Record breaking 2017 edition of 40 Mile Ranger Challenge
LAKE GARDA—The eighth edition of the Col. Darby 40 Mile Ranger Challenge celebrated a record number of participants, as over 200 people took on the course in order to commemorate Colonel William O. Darby and the 25 American soldiers who died attempting to cross from Torbole to Riva del Garda, April 30, 1945.
The event was started by retired army ranger, Rick Tscherne, and together with support from Ben Appleby, the vice-president of local Torbole history group, Benàch, the march has greatly increased in size and popularity.
Paratroopers from the American military base in Vicenza and soldiers from the Aviano Air Base were among those who tackled the 40-mile trek from Peschiera del Garda to Torbole, some of whom even elected to run the course. One brave partipant completed the event dressed as Captain America, with a 10th Mountain Division patch on his shoulder as a mark of respect to the occasion.
Colonel William O. Darby, founder of the American Rangers, died along with 25 soldiers as they attempted to navigate their DUKW amphibious truck across Lake Garda during World War II. The DUKW was located by the Gruppo Volontari del Garda in Dec. 2012 but no human remains of the soldiers have ever been found and they remain MIA. The vehicle was discovered at a depth of 276 metres, but extracting the DUKW will be a challenging operation, as it is feared that the vehicle will break apart if removed from the anaerobic atmosphere that is helping to hold it together.
The 2017 edition saw the previous US record for the course broken by the highest-ranking military individual ever to take part. Colonel Jeff Worthington, Commander of the 2nd Signal Brigade in Germany, completed the 40 miles in just 6 hours and 19 minutes. McKenzie Cline, 13, whose family are serving in the Airborne division at Vicenza, became the youngest person to complete the challenge. However, no one could better Carabinieri policeman, Danilo Frapporti, who finished in first place for the second consecutive year.
Anyone who completed the march in under 12 hours received a commemorative coin, personally designed by the founder Rick Tshcerne.
In addition to paying respect to the men who lost their lives, the event aims to develop awareness of local historical events.
A ceremony took place after the march in the Piazza Lietzmann, which begun with the church bell ringing out 25 times for the 25 dead soldiers. The names of the dead were then read out, before the Mayor of Torbole-Nago, Gianni Morandi, was invited to speak.
Danny Dusatti, a member of the Torbole City Council said, “It was an important event to strengthen friendship and collaboration between our people, both harshly marked by the conflicts of World War II.”
“Our goal is that of spreading peace everyday, and that peace conquered in a time of great pain and sacrifice,” said Dusatti during the ceremony.