“This book is about far more than just the war, or even elephants. This is the story of friendship, loyalty and breathtaking bravery that transcends species… A sweeping tale, masterfully written”
–Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants
in The New York Times Book Review
The remarkable story of James Howard “Billy” Williams and his bond with the elephants of Burma. In 1920, Williams took a job in the teak business, drawn by the lure of working with the world’s largest land animals. It was love at first sight.
Impressed with their intelligence, courage, kindness, and humor, he believed that just living with them made him a better man. He worked to cure their ills and he fought for their humane care. Over time, Williams’s uncanny rapport with the elephants transformed him from a carefree young man into the charismatic war hero known as Elephant Bill.
Vicki talks with John Harwood on NPR’s On Point:
Elephant Company is also a tale of war and daring. When Imperial Japanese forces invaded Burma in 1942, Williams joined the elite Force 136, the British dirty tricks department, operating behind enemy lines. His war elephants would carry supplies, build bridges, and transport the sick and elderly over treacherous mountain terrain.
Now well versed in the ways of the jungle, an older, wiser Williams even added to his stable by smuggling more elephants out of Japanese-held territory. As the occupying authorities put a price on his head, Williams and his elephants faced his most perilous test. In a Hollywood-worthy climax, Elephant Company, cornered by the enemy, attempted a desperate escape: a risky trek over the mountainous border to India, with a bedraggled group of refugees in tow. Elephant Bill’s exploits would earn him top military honors and the praise of famed Field Marshal Sir William Slim.
“Elephant Company is as powerful and big-hearted as the animals of its title. Billy Williams is an extraordinary character, a real-life reverse Tarzan raised in civilization who finds wisdom and his true self living among jungle beasts. Vicki Constantine Croke delivers an exciting tale of this elephant-whisperer-cum-war-hero, while beautifully reminding us of the enduring bonds between animals and humans.”
—Mitchell Zuckoff, author of Lost in Shangri-La and Frozen in Time“The true-life heroics of Elephant Company during World War II highlight how animals and humans together can achieve extraordinary things. Croke’s evocative writing and deep understanding
of the animal-human bond bring vividly to life Elephant Bill’s great passion and almost mystical connection with his magnificent beasts. This is wonderful read.”
—Elizabeth Letts, author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion“A spellbinding, true story of elephantine and human courage, set in one of the Earth’s most exotic jungles during the Second World War, Elephant Company is a triumph that will make you cheer!
—Sy Montgomery, author of The Good Good Pig and Journey of the Pink Dolphins