The after dinner speaker at the Aurora Council of the Navy League's April 15 dinner meeting was Major General John L. Borling, USAF (Ret.), who spoke on "Reflections on Life in the Hanoi Hilton for Over Six Years."
Gen. Borling spoke to a packed room at Grandma's Table Restaurant in Montgomery.
His two-hour presentation included much Q&A from a captivated audience. He began by looking back at his shoot down over North Vietnam and proceeded into life at the Hanoi Hilton. Noting that he was a life long lover of poetry, Gen, Borling described how he would write poems to keep his mind sharp and spirits up. He then shared these poems with fellow POWs using the forbidden POW tap code. Rapping on the cell walls with his kinuckles, he tapped poems, certainly of pain and despair, but also of humor, encouragement, and hope, to keep everyone's strength and spirits alive. Recently, he published these 35 poems in a book entitled "Taps On The Walls; Poems From The Hanoi Hilton."
Gen. Borling is a native Chicagoan and 1963 Air Force Academy graduate. His military career spanned 37 years, and now he is a motivational, political philosophy, and business speaker/consultant and an experienced MC, in demand across the nation.
A highly decorated officer, his many awards include: The Silver Star, Two Bronze Stars with V for Valor and Two Purple Hearts. He was an F-15 Eagle fighter pilot and commander of the famed “Hat in the Ring” squadron. He was an Air Division commander at Minot AFB, ND and Head of Operations for Strategic Air Command (SAC) in Omaha. In that position, he directed SAC’s support of hostilities in the first Gulf War and Panama and was charged with execution responsibilities for the nation’s nuclear war plan.
He has piloted many aircraft including, the F16 Viper, F4 Phantom, the SR71 Blackbird, the U-2, and B-52 and B-1 bombers. During the Vietnam War, he was shot down by ground fire. Seriously injured and captured while trying to evade, he spent 6½ years as a POW in Hanoi at Hoa Lo Prison (AKA "Hanoi Hilton"), from June 1, 1966 to February 12, 1973).
Gen. Borling is a graduate of The National War College and executive programs at the JFK and Business School at Harvard. He was a White House Fellow and, later, treasurer and director of the governing foundation and for many years a regional selection panel member. He serves on the Boards of several corporations.
General Borling founded and chairs SOS America (Service Over Self), a patriotic organization advocating military service for America’s young men age 18 to 26. Previously, as CEO of Chicago’s United Way he was credited with a rebound of interest and annual campaign success exceeding 95 million dollars.
Current civic activities include: Life Member, The Commercial Club of Chicago, Trustee, The Lincoln Academy of Illinois, President, Sister Lakes Michigan Land Conservancy, Inductee, Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame, Who’s Who in America and numerous other local and national organizations. A 2010 Chicago Marathon finisher (24th in class), he is married to his high school sweetheart, Myrna, and lives on the Rock River in Rockford Illinois.