Welcome to something that isn’t technically a Memorial Day story, because it’s about someone who survived his war experiences, but please allow me to broaden the day’s meaning a little.

It’s a tale told in a book released last fall that I just finished reading as this holiday weekend began. The Flight: A Father’s War, a Son’s Search is a tour de force. Granted, it’s by a friend of mine, longtime fellow journalist (and multiple award-winner) Tyler Bridges, but my recommendation of it as something great to start reading on Memorial Day would be just as strong if I didn’t know Tyler. I mean, this is really good stuff.

Tyler’s father, Dick Bridges, was a pilot in World War II. He was not, however, in a theater of the war on which popular historians usually focus. I didn’t know that American pilots in 1943 flew from Tunisia, across the Mediterranean, Italy, and part of Yugoslavia, to bomb German war factories in Austria. I didn’t know that Hitler saw control of Yugoslavia and Hungary as crucial for his supply lines. I didn’t know those bombers had 10 people on board, or what their specific roles (and huge individual challenges) were.

Did you?

Through stupendously exhaustive research, Tyler introduces us, with deft portraits, to each of the 10 crew members and then recreates a blow-by-blow account of the long, dangerous mission led by his father, the pilot. And yes, it gives nothing away to say that the plane, named the Fascinatin’ Witch, would be shot down — but how it goes down, which crew members survive, and how they survive the plane’s destruction becomes a harrowing and inspirational account told with intense immediacy.

And that's only how this book starts. The longer, equally mind-boggling story is about how Dick Bridges survives after he is shot down. It involves being captured as a prisoner of war, multiple escape attempts, and … well, read it for yourself and see. Even if the story itself weren’t so good — which it is — anyone with a yen for World War II history will be fascinated (albeit not witchily) to learn so much about the complicated goings-on in the southeastern European theater.

Of course, we know Dick Bridges survives — because if he didn’t, Tyler, who came along some 17 years later, would never have been born. But if Hollywood made up these adventures, audiences would need large suspensions of disbelief.

Because Memorial Day is specifically for those who died under arms, the fit is slightly imperfect. (It must be said, though, that Tyler pays apt tribute to the crewmen who gave the last full measure.) Yet, seen as part of the broader theme of honoring those who braved the fire on behalf of liberty, who risked and suffered and in many instances almost died, The Flight is a moving memorial tribute.

And back in WWII, and in Korea in the decade afterward, the technology was so much worse than today, the precision of targeting so unreliable, and the medical capabilities so comparatively primitive, that an account such as The Flight renews ever more powerfully the appreciation we must give to those courageous warriors.

Welshman Dai Davies, a fellow POW with Dick Bridges who lived to age 101 and spoke at length to Tyler Bridges, said this to Tyler: His fellow POWs who attempted escape “shared my belief in the right to freedom. And that has been integral to my philosophy on life: without freedom, we have nothing.”

Without men like Dai Davies and Dick Bridges, we wouldn’t have our freedom. That’s why we memorialize them, with well-merited honor.