William Darby was born on 8 February 1911 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He fought in World War II, where he was killed in action in Italy and posthumously promoted to brigadier general. Darby led the famous “Darby’s Rangers”, which evolved into the United States Army Rangers. Darby was with the first United States troops sent to Northern Ireland after the United States entry into World War II.
On June 19, 1942 the 1st Ranger Battalion was sanctioned, and Darby recruited and began training the Rangers in CarrickFergus, Northern Ireland. “Darby’s Rangers” trained with their British Commando counterparts in Scotland and in 1943, the 1st Ranger Battalion made its first assault at Arzew.
Darby was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on March 21–25 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 an oak leaf cluster to his Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in July 1943, 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 for his actions in North Africa on February 12, 1943: 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.
No Ranger alive today, does not know the name of William O. Darby!