William Orlando Darby bigraphy, stories - American World War II Army brigadier general

William Orlando Darby : biography

8 February 1911 - 30 April 1945

William O. Darby (8 February 1911 – 30 April 1945) was an officer in the United States Army during World War II. Darby led the famous Darby's Rangers which evolved into the US Army Rangers and was also made famous as a major motion picture starring the American actor James Garner in the role of Darby.


Darby's medals, military records, and uniforms are on display at the Old Fort Museum 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.]]

Darby Junior High School was built in 1897. It was then Fort Smith High School. The school was only three months old when on January 11, 1898, a tornado struck Fort Smith and practically destroyed the new building. The school was rebuilt and in 1910 a second portion was built. This part was completely destroyed by fire on September 2, 1912. By heroic effort the old section was saved. The final section, the auditorium, gymnasium, swimming pool, and classrooms were built in 1918-1919.

In January 1928, the high school moved to North 23 and B street, leaving the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades to make up the junior high.

In 1955 the name of Fort Smith Junior High School was changed to William O. Darby Junior School in honor of General Darby who led troops in Africa and Italy during World War II. Darby was killed in action leading the Fifth Army spearhead in the Po Valley in 1945. In 1958 the name of the school’s athletic teams was changed from Cubs to Rangers after the famous Darby Rangers.

Because of the age and condition of the original building, the school board decided a new building was needed and on September 26, 1967 an increase in millage was voted for the erecting of a new school.

School started in the new building in 1969 and only the section of the building that had been built in 1918-1919 was left. It was later remodeled.

During the fall of 1971, the new gymnasium and a general music building was occupied. Beginning in the 2006 - 2007 school year, Darby opened up a new Science and Media Center. The new building has six science classrooms, a science lab, and a new media center.

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.

Army career

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.


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.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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