John L. Borling was born in Chicago, Illinois in March, 1940. He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1963, and received his pilot’s wings in 1964. By 1966 then-Lieutenant Borling was flying combat missions from a base in Thailand over North Vietnam. His F-4 Phantom was shot down on June 1, 1966 while flying his 97th mission. Borling spent the next six and a half years in enemy prison camps, including the notorious Hanoi Hilton. During the first few years as a prisoner of war (POW) he was kept in solitary confinement, subjected to torture and barely survived on a Spartan diet. In order to keep his mind active, Borling wrote poetry and passed it along to his fellow POWs by tapping them on the walls using a code system they developed themselves. Treatment of the POWs improved in the early 1970s. He and the rest of fellow captives were released on February 12, 1973.
Following his release, Borling received pilot refresher training, then was selected to be a White House Fellow from August 1974 to August 1975, serving during the Gerald Ford administration. He then attended the Armed Forces Staff College and following that he was assigned to the 94th Fighter Squadron, the famed Hat in the Ring squadron, which he soon commanded. Borling attended the National War College, and he followed this with a tour at the Pentagon where he served as the chief of Checkmate Strategic Studies Group. In February of 1982, he was sent to Ramstein, West Germany where he commanded the 86th Fighter Group. He followed this assignment with a tour at the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers – Europe (SHAPE) in Belgium.
In June of 1986 then-Colonel Borling was assigned to Headquarters, Strategic Air Command (SAC) at Offut Air Force Base, Nebraska. By June, 1987, he was the commander of SAC’s 57th Air Division, based at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. He followed this with senior level assignments in SAC before returning to the Pentagon as a Major General, serving as the director of operational requirements from January 1991 to January 1992. Major General Borling finished his military career with a four-year tour at Allied Forces North (AFNORTH), NATO in Norway, first as the Deputy Chief of Staff-Air, and then as the Chief of Staff for AFNORTH-Europe in Stavanger, Norway. He retired on August 1, 1996 after thirty-three years of service.
We honor you, John Borling.