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Taps on the Walls: Poems from the Hanoi Hilton Hardcover – February 12, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

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, and two Purple Hearts. During his 37 years in the Air Force, Borling served in high-level command and staff positions throughout the world. After military retirement, he continued to serve at the chairman/CEO and board director level of many for-profit and not-for-profit entities. He also founded and directs SOS America, an organization that advocates universal military service for America's youth.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Master Wings Publishing LLC; 1 edition (February 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615659055
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615659053
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #615,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More 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, and two Purple Hearts. During his 37 years in the Air Force, Borling served in high-level command and staff positions throughout the world. After military retirement, he continued to serve at the chairman/CEO and board director level of many for-profit and not-for-profit entities. He also founded and directs SOS America, an organization that advocates universal military service for America's youth.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
5 star
71%
4 star
21%
3 star
8%
2 star
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See all 52 customer reviews
I have read his book of poems.
bud.gilligan
This book moved me, made me feel, and put some things in perspective.
Virginia L. Shartle
It touches the heart of each reader.
L. Mills

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Wulfstan TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
You know, I have always favored prose over poetry. But this is a book that even poetry haters should read. The author is a retired Air force General ,who spent nearly seven years in captivity at the hands of the Viet Cong. The poems were composed by "tapping" the forbidden practice of tapping out coded messages to ones fellow prisoners. It is all that kept some sane in the horrid and brutal conditions of the dreaded "Hanoi Hilton". The poems are of course, mostly short and pithy. An example: "So once elected, War the Objective; Wrap it up neat and fast. It won't be pretty, but that's a pity, But better first than last. Moral, immoral, A senseless quarrel; Winners are right in history."

The General said he encourages people facing difficult circumstances to "keep marching."
"Never quit," he said. "To quit is to die."
The author has told us what he thinks are the four important principles for life:
1. Have a sense of humor.
2. Develop a faith-based relationship that is your own with your God.
3. Recognize that the essence of the human condition is the ability to create.
4. Have real affection.

"G-B-U" in tapping means "God Bless You" and was often how the POW's signed off before going to sleep. G-B-U, General, and thank you for everything.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By bud.gilligan on February 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I know John Borling. We are contemporaries and were pilots in Southeast Asia at the same time. I flew in South Vietnam but experienced many of the same life/death experiences as he did; although, thankfully, I did not have to endure the painful POW experiences he did. I have read his book of poems. I am not a good judge of poetry, but I loved reading his, as they helped me re-live my life (good and bad) in the 1960's. The first quarter of the poems are very Air Force pilot oriented, and the last quarter is very Vietnam War oriented. I get about 98% of the allegorys, references, and similes, but I think most will only get about 50%. If they read his helpful glossary of Air Force and Southeast Asia fighter pilot slang, most will understand about 75%.

What still amazes me is that he created and constructed these poems in his head (he had no pencil or paper to work with), and then committed them to memory; and then tapped them to his fellow prisoners. It does demonstrate what the human mind can (and must) do when one has to keep one's brain active. It is a testimonial to the creativity of a human being's brain and a tribute to the courage and resilience of John Borling and his fellow sufferers in Hanoi.

Reading the poems, I felt overwhelmed by the strength of those brave men. Bud Gilligan
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Taps on the Walls: Poems from the Hanoi Hilton by former fighter pilot and Vietnam Prisoner of War (POW) John Borling, U. S Air Force Major General, Retired is a quick yet haunting 164-page read. Copyrighted this year, it was formerly published as Poems for Pilots (and other people). This book contains the thoughts and creations of a man who survived six years and eight months of tortuous imprisonment with dignity and courage.

Without the benefit of writing materials, John memorized his poems and shared them with his comrades using a tap code created and passed along by former POW Carlyle Smith "Smitty" Harris.

The Tap Code is communication system using a mental table of five rows of letters in alphabetical order left to right in five columns where "K's" are represented by "C's." Each letter is represented by two numbers. For example, the letter "0" intersects at the third row and the fourth column and was represented by three taps, a quick pause and followed by four more taps.

In addition to General Borlings impressive biography, the forward to this book was written by former North Vietnam POW now Arizona Senator John McCain.

The poems use military and fighter pilot jargon; however, a 9-page glossary explains those terms and acronyms.

Having served twenty-two and a half years in the Marines, thirteen months in Vietnam in the late 60's and eleven years with a veteran service organization, veterans and their plight hold a special place in my heart and mind and this author's poems touch my very soul. My best guess is that many others will be moved too.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ron Standerfer on March 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Pain and suffering has been the subject of poetry since the beginning of mankind. In particular, those unjustly imprisoned and subjected to inhumane treatment often turned to poetry to ease their mental anguish and refocus their thinking from despair to hope of survival.

The author was one of several hundred POWs held in the infamous Hoa Lo Prison aka the Hanoi Hilton; an environment so cruel and hostile that it defies imagination for all but those who once resided there. During the six and a half years of his incarceration; torture, beatings, sleep deprivation, near starvation, and total lack of sanitation were a daily part of his life. It was during those days that he turned to poetry. Notice that I didn’t say that he began to write poetry or even read poems. Reading and writing were strictly forbidden and POWs caught with any materials for that purpose, no matter how crude, were severely punished. What he did do, however, was to create and commit to memory every poem published in “Taps on the Walls.” Furthermore, once composed and memorized, he shared those poems with fellow prisoners by tapping on the walls using a secret code. The key to this code, the use of which was also forbidden, is illustrated in the book. After several fumbling attempts to communicate using this code, I was overwhelmed by the obvious; namely, that the amount of time, patience, and persistence required to create, transmit, and decode the poems in “Taps on the Walls” must to have been enormous.

So what specifically was the author trying to accomplish when “writing” his poems and how does he view his work some 40 years later?
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