No Better Friend
One Man, One Dog, and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival in WWII
Little, Brown and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 386 pages
Book Review published on: April 14, 2017
Robert Weintraub’s book, No Better Friend: One Man, One Dog, and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival in WWII, is an absorbing account of the World War II experiences of the purebred English pointer, Judy of Sussex, and Frank George Williams, the Royal Air Force technician who befriends her in the notorious Gloegoer prisoner of war camp near Medan on the island of Sumatra. Their story of survival as they are moved from one POW camp to another on Sumatra is an engrossing tale of perseverance and determination. Their captors found them to be a formidable team, while their fellow captives found them to be a great source of inspiration.
Weintraub begins by detailing Judy’s life from her birth in the Shanghai dog kennels to her “reporting” for duty on HMS Gnat; her service on HMS Grasshopper, from which she was rescued after the Grasshopper sunk near the island of Posic; and the travails of Judy and the soldiers, sailors, and civilians with whom she fled across Sumatra seeking rescue.
Weintraub weaves Frank Williams’ story into the narrative of his joining the Merchant Navy to his eventual enlistment in the Royal Air Force as a radarman (he was too tall to fly). Like Judy, Williams survived the sinking of a ship and life as an island castaway; he eventually made his way to Padang, Sumatra, where his luck ran out and he became a POW on 17 March 1942.
After the author describes how Williams and Judy became a team in Gloegoer, he tells the tale of the horrors endured by the POWs and the remarkable efforts by Williams to protect Judy from their Japanese and Korean guards. Judy repays Williams and all of the POWs by repeatedly intervening in beatings by guards, bringing in extra food from the jungles, and providing an example of resilience in the face of great odds. Incredibly, WIlliams is able to convince the commander of the camp to sign an order making Judy an official prisoner of war—POW 81-A—the only canine POW in World War II. The written order saves Judy life later in their story.
Williams, Judy, and their fellow POWs were rescued on 15 August 1945. Weintraub concludes his book by describing Williams and Judy’s lives together after World War II until Judy’s death in Africa on 17 February 1950.
Weintraub’s book includes tremendous details of the conditions under which the POWs lived. From the Spartan housing, to the lack of sufficient food, to the inhuman physical demands placed on the POWs, Weintraub’s book provides a testament to man’s ability to persevere under the worst imaginable conditions. Weintraub’s book is a heroic page-turning saga of both the human and canine spirit that any dog lover will appreciate.
Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Kevin Lee Watson, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Belvoir, Virginia