Loring Fullerton was born May 24, 1908, in Huntington, New York, the son of well-known Long Islanders Hal B. and Edith Loring Fullerton. He earned a B.A. degree in landscape design at the Michigan State University School of Forestry. In the early 1930s, he moved to Middle Island where he lived with the family of his sister and brother-in-law, Eleanor and Donald Ferguson. The Fergusons had a large fruit farm, Rainbow Ranch, on Middle Country Road. Fullerton established a small nursery on a section of the farm, and Rainbow Nursery was just beginning to thrive when the U. S. entered World War II. He enlisted in the Navy on February 13, 1942, two months after Pearl Harbor, and was married the following day to Dorothy Betsch of Union City, NJ. With no idea when or if he would return to Middle Island, he sold all his nursery stock to nurseryman Ernest Whitbeck from Patchogue.
He spent four months at the Naval Training Station at Newport, Rhode Island and was then sent to the RCA Radio School in New York for three months. In September 1942, he was sent to the Atlantic Fleet School at Norfolk, Virginia. At Norfolk, he was among the first U.S. servicemen to be trained in radar, which was then a new technology. He says in a letter, “Radar is a mystery and we are a new class of 25. They just got the equipment working. It’s a tough course about which I know little and will tell less, except that it is very, very bad news for the Germans and Japanese.” In January 1943, he was sent to Miami, Florida, where he attended Submarine Chasing School.
He was assigned to the Amphibious Force as a Radioman 3rd Class in the Fourth Naval Beach Battalion. In April 1943, the unit was sent to Fedalla Bay near Casablanca in French Morocco. While in Africa, Fullerton wrote that he was pleasantly surprised to see a load of potatoes in bags marked “Long Island Potatoes, Riverhead.” The unit first saw combat as part of the amphibious landing forces in the invasion of Gela in Sicily. He said of Gela, “It is inhabited by people who just came back from Detroit, Brooklyn or Newark, or who have a cousin named Joe living in Flushing.” He said that the people of Sicily did not like Mussolini, and they hated the Germans.
The next combat operation for the Fourth Beach Battalion was the invasion of the Italian mainland near Salerno. They landed in the second wave at Blue Beach, near Agropoli. Unknown to the invading force, there were German tanks behind the dunes, but the tanks did not fire a shot until four waves of American troops had landed. Then with heavy fire from the tanks, as well as mortar, artillery and machine gun fire on both sides, the Germans kept the men pinned down in foxholes on the beach, and prevented further waves from landing. The ships moved farther up the coast before sending more troops ashore. For more than nine hours, the unit was under heavy fire from all directions except seaward. They were unable to raise a radio antenna, because it immediately became a target of intense fire. The ships returned to the area, and not having received any communication from the men on the beach, assumed that they had been killed or captured by the Germans, and began shelling the entire area, including the beach. This left the unit trapped in crossfire between the Allied destroyers and the German tanks. Finally, one of the radiomen found a sheltered spot where he could semaphore to the ships, telling them to stop shelling the beach because the American troops were still there. Meanwhile, Fullerton was thrown against a stone wall by a shell blast and injured his neck. The men later found out that everyone in their unit had been officially declared missing in action, and articles to that effect were printed in many of their hometown newspapers. Fullerton was the subject of one of the newspaper articles but, fortunately, he had been able to write to his wife before it was printed. The Fourth Beach Battalion later received a unit commendation for “gallantry and bravery under fire” at both Gela and Salerno.
After two weeks at Salerno, the unit was withdrawn to North Africa. Fullerton was promoted to Radioman 2nd Class and was then sent back to the States for officer training. After receiving his commission as a Lieutenant (j.g.), he was sent to communications school at Harvard for four months of further training. He was then shipped to Guam in the Pacific Theater as a Top Secret Communications Officer. He handled communications among the highest ranking officers, including General MacArthur, Admiral Halsey and Admiral Nimitz. He was, of course, unable to tell his family anything about his work, but he said in a letter, “It is interesting, a little like gazing into a crystal ball and seeing things to come.”
While in the Pacific, Fullerton’s old neck injury from Salerno became aggravated. He was treated at the Guam Fleet Hospital and the Naval Hospital at St. Albans, New York, and eventually received a medical discharge. Fullerton was awarded an American Theatre Campaign Ribbon, European-African-Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon with 2 Bronze Stars, and the World War II Victory Medal.
Fullerton achieved the rank of Lieutenant before he was discharged on June 1, 1947. After his discharge, he and Dorothy moved to Somerville, New Jersey, where he worked as a landscape architect until his death in 1973.