Born in Wadena, Massachusetts, on 15 March 1917, William J. Durrenberger graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1940 and was commissioned through ROTC. He then volunteered for active duty and trained at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, in ammunition manufacturing, followed by duty from 1940 to 1942 as Property and Transportation Officer at the Elwood Ordnance Plant in Illinois, a shell and bomb loading, assembly, and packing plant.
Following automotive maintenance training at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and tank maintenance training at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois Durrenberger next served in 1943 as Tank Maintenance and Repair Officer at the Red River Ordnance Depot, Texas. Later that year overseas service followed as a Technical Intelligence Officer in the European Theater, specializing in German and Italian combat vehicles. He returned to the United States in 1947 to serve in the Office of the Chief of Ordnance (OCO) in Washington, D.C., first as guided Missile and Rocket Design and Development Officer then, from 1948 to 1951, as Technical Operations Officer, Rocket Branch.
Durrenberger continued his association with the Ordnance Department's burgeoning missile program, which increasingly centered on Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, where he reported for duty in 1951 as Director of Projects, responsible for coordinating the growing number of guided missile and rocket programs. In 1952 he was assigned as Assistant Director of the Ordnance Missile Laboratories at Redstone, an organization he helped create.
Durrenberger's range of talents continued to grow. Earning a Master's of Business Administration from Syracuse University in 1954, he returned to OCO to serve as Technical Director, Financial Management System Office, and then as Executive Officer in the Comptroller Office. In 1956 he returned to Redstone Arsenal as Chief of the Financial Management Office, Army Ballistic Missile Agency. With the establishment of the U.S. Army Ordnance Missile Command at Redstone in 1958, he was assigned as its Comptroller.
Following graduation from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in 1960, Durrenberger's career took yet another turn when he joined the J-4 Division (Logistics) of the joint United Nations and US Forces Command Korea as Chief, Logistic Plans Branch. In 1961 he returned to the United States to serve as Deputy Commandant, Ordnance Weapons Command, Rock Island, Illinois, and then as Chief of Staff when that organization was redesignated the US Army Weapons Command under the newly established Army Materiel Command.
In 1963 Durrenberger took command of the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts, where he was responsible for developing or improving a wide range of small arms, to include the M14 rifle and M60 machine gun. In 1965 he assumed command of the Army Tank-Automotive Center in Warren, Michigan then returned to Rock Island in 1966 as Commanding General of the US Army Weapons Command. He assumed his last active duty position in 1968 as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4, later redesignated Deputy Chief of Staff, Logistics, at Headquarters US Army Pacific. MG Durrenberger retired in 1970 after 30 years of distinguished service. He died on 11 June 2002 in Aurora, Illinois.