Friday, February 23, 2018

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COL William O. Darby
from Fort Smith, Arkansas


COL Darby served with: HHC 1_Bn_Rangers_WWII


Born in 1911, Ranger Darby was 34 years old at the time of his death in 1945.


Complete biography is below the photo gallery

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COL William O. Darby 's Biography

William O. Darby (8 February 1911 - 30 April 1945) was the commanding officer of the famous Darby's Rangers in the United States Army during World War II. His legendary strength of character is a guidon to all Rangers, leading us from out front.


William O. Darby (8 February 1911 - 30 April 1945) was the commanding officer of the famous Darby's Rangers in the United States Army during World War II. His legendary strength of character is a guidon to all Rangers, leading us from out front.

His first assignment was being an assistant executive and supply officer with the 82nd Field Artillery at Fort Bliss, Texas. In July 1934, he transferred to Cloudcroft, New Mexico where he commanded the 1st Cavalry Division detachment. He received intensive artillery training from September 1937 to June 1938 while attending Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. On 9 September 1940, he was promoted to captain and subsequently served with the 80th Division at Camp Jackson, South Carolina; Fort Benning, Georgia; Camp Beauregard, Louisiana and Fort Des Moines, Iowa.

As the Second World War progressed, Darby saw rapid promotion to the grade of lieutenant colonel. He was one of the first U.S. troops sent to Northern Ireland at the outbreak of the war, and during his stay there, he became interested in the British Commandos. His interest was such that, when the U.S. Army decided to establish its Ranger units, he was assigned to direct their organization and training. Many of the original Rangers were volunteers from the Red Bull, the 34th Infantry Division.

"Darby's Rangers" trained with their British counterparts in Scotland and in 1943, the 1st Ranger Battalion made its first assault at Arzew. Darby was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for his actions during that operation.

The citation stated:
"Lt. Col. Darby struck with his force with complete surprise at dawn in the rear of a strongly fortified enemy position. Always conspicuously at the head of his troops, he personally led assaults against the enemy line in the face of heavy machine gun and artillery fire, establishing the fury of the Ranger attack by his skillful employment of hand grenades in close quarter fighting. On March 22, Lt. Col. Darby directed his battalion in advance on Bon Hamean, capturing prisoners and destroying a battery of self propelled artillery."

The 1st Ranger Battalion saw further action in the Italian Campaign. Darby received a second award (oak leaf cluster) of the DSC in 1943 for his gallantry in Sicily:

"Lt. Col. Darby, with the use of one 37mm gun, which he personally manned, managed not only to repulse an enemy attack, but succeeded with this weapon in destroying one tank, while two others were accounted for by well directed hand grenade fire."

Darby was also awarded the Silver Star in 1943 for his actions:
"Without regard for his personal safety, the day previous to a raid, he reconnoitered enemy positions and planned the attack which he led the following morning. The thorough organization and successful attack led by Lt. Col. Darby revealed his initiative, courage, and devotion to duty which is a credit to the Armed Forces of the United States."

In April 1944, having been promoted to Colonel, he returned to Washington, D.C. for duty with the Army Ground Forces and later with the War Department General Staff. In March 1945, he returned to Italy for an observation tour with General of the Army Henry H. "Hap" Arnold.

On 23 April 1945, Brigadier General Robinson E. Duff, assistant division commander of the US 10th Mountain Division, was wounded; Darby took over for Duff. "Task Force Darby" spearheaded the breakout of the 5th Army from the Po River valley bridgehead and reached Torbole at the head of Lake Garda.

On 30 April 1945, while Darby was issuing orders for the attack on Trento to cut off a German retreat, an 88 mm shell burst in the middle of the assembled officers and NCOs, killing Darby and a sergeant and wounding several others. Relying on the inspiration of their late commander, "Task Force Darby" continued on with their mission. Two days later, on 2 May 1945, all German forces in Italy surrendered.

Darby, who was 34 at the time of his death, was posthumously promoted to brigadier general as of that date. He was buried at Fort Smith National Cemetery in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Darby's medals, military records, and uniforms are on display at the Fort Smith Museum of History in Fort Smith, and his boyhood home is open for tours.

Camp Darby, near Fort Benning, which is home to the second part of the "Benning Phase" of Ranger School, is named after him.

Two U.S. Army installations in Europe were named after Darby; W.O. Darby Kaserne, Fürth, Germany (closed in 1995); and the operational Camp Darby, near Livorno, Italy.

The town of Cisterna, Italy, dedicated its high school to Darby.

A book entitled Onward We Charge: The Heroic Story of Darby's Rangers in World War II by H. Paul Jeffers was published in 2007.

An Admiral Benson Class transport ship, the USS Admiral W. S. Sims (AP-127), was renamed USAT General William O. Darby in the 40's.[1]

In 1955 the name of Fort Smith Junior High School was changed to William O. Darby Junior School. In 1958 the name of the school’s athletic teams was changed from Cubs to Rangers after the famous Darby's Rangers.

In 1958 the motion picture Darby's Rangers, starring James Garner dramatized Darby's military exploits. Wayde Preston also played a character role based on Darby in the 1968 film Anzio.

The following video clip is from the final scene of this movie, and depicts COL Darby boarding a landing craft for his return to CONUS ans subsequent reassignment to the 10th Mountain Division

CREDIT to Wikipedia for the bulk of this biography.

We intend to completely re-write COL Darby's biography, but we are using it in this form as one of the the charter biographies of this site.
It is also a template example, so if you see it looking badly formatted, please reload the page once or twice before contacting us, as we may be testing template settings. Thank You!





# Robert ILes 2016-06-02 18:20
A good flim with a great soilder i enjoyed watching the picture my 86 time i am also retired armygum8z
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# Marina 2016-06-03 17:12
He was 34 when he died in 1945...not 44. Born in 1911 and died 1945....45-11=34 years
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# Kent Morrison 2016-12-06 15:00
THANK YOU for the correction !
We have made this correction and will also work on our simple addition skills !

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# Christopher Lowe 2017-03-23 20:11
Dad was in this outfit in Darby's rangers in 3th infantry!
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# Chris Lowe 2016-07-28 10:18
My dad was in Darby's ranger
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# Kent Morrison 2016-12-06 15:04
We would be proud to publish your Dad's biography here on, if you will provide us with the information and photos.
Please let me know.

Kent - webmaster
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# Bud Leone 2017-05-11 18:34
My brother-in-law, Glen Jackson was a proud member of the famed Darby's Rangers. He would talk little about what happened, but when he did talk it was with great pride. Today May 11, 2017 at 4:30am, Glen passed away.
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