WWII Veterans Remembered: U-Haul Honors Pennsylvania’s Thomas E. Dudley

Pacific Theater veteran and Philadelphia native Tom Dudley will be memorialized in the lobby of the renovated Ford Island Control Tower at Pearl Harbor

U-Haul® was born as World War II was coming to a close, with its first one-way trailers made available to the moving public on or about July 4, 1945.

Tom Dudley, circa 1946

Just as U-Haul is celebrating 75 years of service this year, America will soon celebrate the 75th anniversary of V-J Day. This signifies Victory over Japan and is observed Sept. 2 when the signing of surrender occurred, effectively ending WWII.

Veterans such as Philadelphia native Thomas E. “Tom” Dudley returned home to start a new life after the war, and in doing so planted the seeds of prosperity for U-Haul, a product of the peace for which they fought.

WWII-era Navy veteran L.S. “Sam” Shoen and his wife, Anna Mary Carty Shoen, conceived U-Haul in June 1945 when they recognized a basic need while moving up the West Coast, having left behind most of their belongings since one-way trailer rentals did not yet exist. From that idea, an industry was created and a new level of mobility became attainable for every American family.

New Display at Pearl Harbor

Today, U-Haul is committed to honoring veterans and supporting veteran causes. This is accomplished through recruiting veterans and giving them hiring preference; direct assistance to veteran groups; participation and sponsorship of Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades; and supporting Pearl Harbor tributes.

The Company’s 75th anniversary tributes will peak triumphantly with the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum’s dedication of the renovated Ford Island Control Tower on Aug. 29. U-Haul Pacific Theater veterans’ bios and photos will be displayed in the tower lobby. Dudley will be among those memorialized on the lobby wall.

The tower will showcase a new elevator, gifted by U-Haul CEO Joe Shoen, providing public access to the observation deck where America’s lone WWII aviation battlefield can be revered and our heroes remembered.

Member of the Seabees

Dudley was born in Highland Park on Dec. 21, 1923, to Joseph and Marie Dudley. He graduated from Philadelphia’s St. Thomas More High School in 1942.He then went to work as a full-time rigger’s helper at the Philadelphia Naval Yard.

In July 1943, Dudley enlisted in the Navy and served in the Seabees until March 1946. Dudley’s troop ship headed to Tinian in early 1944, in the Northern Mariana Islands, to engage Japanese forces. Four months later, his crew headed to Okinawa, where they took part in intense fighting and endured Japanese kamikaze attacks.

When the fighting in Okinawa was over and Japan surrendered in 1945, Dudley and his shipmates headed home victorious. Dudley was awarded the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two bronze stars, and the WWII Victory Medal.

“The memories that linger on are those of going through the Panama Canal, air raids, watching a naval bombardment and seeing half of a ship still afloat after being hit by a kamikaze,” Dudley recounted in a 1995 interview. “Memories I would like to forget. I lost some good friends.”

Insurance Pioneer

Tom Dudley, circa 1995

Following the war, Dudley returned to Philadelphia, got married and worked for the Fuller Brush Company selling their products door to door in Haddon Heights, N.J. He later moved to Brigantine, N.J., and continued the door-to-door work. His next career move was as an insurance adjuster for Keystone Insurance Company out of Philadelphia, with his work and family being based out of Somers Point, N.J.

In 1971, Dudley joined Ponderosa Insurance Co., a subsidiary of U-Haul parent company AMERCO®. He served for more than 17 years with Ponderosa and Republic Western Insurance Co. (also under the AMERCO umbrella) in many capacities, including claims examiner, claims manager, VP of loss administration and VP of claims administration.

Dudley passed away in 2007. He is survived by sons Thomas (Katherine), Gregory (Janis), Robert (Brenda), Stephen (Rosie), his daughter Christine (Steve Wilgus), 17 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren.

Veteran Ties and Appreciation

The Shoens started U-Haul upon Sam’s discharge with $4,000 of accumulated Navy pay and the courage formed by the cauldron of WWII. With the help of other veterans, the young couple forged their new enterprise from the freedom that victory produced.

Today, U-Haul serves all 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces, helping millions of families move every year. Dudley is one of the many veterans who laid the foundation for the present prosperity U-Haul enjoys.

U-Haul is one of a myriad of companies built by these incredible veterans, who are to be saluted and remembered during this 75th anniversary celebration. Thank you, Tom.

Find more veteran tributes in the History and Culture section of myuhaulstory.com.

NOTE: Feature image includes Seabees [L-R] Tom Dudley, Alvin Johnson and Alvin Hamburger.

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