WWII Veterans Remembered: U-Haul Honors Nebraska’s Francis T. Wolfe

Jun 20, 2020

Pacific Theater veteran and Stella native Francis Wolfe 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.

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.

Francis Wolfe, circa 1943

Veterans such as Stella native Francis T. Wolfe 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. Wolfe, a U-Haul vendor whose successful affiliation with the Company spanned four decades, 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.

The Bushmasters

Wolfe was born June 5, 1921, to Clifford and Henrietta Wolfe. When he was 8, the family moved to Oklahoma City. Wolfe graduated from Northeast High School in 1939. He attended Oklahoma City University for one year before enlisting in the Army in February 1941 as a combat infantryman.

Wolfe served with the 158th Regimental Combat Team, which became famous for its jungle-fighting skills. The 158th was sent into areas where the Japanese were offering the most resistance. The team took the name of “Bushmasters” after the deadly snake by the same name.

General Douglas MacArthur personally selected the Bushmasters to be part of his command in the Southwest Pacific. MacArthur stated: “No greater fighting combat team has ever been deployed for battle.”

Wolfe fought in the Bismarck-Archipelago, New Guinea and Luzon Campaigns. He was awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Service Ribbon (three bronze service stars); the Philippine Liberation Ribbon; and a Bronze Star for his service in the legendary 158th. He was honorably discharged in August 1945 as a first sergeant.

Tucson Ties and U-Haul

Francis Wolfe, circa 1985

After the war, Wolfe moved his family to Tucson, Ariz., in 1949. He was a leader in the field of outdoor advertising, and owner and manager of Arizona Neon for 22 years. He was owner and manager of the Pearson’s Sign Company facility in Tucson from the early 1970s until his death in November 1999.

In the 1960s, Wolfe was instrumental in the creation, design and construction of some of the country’s best-known advertisements. Among those was the innovative mounting of a rotating U-Haul trailer on a pole in the back of a U-Haul pickup truck, and the design of the iconic U-Haul modular sign. This launched a mutually beneficial vendor relationship with U-Haul that lasted for the remainder of his life.

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. Wolfe 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, Francis.

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

NOTE: Francis Wolfe pictured in center of featured image with Bushmasters, circa 1944.

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