The Time An Elephant Served In World War II

The relationship between elephants and human warfare goes back thousands of years. Many species of elephant saw extensive use as mounts across the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia. The North African elephant's use in military campaigns by the Phoenicians and Macedonians is particularly well documented, but gradually declined in Europe as their combat and Roman gladiatorial use hastened their extinction (via Scoop Empire). In Asia, elephants continued to see front-line combat into the age of gunpowder, at which point they became a liability in this role (via Culture Trip). 

Unlike Europe, however, where there was no longer easy access to the massive animals, Asian elephants were still a relatively common sight. As they could still be used to carry massive amounts of materials, elephants remained useful to militaries for many more centuries. During World War II, an Indian elephant named Lin Wang was so valued that he and others were on multiple occasions captured alive by the Japanese and Chinese militaries (via CNN).

Not only a war veteran, but the oldest captive Asian elephant

Born in 1917, Lin Wang lived the first few decades of his life in British-controlled Burma. When the Japanese invaded in December 1941, Lin Wang was captured by the Japanese army and put to use hauling equipment. Two years later, the Chinese Expeditionary Force acquired him after raiding a Japanese camp (via Taipei Times). He and several others continued to see transport use under the Nationalist Chinese army for the remainder of the war as they headed back to China (via Mental Floss). 

After briefly touring the devastated cities of China in 1946 to raise morale, the following year Lin Wang and two other elephants were sent to Taiwan (via Taiwan Today). Both of his companions died, one during the journey and the other after a few years. He was left alone until 1954 when the Taipei zoo took him in and introduced him to a female elephant from Japan. Where Asian Elephants normally only live for around 60 years, Lin Wang made it to the record-breaking age of 86 when he finally passed away in 2003 (via Guinness World Records).