The 'Elephant Whisperer' Of World War II

With Guest Host John Harwood.

We’ll travel to the jungles of Burma for the remarkable true story of Billy Williams—aka “the elephant whisperer”—and his World War II  heroism.

Lt. Col. James Howard Williams, aka "Elephant Bill," is the hero of Vicki Constantine Croke's new book, "Elephant Company." (Courtesy Random House)

Lt. Col. James Howard Williams, aka “Elephant Bill,” is the hero of Vicki Constantine Croke’s new book, “Elephant Company.” (Courtesy Random House)

Anyone with a pet understands the special relationship between people and animals. But the story of Elephant Bill is on another level – the tale of British soldier Billy Williams, who used his intimate connection to the largest animals on earth to help the Allies defeat the Japanese in World War II. Vicki Croke, a present-day journalist whose beat is animals, has told it in her new book “Elephant Company.” Are there 21st century lessons for us? Can we even be sure that elephants can survive the relentless assault of poachers? This hour On Point: how the elephant whisperer did it.

– John Harwood


Vicki Constantine Croke, author of “Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of An Unlikely Hero And The Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives In World War II.” Animals and wildlife reporter for WBUR Boston’s “The Wild Life” blog. (@VickiCroke)

Paula Kahumbu, CEO of the conservation group, WildlifeDirect. Writes the Africa Wild column in The Guardian. (@paulakahumbu)

From The Reading List

Boston Globe: ‘Elephant Company’ by Vicki Croke — “Blending biography, history, and wildlife biology, Croke builds her story around Williams’s exotic adventures. As the book opens, Williams, an English World War I veteran, is just arriving in Burma in the 1920s to work in the Bombay Burmah Trading Corp.’s teak-harvesting operations.”

New York Times: Unlikely Warriors — “Croke is a natural storyteller, and she deftly evokes Williams’s tale. He was a man with a capacity for forgiveness so remarkable it verged on being a flaw, a man who was constantly re-evaluating his reactions to situations and people and, when push came to shove, remained true to his values.”

The Guardian: Kenya’s First Lady takes the helm in the war on poachers – “I wonder how British people would feel if King Mswati III of Swaziland ran a campaign to mobilize Africans to end the British badger cull. The people of Africa have to be inspired to lead on African issues.”

Read An Excerpt Of “Elephant Company” By Vicki Constantine Croke

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