Carlson’s Raiders were the elite of the elite during World War II, a group of specially trained Marines schooled in unconventional military tactics. They gained notoriety for their service in a number of battles, including Midway, Guadalcanal, and Bougainville.
For all their greatness in war, these Marines were comprised of ordinary men like Darrell “Sarge” Loveland of Brigham City, who died at 93 on Dec. 21 and will be laid to rest this week.
During his short-lived youth, Loveland described himself as a “good young man,” growing up in rural Box Elder County during the Depression. He quit school at 16 and went to work for the Civilian Conservation Corps.
One month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Loveland was on a westbound train, headed for San Diego for basic training after enlisting with the U.S. . He completed his training just as Winston Churchill convinced Roosevelt of the benefit of smaller, specialized military units.
Loveland was interviewed and his story recorded by Tamera Newman 10 years ago.
“Shortly after graduation from boot camp in March of 1942, Darrell was interviewed by Capt. (James) Roosevelt, who was looking for single men to form his ‘fast-moving, lightly armed unit, capable of hit-and-run raids against the enemy, and the ability to operate behind enemy lines for protracted periods of time while living off the land,’” she writes.
By the time the Raiders were disbanded in early 1944, Loveland had seen war in all of its ugliness at Midway, where he was consistently among the first wave of Marines to leave the ship and consequently the first to discover booby traps and other dangers. He had fought at Guadalcanal, where he and the other Raiders battled more than the Japanese — the mud, the mosquitoes, and the jungle complicated the situation.
Newman described Loveland’s days in the jungle during a 30-day military operation that would become known as the Long Patrol.
“Darrell grew so used to not being able to see that the darkness became secondary to a new fear: sounds, the screeching, crunching, moving sounds of the jungle. The strange sounds filled him with terror as his imagination put wild faces on inexplicable noises, the strange noises that filled his days and nights, whatever they were.”
Rations were scarce near the end of that march.
“We used the rations we got for 14 days,” he told Newman in his interview. “There were four men on a fire team, and my fire team was given one sock of rice, one sock of tea, one sock of sugar, one sock of raisins, four chocolate D-ration bars, four cans of C-rations, six hand grenades, and 200 rounds of ammunition. I had a machine gun. My other two men had a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle), and we were also issued a sniper’s rifle with a scope. Now that is quite a little deal to pack. This was supposed to last.”
Only one-fifth of the Raiders assigned to this operation made it through to the end. There were 57, and Loveland was one of those.
Carlson decided his men needed a rest after that. Loveland described it more of an escape than a vacation.
After more training, Loveland and the other Raiders returned to the islands of the South Pacific. They landed on Bougainville in October 1943 where the Marines were joined by War Patrol dogs and Navajo code talkers.
He described one battle with the Japanese that just seemed senseless to him. The enemy just kept coming, and the Americans just kept shooting.
“You didn’t get scared until 20 minutes later. Then you have time to think about what just happened. Then you throw up, gather your dead and do what you can,” he said in his memoir.
After Bougainville, the Second Battalion returned to the United States for a short time. The Raiders were disbanded, and Loveland found himself assigned to a medical battalion with the 5th Marine Division and ultimately on his way to Iwo Jima, landing Feb. 19, 1945.
“The Marines lost an awful lot of men on that island. We had three divisions, and we lost the equivalent of one division on that island. The cemetery was full when I left 36 days later,” Loveland said.
Looking back on it all much later, Loveland said he often looks back and thinks, “What a war!”
“But, it had to be,” he said. “We lost a lot of good men, but there are a lot of good men left. The Raiders were tough men; they were mean men; they were brave men. God, you keep these Marines. We’ve spent our time in Hell.”
Loveland was discharged in January 1946 at just 22 years old, but not nearly the same young man who left Deweyville four years prior. He married, he and his wife had a child, and he remained in the Reserves for 25 years, retiring as a master gunnery sergeant in 1975.
He received an honorary high school diploma in 2002, 59 years after his classmates graduated.
In his later years, Loveland put his uniform back on many times in service to the community as a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. Everyone knew him as “Sarge,” and he was often seen participating in everything from parades and flag etiquette lessons to honor guard cemetery and military honors.
Even at the age of 93, he was a commanding figure in uniform, and when the situation allowed, it was customary for him to end a salute with a boisterous “hooah!”
On Thursday and Friday, his fellow veterans from VFW Post 1695 and American Legion Post 10 will stand guard at his casket, prior to his burial in Tremonton on Friday.