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Onward We Charge: The Heroic Story of Darby's Rangers in World War II Hardcover – July 3, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: NAL Hardcover; First Edition edition (July 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451221281
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451221285
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #816,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Journalist-turned-military-historian Jeffers here offers a useful, up-to-date study of Colonel William O. Darby of World War II Ranger fame. Artilleryman Darby was inspired by the British Commandos to organize a select force of infantry that would specialize in razing and infiltration. Charismatic and courageous, Darby led from in front of his fighters in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Like many military mavericks, he was no stickler for the niceties of traditional military discipline. Hence, the brass didn't exactly love him. But by the time he was killed in action in Italy near the end of the war, the Rangers' record spoke for itself and argued powerfully for founding the Special Forces and other postwar elite units. May this admirably nontechnical book revive interest in an undeservedly forgotten soldier. Green, Roland

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By B. M. Howard on July 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
With all the nostalgia around WWII in the last ten years, it's hard to believe that it has taken this long for someone to tell the story of the famous Darby's Rangers. We take for granted now the incredible fighting skills and endurance of the Army Rangers, but once upon a time they were a brand new outfit, in a very uncertain war. Bill Darby was their heroic first leader, and fellow founder, and made them into what they became--the cream of the combat crop. This is an excellent telling of the Darby story, from the man's rise in the military, through his incredible leadership during the war (including combat scenes that will absolutely blow you away). I can highly recommend this compelling take on Col. Darby and the First Ranger Batallion in World War II.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By W. Amend on September 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Generally not bad, but in my opinion marred by uneven treatment of details and plodding in some places. For example, I'm not sure why the author felt compelled to delve into the cost of constructing the high school Darby attended while omitting description or definition of a "sticky grenade", which would seem to be more relevant to the story. THe dust cover notes would lead a reader to believe that the book is mostly about Darby himself, but the actual content provides quite a bit of history of the Ranger units. The book benefitted from including excerpts from other author's analyses of significant events in Ranger history, including the disasterous mission at Cisterna.

Good photos of the key players and locations described by the book, but some maps illustrating key battles would have been a useful supplement to the text. I was somewhat disappointed in the author's limited ability to convey the emotions of Darby and his staff. I felt I learned the military history of Darby and Rangers, but not as much as I expected about Darby as a person, or about the personal feelings of elation, frustration, dedication, or desparation as he and his soldiers must have experienced in some of those situations of great intensity.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Cindy W. Bonner on January 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
During the Battle of El Guettar in World War II, members of Darby's Rangers recalled their commander's battle cry, "Onward we stagger, and if tanks come, may God help the tanks." Lifting parts of that line to use in his title, H. Paul Jeffers pays tribute with this fast-paced documentary of the contributions of General William O. Darby and his Rangers to the Allied victories in North Africa and Italy.

The book begins with Darby's days as a schoolboy in Fort Smith, Arkansas and ends with Darby's death during the Battle of Po River in 1945 at the age of 34. He had gone from captain to Brigadier General in three years and eleven months, the only such promotion to star rank during the war. This was done after twice refusing promotions offered to him by General George Patton.

Darby had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. At the beginning of U. S. involvement in World War II, Darby was given the task of building a commando-like unit, an idea that had no precedent in the history of the U.S. Army. Sent to Northern Ireland to train under British commandos, Darby's Rangers had their baptism of fire on the beaches of Dieppe, France in the ill-fated attempt to initiate a so-called "Second Front" in 1942. From there they were quickly sent to Northern Africa where they proved their worth conducting harassing raids and carrying out reconnaissance during battles in Algeria and Tunisia. The Rangers were so successful that their numbers were increased from one battalion to three in order to spearhead the invasion of Sicily.

From the landings at Gela, through the capture of Palermo and the drive to Messina, the Rangers worked successfully in support of Patton's Third Army.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Michael James on June 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
The book is concerned with an interesting subject, but is dry and choppy.

I would have given this a 3, except that there are NO MAPS. How can a history book that is concerned with multiple locations and battles not have maps? It doesn't make any sense!!

Overall, I am glad I read the book, but it could have been a much better experience with a few maps and a stronger editor.
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