Fort Smith National Cemetery
Sebastian County,

World War II
February 8, 1911 - April 30, 1945

Section 9 Site 3991

William Orlando Darby was born in Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas. He and his sister Doris were born to a father who owned a print shop and a homemaker mother. He attended Belle Grove grade school and graduated from Fort Smith Senior High School in 1929. William received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Upon graduating in 1933 he was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas. On October 1, 1940, he was promoted to captain and sent to amphibious training. Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor he was deployed to Northern Ireland as aide-de-camp to Major General Russell P Hartle. General Hartle chose Darby to organize and train the Army’s first elite battalion of commandos and promoted him to major. The official activation of the First United States Army Ranger Battalion took place on July 9, 1942, and was to become forever known a as Darby’s Rangers. Their first action took place in November of 1942 when they invaded North Africa. They landed at Arzew, Algeria, near Oran, and Major Darby served as military mayor until the Rangers departed for Tunisia. As the Tunisian Campaign was nearing an end he began a training and expansion that resulted in three battalions and in July of 1943, they spearheaded the invasion of Sicily. They were the first three groups to land in Italy on September 9, 1943 and then on January 30, 1944, they landed unopposed in Anzio. After the Rangers suffered severe losses at Cisterna, Italy in late 1944, he was ordered home. He had been promoted to Lt. Colonel by that time. After serving eleven months in the Pentagon he managed to get back to Europe with General Hap Arnold on an inspection tour of the European Theater. Upon hearing that BGen Robinson Duff of the Tenth Mountain Division had been wounded, Darby immediately volunteered to take his command. On April 30, 1945, the same day Hitler committed suicide, he was outlining plans for the next day’s battle when a German shell landed near by and a piece of shrapnel killed him immediately. Two days later the German forces in Italy surrendered. On May 15, 1945, he became the only soldier to ever receive a posthumous promotion to brigadier general. Among his many awards he was given two Distinguished Service Crosses, a Silver Star for “Gallantry in Action” a Purple Heart and a Combat Infantry Badge. And, the British awarded him their Distinguished Service Order. Two U. S. Army installations in Europe were named for Darby, the W. O. Darby Kaseme in Furth, Germany which closed in 1995, and Camp Darby, near Livorno, Italy, which remains in use today.

Contributed on 9/18/08 by tomtodd
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Record #: 60910

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Submitted: 9/18/08 • Approved: 7/16/11 • Last Updated: 1/22/13 • R60910-G0-S3

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