John Quinlan was born on June 13, 1919, in New York. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces on April 27, 1942, and after completing basic training, aerial gunnery school, and B-17 Flying Fortress Combat Crew Training, he served as tail gunner on the B-17 "Memphis Belle" with the 324th Bomb Squadron of the 91st Bomb Group in England from September 1942 to May 1943. During this time, Sgt Quinlan was credited with the destruction of 2 enemy aircraft in aerial combat. He and the crew next completed a war bond tour across the United States with the famous B-17 from June to September 1943. After serving in the United States, he began training as a B-29 Superfortress tail gunner, and then deployed to Chakulia AB, India, with the 44th Bomb Squadron of the 40th Bomb Group from April 1944 to February 1945, where he was credited with the destruction of 3 more enemy aircraft in aerial combat, for a total of 5 during World War II. TSgt Quinlan was forced to bail out of his B-29 over China on December 7, 1944, and after returning to his base in India in February 1945, he was sent back to the United States. He received an honorable discharge from the Army Air Forces at the end of the war. John Quinlan died on December 18, 2000, and was buried at the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville, New York. His wife, Julia A. Quinlan (1923-2003), is buried with him.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.