William Darby

 Posted by at 1:33 pm  Nick's Blog
Nov 082013

Sorry for the late blog, technical difficulties. I have recycled a story from a visit to the home of an American military legend.

Darby House Honors War Hero

The William O. Darby House, located in Fort Smith, Arkansas preserves the boyhood home and legacy of one of World War II’s most respected Army commanders, William O. Darby.

Darby was born in Fort Smith, on February 9, 1911. After graduating from high school in Fort Smith, he attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, graduating in 1933.

By 1941 Darby was a captain and had served in several staff positions. With America’s entry into World War II, the need for a highly trained elite fighting unit to handle the conflict’s most dangerous assignments quickly became apparent. In 1942, Major General Russell P. Hartle gave Darby the assignment to form such a unit, modeled after the British commando units. Darby trained his troops in Northern Ireland and Scotland. He was promoted to the rank of colonel and led his new unit into combat in landings in North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio. They also took part in campaigns in the mountains of Tunisia and Italy.

Darby photo

Darby’s unit earned the nickname Darby’s Rangers, and quickly became famous for daring night raids on enemy positions and hit-and-run tactics. Over the years, the unit Darby created became the U.S. Army Rangers.

Fearless in battle and highly respected by his troops, Darby was a familiar sight riding his motorcycle around the lines to check on his men’s welfare. Enlisted men and officers alike applauded his leadership, his insights into men’s hearts, and his desire to have his men trained to the highest efficiency. He lived his teaching that no officer ever ask a soldier to do in combat what he himself was not willing to do.

For his outstanding work, General George S. Patton offered to promote Darby to brigadier general, but at his own request, Darby retained the rank of colonel so that he could stay with the troops he had trained and commanded in combat.

William O. Darby was killed in action on April 30, 1945, two days before V-E Day while attached to the 10th Mountain Division near Torbole, Italy. Darby was posthumously appointed to brigadier general and is buried at Fort Smith National Cemetery. He was 34 years old when he was killed. General Lucien K. Truscott, commanding general of the 5th Army, wrote of Darby: “Never in this war have I known a more gallant, heroic officer.”

Darby headstone 2

Darby’s heritage and legacy continue today in the 75th Ranger Regiment, headquartered in Fort Benning, Georgia. Camp Darby at Fort Benning is the home of the U.S. Army Ranger School and was named after Darby. William O. Darby Junior High in Fort Smith is also named in his honor. In 1958 Darby was the subject of the motion picture Darby’s Rangers, starring James Garner.

Darby’s medals, military records, and uniforms are on display at the Fort Smith Museum of History, and his boyhood home at 311 General Darby Street in Fort Smith is open for tours.

William O Darby House 2

The living room of the home is restored to May 1, 1945, the day the telegram was delivered notifying his family that he had been killed in action. Personal memorabilia, official records and letters, and numerous mementos from William O. Darby’s life and military career are displayed. The home is open Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays by appointment

For more information on visiting William O. Darby’s house, contact the Darby Foundation, P.O. Box 162, Fort Smith, Arkansas 72902 or by telephone at (479) 782-3388

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Nick Russell

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  4 Responses to “William Darby”

  1. You are excused. There are so many heroes that we need to remember Monday as well as all year for they fought for our freedom and gave all for the United States in many instances.

  2. thank heavens it was just a technical glitch and not a sick thing, I sure missed your blog with my coffee so you are forgiven. you know I love you

  3. General Darby is one of the reasons we are free today. We owe so much to so many people. And what a loss to the nation in his early death. There is not doubt that he would have done more great things for this country.

    Thanks for the story, Nick.

  4. GO ARMY… For an interesting historical read pick up a book titled
    ” Last in Their Class” etc. about the mid 1800’s and the lowest scoring graduates from West Point called Goats. Did I know that Edger Allen Poe attended West Point until I read this? No.
    To William Darby and his descendents,I solute you.
    While I was drafted into the Army in 1965,I was chosen to be the personal driver for John Tominac, the battalion commander of the unit that I was assigned to at the time at Fort Benning,GA. A Medal of Honor recepient for ….. in France during WW II. Prior to the bearth of the internet,I had heard rumors but otherwise had no clue. What a story!

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