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Brigadier General

William O. Darby

(1911 - 1945)


Pictures and information by Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms

Brig. General William O. Darby of "Darby's Rangers" Fame (1911 - 1945)

Brigadier General U.S. Army
World War II
Born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Feb. 8, 1911
Graduate U.S. Military Academy June 1933
Assistant Commander 10th Mountain Division
Died in Po Valley Italy Apr. 30, 1945
Organized First Ranger Battalion
Commanding Officer Ranger Force - Tunisia, Sicily, Italy 1942-1944
Commander 179th Infantry 45th Division
1944-1945 OPD WDGS (Operations Division War Department General Staff

William Orlando Darby, a graduate of West Point and aide-de-camp to General Russell Hartle, commander of the 34th Infantry Division in Ireland, was selected to form and command the 1st Ranger Battalion in Ireland. After handpicking 500 men who underwent preliminary elimination tests, the Battalion was activated Jun 19, 1942.

As a Lieutenant Colonel, Darby led the 1st Battalion in the initial North African landings at Arzew, Algeria and in the hard-fought Tunisian battles where the Rangers were called upon to execute a number of hazardous night attacks over difficult and treacherous terrain. Near the close of the Tunisian campaign, Darby stood up two more battalions, the 3d and 4th, using the original 1st battalion as their nuclei.

The battalions, now known as the Ranger Force, spearheaded the Seventh Army landings at Gela and Licata during the Sicily campaign. Under his command, the Rangers also saw action at Cisterna, Salerno, Chiunzi Pass, Cassino, and finally Anzio.

With the loss of the 1st and 3d Battalions at Cisterna (they were consolidated with the First Special Service Force), he was placed in command of the 179th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division.

In 1944, Colonel Darby returned stateside where he served with the Army General Staff for eleven months. Returning to Italy as part of an Army Air Corps inspection team with General Hap Arnold, Darby was chosen as the assistant division commander of the 10th Mountain Division. Eight days later, he was killed by German artillery fire as he led his troops in the final mop up of enemy forces in the Po River valley.

He was inducted into the Ranger Hall of fame in June of 1992.

U.S. National Cemetery - Fort Smith, Arkansas

William O. Darby


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