Rockford’s Major General John Borling recalls time as POW with John McCain


Since the passing of Senator John McCain, many have called him an American hero and a true patriot.

No one knows that better than Air Force Major General John Borling — who built a lasting friendship with McCain after they were both imprisoned at the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War.

“We became, as we all did, bands of brothers. That relationship endured throughout the years,” said Borling. “It’s with regard and respect that we mark the passing of John McCain. [He was] a fighter pilot, senator and a statesman. A guy who cared a lot about the country.”

Borling spent 6 and a half years as a prisoner of war. He wrote and memorized poems to keep his and other soldiers minds sharp and spirits up — one of those soldiers was McCain. Decades after their release, McCain was one of the few motivating Borling to publish the poems that helped them survive.

“I asked John, I said ‘Hey look, this book we’ve been writing about needs a foreword. Why don’t you volunteer to write the foreword?’ And he said ok.”

Borling says his favorite part of ‘Taps On The Walls: Poems From The Hanoi Hilton’ foreword are the first few lines. In the piece, McCain says the greatest honor of his life was to serve in the company of heroes.

“In captivity in Vietnam we fought every day to keep our honor intact, our minds sharp and bodies functional,” Borling reads.

Borling says because they were able to survive, it was important for McCain to come back to the U.S. and strive to make his country a better place.

“The guys who went through so much together determined that we would try to leave footprints for the betterment of the country. And John left some awfully big footprints.”

Major General Borling was released on February 1973 from Hanoi and Senator McCain was released just a month later in March.

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