Colonel William Darby was a hero by anyone's standards. His elite battalion of Army Rangers paved the way for Ranger success in subsequent wars—and left an unforgettable legacy in its wake.
“Brings Darby's story to life with verve and skill.”—Evan Thomas, author of Ike’s Bluff • “Thoroughly engrossing.”—Larry Alexander, coauthor of A Higher Call • “A vivid portrait.”—Gerald Astor, author of A Blood-Dimmed Tide • “Riveting.”—John Wukovits, author of One Square Mile of Hell
On a beach in Salerno in 1943, shortly after the American invasion, a staff officer stopped an Army Ranger and asked him where he might find William Darby. The soldier replied, “You’ll never find him this far back.”
Darby was one of the most successful—and admirable—officers of World War II. At the start of the war he was an artillery captain and a general’s aide. But by 1945, he was a full colonel who had commanded Ranger battalions in twelve major battles, including the invasions of North Africa and Sicily, and the landings at Salerno and Anzio in Italy. Darby never led his men into a fight he wouldn’t take on personally, and his group of specially-selected, hard-trained Army Rangers became legendary for their astonishing bravery and deadliness under fire.
Onward We Charge takes readers from the beachheads of North Africa to the bloody campaigns of southern Italy, and to Darby’s tragic death by German shrapnel just eight days before V-E Day. This is the true story of a man who held his own beside the greatest military figures in history.
A retired journalist and the author of several biographies of military heroes, Jeffers (Ace of Aces: The Life of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker) combines a bare-bones life of World War II hero Col. William O. Darby and a battle history of the legendary unit he organized and led. After a cursory account of Darby's Arkansas boyhood and West Point education, the author quickly gets to the war and Darby's appointment to head a newly created infantry battalion modeled on the British army's Commandos. Christened the 1st Ranger Battalion, the unit underwent months of arduous training in Scotland before being tapped to spearhead the Allied invasion of Algeria in 1942. Expanded to a three-battalion Ranger force and anointed "Darby's Rangers" by war correspondents who "found good copy in them," the Rangers led the subsequent invasions of Sicily and Italy. In an attempt to break out at Anzio, Darby's Rangers were surrounded and almost completely annihilated by German forces. Darby was reassigned and later killed in action. Relying primarily on secondary sources, Jeffers has written a spotty but serviceable introduction to one of World War II's most storied units and the hero who led them.