WWII Veterans Remembered: U-Haul Honors Oklahoma’s Briscoe Bennett “B.B.” Smith Jr.

Jun 20, 2020

Pacific Theater veteran and Miller native B.B. Smith 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.

B.B. Smith, circa 1943

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 Miller native Briscoe Bennett “B.B.” Smith Jr. 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. Smith, a successful U-Haul neighborhood dealer during his career, 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.

Military Service and U-Haul Affiliation

Smith was born in August 1922 to Briscoe and Minerva Smith. As a teen, he was unable to complete school because his father took ill, and he had to work to provide for his mother and siblings. Smith worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Oklahoma, and then completed two years of work and training through the National Youth Administration (NYA) in 1942.

Smith enlisted in the Navy as a cook in September 1943. In late 1944, Smith and the rest of the crew of Landing Ship Medium (LSM) 171 sailed for the South Pacific as part of a convoy tasked with the taking of Okinawa. During the campaign, LSM 171 and other ships came under heavy and constant attack from Japanese kamikaze aircraft. Smith was credited with shooting down a kamikaze that was about to hit another transport ship.

B.B. Smith, circa 1995

After the war, Smith tried his hand at the paint-and-body business, as well as cattle ranching, before building a Conoco® service station in Durant, Okla. In 1960, Smith signed on as a U-Haul neighborhood dealer. B.B. Smith Rentals and U-Haul Dealership served Durant customers for more than 31 years.

U-Haul boasts more than 20,000 dealers today. These independent small business owners serve as the backbone of the company, accounting for more than 90% of U-Haul rental locations throughout its North American network.

Smith passed away in March 1997. He is survived by his children, Garry (Cheryl Ann) and Cheryl; five grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; and seven great-great-grandchildren. Garry and Cheryl Ann are both retired U-Haul Team Members.

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. Smith 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, B.B.

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

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