The Sons of Bardstown

By: Jim Wilson

This is a moving, superbly reported profile of one small Kentucky town and the disproportionately high number of young men it sacrificed to the American cause in Vietnam, including five as the result of a single, brief, militarily meaningless battle.

On April 11, 1968, with the fighting in Vietnam continuing to rage, Defense Secretary Clark Clifford announced a massive call-up of the Reserves and National Guard. Included were the 117 men in Battery C, 138th Artillery, Kentucky National Guard, 105 of whom lived in Bardstown or its immediate vicinity.

Early one morning many years later, one of those men stood before the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. As he made rubbing after rubbing of the names of the seventeen people he knew on the wall, a woman ventured forward and asked, “Sir, you couldn’t possibly know all those people.”

“Yes, ma’am, he answered, I surely do. I know every one of them personally.

The Sons of Bardstown is the story not only of those men he knew so well, but of the battle at Fire Base Tomahawk that claimed their lives. We also hear from the wives, mothers, and loved ones who mourn them, and from their comrades who survived. This is the saga of Bardstown, a place where no one was spared the pain of loss, because no resident was a stranger to any other.