In honor of the birthday of General William O. Darby on Feb. 8, the Fort Smith Museum of History, 320 Rogers Ave., has added some new artifacts to its collection: a watch worn by Darby and a photograph of Bill Darby as a young teenager. The photograph was taken on DeMolay Day in downtown Fort Smith on June 1, 1925, and also features Bill Darby's father, Percy Darby. Both artifacts will remain on permanent exhibition in the Gen. William O. Darby Memorial Room.
William Orlando Darby was born in Fort Smith on Feb. 8, 1911, to Percy and Nell Darby. A natural born leader, Darby desired to be a soldier from a yung age. Following graduation from Fort Smith High School in 1929, he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. After graduation from West Point in 1933, Darby was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery of the First Cavalry at Fort Bliss, Texas. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Darby was assigned as aid-de-camp to Major Gen. Russell P. Hartle and selected to train an elite combat unit known as Darby's Rangers. The First U.S. Army Ranger Battalion was activated July 9, 1942. Darby’s Rangers distinguished themselves in combat in North Africa and Europe.
Col. Darby was killed in action April 30, 1945, at Torbole, Italy and posthumously promoted to brigadier general May 15, 1945. He was buried in a military cemetery outside of Cisterna, Italy, and reinterred at the Fort Smith National Cemetery in 1949. During his career, Darby received three Purple Hearts, two Distinguished Service Crosses, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Russian Order of Kutuzov and the French Croix de Guerre. The medals, photographs, uniforms and artifacts belonging to the famous hero are on permanent exhibit in the museum's William O. Darby Memorial Room.
Visit wwwfortsmithmuseum.com for information.