Barry Bridger was born in 1940 in Bladenboro, North Carolina. He was commissioned through the Air Force ROTC program at the University of North Carolina in June 1962, and went on active duty on April 16, 1963. Bridger graduated from Undergraduate Pilot Training and was awarded his pilot wings at Webb AFB, Texas, in 1964. He then completed Combat Crew Training in the F-4 Phantom II before serving with the 43rd and then the 46th Tactical Fighter Squadron at MacDill AFB, Florida. During this time, Bridger flew combat missions in Southeast Asia from September to December 1965. Capt Bridger began flying combat missions during his first regular tour of duty in Southeast Asia with the 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, in late 1966. He was forced to eject over North Vietnam on January 23, 1967, and was taken as a Prisoner of War. After spending 2,232 days in captivity, he was released during Operation Homecoming on March 4, 1973, and was hospitalized for his injuries at Andrews AFB, Maryland. Bridger next served with the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing at George AFB, California, followed by the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina. After completing USAF Central Instructors School, he served as an instructor with the Air Force Element at the Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Virginia. He then served as Executive Officer at Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from February 1978 to July 1981, before serving with the 4525th Combat Applications Squadron as the Chief of the Wargaming Division for the Tactical Air Command Liaison Office, also at Fort Leavenworth, where he served from July 1981 until his retirement from the Air Force on September 30, 1984.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
This officer distinguished himself by gallantry and intrepidity in action in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force while a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam. Ignoring international agreements on treatment of prisoners of war, the enemy resorted to mental and physical cruelties to obtain information, confessions and propaganda materials. This American resisted their demands by calling upon his deepest inner strengths in a manner which reflected his devotion to duty and great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.