembled to hear an American president to that time, and hundreds of thousands more listened on the radio.
John’s memoir of his war service, published in 1930 with the title No Hard Feelings, has been republished and is now available from the Museum Store under his originally-desired title, Scarlet Fields. Little is known about the remainder of his life. He died in April 1966, aged 70.
Pfc. Barkley, who was stationed in an observation post half a kilometer from the German line, on his own initiative repaired a captured enemy machinegun and mounted it in a disabled French tank near his post. Shortly afterward, when the enemy launched a counterattack against our forces, Pfc. Barkley got into the tank, waited under hostile barrage until the enemy line was abreast of him and then opened fire, completely breaking up the counterattack and killing and wounding a large number of the enemy. Five minutes later an enemy 77-millimeter gun opened fire on the tank point blank. One shell struck the drive wheel of the tank, but this soldier nevertheless remained in the tank and after the barrage ceased broke up a second enemy counterattack, thereby enabling our forces to gain and hold Hill 25.
BURIAL LOCATION: FOREST HILL CEMETERY, KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI.
BLOCK 50, LOT 132
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL WORLD WAR I MUSEUM AT THE LIBERTY MEMORIAL, KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI.