Mr. Dempsey J. Prappas, originally from Detroit, Michigan, is a World War II veteran and a member of what is referred to as the “Greatest Generation.” His military career began when he was drafted into the United States Army in July 1943 and was shipped to Fort Carson, Colorado. He originally had aspirations of joining the Army Air Corps but during his entry physical exam it was discovered that he was color blind and therefore would be unable to participate in air training. As a result, he pursued a military career in infantry.
Due to his ethnic background, Prappas was assigned to a unique and newly assembled battalion of soldiers with a Greek heritage where they learned the Greek language. This unique battalion was to be trained and subsequently used during the southern invasion of Europe, which included the Greek Isles and Italy. The unit trained at Camp Phillips in Kansas and eventually the need to backfill and provide replacements for the European theatre, ended the plan for the dedicated “Greek Battalion.” Soon after the dismantling of unit, Dempsey was assigned to the 80th Infantry Division where he joined the 317th Anti-Tank Company as a Corporal. He received advanced infantry training in Yuma, Arizona.
In the spring of 1944 in anticipation of the Normandy Invasion, Prappas received his orders transferring him to the European theatre. He sailed for England on the Queen Mary from New York in May 1944. He arrived on Omaha Beach, France, on July 25, 1944, after being reassigned to serve with the 3rd Armored Division. He assumed responsibilities as an anti-tank gun crewman and joined General Patton’s Third Army as they rapidly moved inland and through France toward the German capital of Berlin. On Sept. 12, 1944 Prappas crossed the Moselle River and entered Germany. One day later, while engaged in a fierce fire fight with German tanks, knocking out two vehicles and several machine gunners, he sustained a serious injury to his left leg. He was hospitalized for 238 days, first in France, then in England, and eventually ended up back in the United States. He recovered at Perry Jones Hospital Center in Custer, Michigan. It was there that he met another young soldier Mr. Robert (Bob) Dole who was also recovering from serious war injuries and later went on to lead a distinguished political career. Prappas was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on May 1, 1945. In appreciation for his service, Private Prappas received the Purple Heart, three Bronze Stars, the European theatre ribbon and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge for his service in the campaigns of Normandy, France and Alsace Lorraine.