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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Clarence A. Borley U.S. Naval Aviation Collection

Identifier: 2022-07-20
The Clarence A. Borley Naval Aviation Collection documents Borley's 36-year military career as a pilot and fighter ace in the U.S. Navy. The collection, which primarily dates from 1942 to 1968, consists of textual and audiovisual materials and is divided into two main series: Military-related materials and Personal documents.

Series I: Military-related materials is comprised mostly of textual documents and is largely focused on Borley's World War II service as a pilot with fighter squadron VF-15, also known as "Satan's Playmates," of the USS Essex. Additional materials document his continued service after World War II through his military retirement in April 1968 with some later commemorative materials. Due to the wide date range, the series has been arranged alphabetically. Types of materials include military records and orders; citations and related correspondence; a CPT pilot rating book and 5 flight logbooks; military educational materials, such as completion certificates, a test guide and related correspondence; and ephemera which includes 2 short snorters, Chinese paper currency, photocopies of clippings about Borley and VF-15, and a print-out of the VF-15 insignia.

Notable materials touch upon Borley's October 17, 1944 at-sea rescue after he had been shot down and adrift for five days. Items include a photocopy of the USS Sawfish "Report for Patrol Eight," which mentions the rescue of Borley, a Jonah's Jaybirds certificate (earned when forced to ditch at sea), and six original pen-and-ink illustrations, drawn by Frank Rodder, depicting the experience. Related materials include recordings and a related memo of interviews given by Borley on the November 25, 1944 broadcast of "Report to Nation" and "Northwest Neighbors." Both interviews discuss his experience being shot down and adrift for five days prior to rescue. There are four 78 rpm phonograph albums as well as digitized versions of the two interviews. Lastly, a July 22, 1989 letter to Borley from Bill Herring[?] discusses an upcomingSawfish reunion and includes a color photograph of a couple holding the flight suit that Borley was wearing when shot down and subsequently rescued. It was likely returned to him at the aforementioned reunion and is now a part of this collection.

The series also includes a small Photographs subseries. In total, there are 48 photographic prints and 20 negatives. The bulk of the photographs feature Borley during his service years. He is pictured in formal portraits, both alone and as a member of group shots; and in casual snapshots that depict various military settings and activities, including in aircraft and during events and ceremonies. There are several group portraits of VF-15, some of which include captions identifying members. Not all members are identified. Two group portraits are unidentified as to what squadron they are but could possibly be from others assigned to the USS Essex. Two images depicts a ship at sea, likely the Essex and one print is a four-image sequence showing the USS Philippine Sea (CV-47) transiting the Panama Canal on May 31, 1950. The bulk of the negatives do not have corresponding prints and appear to show water survival training. The prints are both black-and-white and color and range in size. Duplication occurs. Most do not have identifying captions or information.

Series II: Personal documents is quite small and is comprised mostly of personal educational materials, 1965-1978. It includes receipts, certificates, correspondence, and a 1978 Commencement program from Seattle University which includes Borley under the Master of Public Administration graduates. There is also a resume and a 1997 letter to Borley from "a young history buff."


  • 1942-1999, 2015
  • Majority of material found within 1942-1968

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research and is accessible in the Dahlberg Research Center by appointment. The digital materials are not accessible at this time, pending digital preservation measures. For more information contact us.

Conditions Governing Use

The Museum of Flight (TMOF) Archives is the owner of the physical materials in the archives and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from TMOF archives before any publication use. TMOF does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.


1.5 Cubic Feet (2 full-width legal document boxes, 4 phonograph albums, 1 oversize folder (20x24"), 1 oversize folder (11.5x34.5"))

.624 Gigabytes (transferred via email on January 18, 2023.)


Clarence A. Borley (1924-2019) was a U.S. Navy fighter pilot and ace. The collection documents Borley's 36-year military career as a pilot and fighter ace in the U.S. Navy and consists of textual, visual and audiovisual materials and primarily dates from 1942 to 1968, with some later dates and a small amount of personal materials.

Biographical Note: Clarence A. Borley

Clarence A. Borley (1924-2019) was a U.S. Navy fighter pilot and ace.

Clarence Alvin "Spike" Borley was born on July 17, 1924 in Willeston, North Carolina. Circa 1930, his family moved to Medicine Lake, Montana where they remained until 1936 at which point they relocated to Yakima, Washington. Borley graduated from high school in 1942. Shortly after graduation he enlisted in the Navy as an aviation cadet, earning his wings on November 16, 1943 in Pensacola, Florida. Borley was trained to fly Grumman F6F Hellcats and assigned to VF-15 aboard the USS Essex in the Pacific Theater of World War II, taking part in multiple campaigns including Iwo Jima, Saipan and support of the invasion of Guam. He earned his first aerial victory on October 10, 1944. Just two days later he shot down four enemy aircraft and earned ace status. However, he was then forced to ditch into the sea off the coast of Taiwan (then known as Formosa) when his F6F was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Evading capture by enemy troops, he spent five days in a raft prior to being rescued by the USSSawfish. For his actions during the experience, he was awarded the Navy Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross.

Borley remained in the Navy after World War II, serving in a variety of locations and posts. Locations include California, Texas, Washington state, Korea and Taiwan. Posts include Naval Advisor, Intelligence Officer and Chief of Data Handling Division at the Directorate of Intelligence Computer Applications, North American Air Defense Command (NORAD). Borley retired from military service on April 1, 1968 at Commander rank. Throughout his military service, Borley earned several awards and honors, including the Legion of Merit and Congressional Gold Medal.

Borley married Leonora Joan Benson (1927-2021) on February 28th, 1945 and the couple had three children. In 1950, the family resided in Newport, Rhode Island. In 1961, Borley earned a bachelor's degree in history and political science from the University of Maryland. After Borley's military retirement, the family relocated to Olympia, Washington where he worked for the Department of Revenue for 16 years. In 1978, he earned a master's degree in public administration from Seattle University. Clarence A. Borley died on July 9, 2019.

Biography derived from collection materials and records on

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated by the Borley family.


No further accruals are expected.

Separated Materials

The following items were separated from the archival component and are kept in Objects storage:

  • Flight suit
  • Navy Cross medal
  • 3 tie tacks
  • 6 military patches
  • 4 military ribbons
  • 9 military pins
  • Identification badge
  • Retirement plaque
  • USN suitcase

Processing Information

The collection arrived with minimal order and some general sorting of materials. Upon review, the processing archivist further refined the arrangement to group related materials. Photographs were humidified, flattened, and placed in protective enclosures. Items were removed from non-archival envelopes and placed in acid-free folders. Oversize and fragile materials were interleaved with tissue paper.
Guide to the Clarence A. Borley U.S. Naval Aviation Collection
Completed - Level 3
Jenn Parent
2023 February
Description rules
Language of description
Edition statement
1st Edition

Repository Details

Part of the The Museum of Flight Archives Repository

9404 East Marginal Way South
Seattle Washington 98108-4097

The Museum of Flight | 9404 E. Marginal Way South | Seattle WA 98108-4097 | 206-764-5874
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