Newest ‘Freedom Flyer’ takes final flight for his B-52 crew (Thomas Klomann)

The events on Dec. 20, 1972, were clearly on the mind of former Air Force pilot Paul Granger as he exited a T-38C Talon following a special hourlong flight March 3 that began and ended on the east flightline at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.

Caught up in the emotional aftermath of his long-overdue “Freedom Flight,” Granger paid tribute to his B-52 Stratofortress aircrew that was shot down over North Vietnam that December night as he joined an elite fraternity of Air Force pilots known as the Freedom Flyers.

“Our trip is complete,” he said. “It was the best I ever had.”

Granger also greeted retired Capt. Tom Klomann, the only other known survivor of the six-man B-52 aircrew that participated in the air offensive of December 1972 known as Operation Linebacker II, and presented him with Freedom Flyer patches symbolizing his connection to the pilots imprisoned by the North Vietnamese.

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