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"Taps on the Walls" author Gen. John Borling - talk and book signing

Tuesday, March 19, 2013  
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Rockford College is pleased to welcome John Borling, Major General, USAF, Ret., to campus on Tuesday, April 2, 4 – 5:30 p.m., Fisher Memorial Chapel, 5050 East State Street, Rockford. Gen. Borling will share more about his recent book, Taps on the Walls, followed by a question and answer session and book signing. Books will be available for purchase. Complete details about the book and Gen. Borling below.

Contact: Scott Manning


On 40th Anniversary of Their Release, New Book Reveals Surprising Survival Tactic and Motivation for Life Long Service


TAPS ON THE WALLS: Poems from the Hanoi Hilton
by John Borling, Major General, USAF, Ret.

Foreword by Senator John McCain
"It is most fitting that on this 40th year anniversary of our release
from prison in Vietnam that you can know and appreciate John’s
remarkable work as we did during our darkest days in the Hanoi Hilton.”
--Senator John McCain

2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the release of American POWs held at the infamous Hoa Lo Prison, aka the Hanoi Hilton. During gruesome years of incarceration, they had to fight to maintain their honor and sanity. For many, poetry was a weapon.

Taps on the WallsMajor General John Borling, USAF, Ret., (then Captain Borling) mentally composed poetry and communicated it to fellow prisoners via a special, but forbidden, tap code. Unable to write anything down, he committed thousands of words to memory. Upon his release, he recorded all his poems. They are now published in TAPS ON THE WALLS: Poems from the Hanoi Hilton (Master Wings Publishing, February 12, 2013, $19.95 hardcover) coinciding with the anniversary date of his release.

Given the intensely personal nature of his works, General (and Mrs.) Borling held these poems privately over the ensuing years, but were encouraged to share them when his current hometown of Rockford, Illinois mounted an exhibition (Service Over Self) based, in the main, on his 37-year military career. Now, thanks to Master Wings Publishing, the new imprint of the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago, the poems are available to a national and international audience.

"For the past decade, our mission focus has been to acquire and maintain an accessible collection of materials, and develop appropriate programs focusing on the Citizen Soldier in the preservation of democracy,” said Colonel (IL) J.N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired), Founder and Chair of the Pritzker Military Library. "Our hope is that this book will raise awareness between and about those who have sacrificed for freedom on the frontlines and who have returned home to live lives filled with honor and continued service.”
On June 1, 1966, Borling’s life changed forever. During his 97th fighter mission over the heart of North Viet Nam, he was shot down by ground fire. Seriously injured during ejection, he was captured trying to evade. Twenty-four hours later, he was dragged into the Hanoi Hilton. He would be a POW for more than six years and eight months. His wife, Myrna, would not know for years if he was alive.

"For many years, the POWs were held alone or in semi-isolation. The enemy wanted us weak, despondent, and totally cut off. Our challenge was to carry on, keep faith with the nation and each other. For that, we had to communicate.” Borling recalls.
So they tapped on the walls, using a special, but forbidden, prison tap code. Much to the dismay and anger of the North Vietnamese, they maintained a chain of command. They shared names to insure others knew they were alive, messages of hope (or despair), family, jokes, prayers, and more, including poetry. Borling composed and kept memorized original creations using poetry as a way to ‘fight back’ against the forces of cruelty and time.

Presented in TAPS ON THE WALLS: Poems from the Hanoi Hilton, Borling’s works are divided into four sections. The first expresses a passion for the sky and the great missing of the freedom that flying provides. The second section speaks to the dark, hard days, when an awful loneliness and punishment and pain were routine. The third section deals with "The Holidays” and the need to remember, and be grateful but offset by the enormity of prolonged and uncertain incarceration Finally, the fourth, SEA Story (South East Asia Story), is an epic poem that took many years to compose and, as Borling notes, "offers commentary on just about everything.”

The book includes a glossary of military, aviation and historical terms as well as a substantial introduction and other supplementary material that gives insight into the total work.

For years, the poems existed only in the hearts and minds of Borling and his fellow POWs---a legacy for his wife in case he "didn’t make it.” He did make it, and upon release on February 12, 1973, he went AWOL from the Clark Air Base (Philippines) hospital to buy a tape recorder and begin "downloading.” The Base Exchange manager came back with a small, shoebox-looking thing and he protested, "Not a radio, a tape recorder --- you know, with reels and stuff.” The manager laughed and gave a cassette recorder to the future-shocked ex POW.

About the Author
John Borling, Major General, USAF, Ret., is a native Chicagoan and Air Force Academy graduate. A fighter pilot, his many decorations include: The Silver Star, two Bronze Stars with V for Valor and two Purple Hearts. During his thirty-seven years in the Air Force, he served throughout the world in high-level command and staff positions. A White House Fellow, Life Member of The Commercial Club of Chicago and Trustee of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois, his post military activities include Chairman/CEO and Board Director level positions of multiple for profit and not for profit organizations. He and his wife Myrna live in Rockford, Illinois.

About the Pritzker Military Library
The Pritzker Military Library, located at104 S. Michigan Ave., is a non-partisan, non-profit research institution founded by Colonel (IL) J.N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired), in 2003. The Library features a collection of over 65,000 items including books, films, posters, photographs, medals, uniforms, and other artifacts covering the full scope of American military history. The Library has produced over 300 programs including lectures, interviews, and panel discussions on military topics. Programs are webcast live, available for audio podcast download, and broadcast on public television. To learn more, visit

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