Darby Ranger Challenge Honors WWII Hero

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The Darby Ranger Challenge honoring WWII hero Col. William O. Darby will have current and former American soldiers making a 40-mile march ending in the northern Italian village where Darby was killed by enemy fire on April 30, 1945. Darby is credited with forming the U.S. Army Rangers, and the Darby Ranger Challenge was the brainchild of Army Sgt. 1st Class Rick Tscherne, 61, a former Ranger who began the tribute march five years ago.

What is the significance of the Darby Ranger Challenge? After Col. William O. Darby was killed in World War II, fellow soldiers would make a pilgrimage to his family’s home just to talk to his mother about the fallen hero. The march coincides with Thursday’s 70th anniversary event that also will honor 25 soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division who died nearby on the same day Darby was killed.

History Leading Up to Darby Ranger Challenge

Col. William O. Darby organized and commanded the first American Ranger units – known as Darby’s Rangers – which were formed in World War II. Darby led the units into battles across Italy, Sicily and North Africa. He did a stint at the Pentagon before returning to Europe as the fighting there wound down in 1945.

Darby had been assistant commander of the 10th Mountain for barely a week when he was killed. Hours later, 25 of his soldiers drowned when their amphibious vehicle sank during a nighttime crossing of the lake. One solider survived the sinking. The bodies of the other 25 were never recovered, and all are still listed by the Pentagon as missing in action.

Retired Ranger’s Idea for Darby Ranger Challenge

Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Rick Tscherne had the idea for the tribute march five years ago when he discovered his retirement home in Bordolino, Italy, is not far from where Darby died. The first two years, Tscherne completed the 40-mile hike along the length of Lake Garda’s eastern shore ending in the place where Darby was killed with no others joining him.

This year’s Darby Ranger Challenge will have about 65 participants including former Rangers and other American military retirees, along with contingents of U.S. paratroopers and airmen based in northern Italy.

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