U-Haul is marking 75 years of moving America by saluting its pioneers who served in WWII, like Alkabo native Olson
V-E Day on May 8 marks the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe. Veterans such as Luvern “Vern” Olson 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.
U-Haul is also celebrating 75 years of service. WWII 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 abandoned most of their belongings since one-way trailer rentals did not yet exist.
From that idea, an industry was born and a new level of mobility became attainable for every American family.
To commemorate both events, U-Haul is celebrating former Team Members and U-Haul neighborhood dealers who served in WWII, such as Alkabo, N.D., native Vern Olson.
Olson was born on Aug. 22, 1918, to Harold and Esther Olson. He lived in Alkabo until his teenage years, when his family moved to Aberdeen, Wash. There he attended J.M. Weatherwax High School, and afterward, went to Grays Harbor College.
Olson enlisted in the Army in October 1940. He served in Europe in an armored infantry unit as a tank commander, as well as in the Transportation Corps. As a tank commander, Olson survived three tanks shot out from under him.
One of the greatest feats of the Transportation Corps was the rebuilding of France’s shattered railroad network after D-Day. It was also responsible for the transportation of 1,500 locomotives and 20,000 railway cars built specifically for the lighter French track system starting with D-Day+38.
Olson’s military training in the Transportation Corps proved to be good experience for his later life. After coming out of the Army, he spent four years as branch manager of a truck rental outfit in Los Angeles.
In 1952, Olson joined U-Haul. He served for more than 17 years in many capacities, including traffic and merchandising manager, rental company president, and regional director. Olson passed away in July 1982.
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 an estimated 11 million families move every year. Olson is one of the many of veterans who laid the foundation for the present prosperity U-Haul enjoys.
U-Haul continues to aggressively recruit veterans and gives them preference in the hiring process, having been recognized repeatedly as one of the nation’s top veteran-friendly employers. U-Haul is also committed to honoring veterans and supporting veteran causes. This is accomplished through direct assistance to veteran groups, as well as participation and sponsorship of Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades, and Pearl Harbor tributes.
These 2020 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. The tower will offer 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.
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, Vern.
Find more veteran tributes in the History and Culture section of myuhaulstory.com.
* Featured image of Vern Olson as regional director in 1956