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Elephant Company

The Inspiring Story of An Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II

Croke, Vicki

(Book - 2014)
Average Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.
Elephant Company
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"At the onset of World War II, [Billy] Williams formed Elephant Company and was instrumental in defeating the Japanese in Burma and saving refugees, including on his own 'Hannibal Trek,' [becoming] a media sensation during the war, telling reporters that the elephants did more for him than he was ever able to do for them"-- Provided by publisher
Publisher: New York :, Random House,, 2014
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 1400069335
9781400069330
Branch Call Number: 940.5425 WILLI CROKE
Characteristics: xiv, 343 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm

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Feb 20, 2015
  • DorisWaggoner rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Much of this book is a six star, but the post WW II ending is a real let down. I suspect that's because it was a let down for Elephant Billy himself, which made me sad. He came to Burma an untried young WW I vet, knowing only that he loved animals, and allowed the elephants and their keepers, the uzis, to teach him. Several high points struck me, and I don't think they're spoilers, as the reviews reveal them. One is how immediately he attained rapport with the massive beasts. When he made severe mistakes in dealing with them, he learned. The other two are the evacuations from Burma during WW II that made him world famous. In 1942 he and the elephants took the women and children from the Teak Company over several mountain ranges, the Japanese on their heels, to the relative safety of India. The second, in 1944, when it seemed Japan might win the war, meant another evacuation, this time of sick Ghurka women and children. His compassion led them over impassible mountains, since the exhausted elephants couldn't handle the crowds of refugees now on the few roads. Food was minimal, medicine and maps nonexistent. They had to carve an "elephant stairway" when they came to a 275 ft. cliff, hoping the elephants would climb it. Not a person or elephant was lost. After getting them to safety and reuniting with his family, Williams went back to his elephants, working in Burma to haul and carry; finally he convinced Allied command to use them to build bridges, which helped win the war in Burma. He was mustered out of the service and retired to Cornwall, but nothing in life could ever be so exciting, and he missed his elephants. From here, the book falls apart too. Still well worth reading for the complexity of characters, human and animal.

Best book I read in '14 (out of 46). You will enjoy it!

1

Jan 06, 2015
  • bibliotechnocrat rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

I really wanted to love this book about Elephant Bill - it has a lot of the right ingredients... but in the end it is just a bit plodding. I loved the details about the elephant personalities, and the connections between Bill and the animals in his care, but the chronological structure of the book is too focused on how Billy Williams got established in Burma and then the narrative peters off just as the drama of the war escalates. Much of the first 2/3 of the book could have been flashback. The material covering the war period is confined to the last section and seems hurried by comparison. Not a bad book, just not a great one.

Nov 22, 2014
  • olemissann rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Beautifully written story of Billy Williams, his work in Burma with elephants, and their role in defeating the Japanese in Burma and saving the lives of countless refugees. Inspirational and heart-warming!

Nov 12, 2014
  • cyrc23 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A great book for anyone who loves animals!!!

Wonderful story though it made me cry. Very well written. One of the best I've read in quite awhile.

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app07 Version musli Last updated 2015/02/24 14:10