Why William Darby Got A Film

“Onward we stagger. And if the tanks come, then God help the tanks!”

That quote comes from the commander of the 1st Rangers Battalion and a soldier who so distinguished himself that the unit became known as “Darby’s Rangers.” The unit was among the first American ground forces to see action against the Nazis, beginning in Tunisia. During that time, Darby made very good on his boast. According to his citations for Distinguished Service, he personally oversaw the destruction of several German tanks with light artillery and grenades. He was also known for personally reconnoitering German positions. A rumor went around that at one point a courier visited Rangers headquarters. When he asked some soldiers where Darby was, one of the Rangers quipped “You’ll never find him this far back!”

Sadly, Darby did not get away with such bold actions forever. On April 30, 1945, he was killed in action when a tiny shell fragment hit him in the heart. It was only one week before Germany surrendered and on the same day that he was to be promoted to brigadier general.


Norman D. “Dutch” Cota
Brigadier General
29th Infantry Division
116th Infantry Regiment
L Company

Born: 05-30-1893, Chelsea, Massachusetts.
Nationality: USA.
Died: 10-04-1971, age 78, Wichita, Kansas.
Buried: West Point Cemetery, NY. Section X-Grave 287.

Distinguished Service Cross citation:

The Distinguished Service Cross was presented to Norman D. Cota (0-5284), Brigadier General, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Assistant Division Commander, 29th Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces on 6 June 1944, at Normandy, France. General Cota landed on the beach shortly after the first assault wave of troops had landed. At this time the beach was under heavy enemy rifle, machine gun, mortar and artillery fire. Numerous casualties had been suffered, the attack was arrested, and disorganization was in process. With complete disregard for his own safety, General Cota moved up and down the fire-swept beach reorganizing units and coordinating their action. Under his leadership, a vigorous attack was launched that successfully overran the enemy positions and cleared the beaches. Brigadier General Cota’s superb leadership, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 29th Infantry Division, and the United States Army.