In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation that provided enlisted soldiers an opportunity to attain formal appointments to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York through preparatory schools. The preparatory school system was first tested in the European theater of World War I, with General John J. Pershing inspecting cadets after their final exams at a preparatory school in Langre, France.
By the end of World War I, officers were assigned as instructors at eight schools situated around the country. Beginning in the late 1920s, candidates for West Point could enlist in a preparatory school for one year, and if they were able to win an appointment, would then enter the Military Academy at the end of the year.
One West Point Preparatory School was located at Fort Winfield Scott in San Francisco, attended by two aspiring cadets, Colonel James H. Short and Colonel George S. Pappas. Colonel Short, who joined the U.S. Army in the 1930s. Short, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with the Class of 1941, revealed that "they worked the hell out of you" at the Fort Winfield Scott Preparatory School.
Colonel George S. Pappas enlisted in the U.S. Army in June of 1939 and was assigned to the 6th Coast Artillery Regiment at Fort Winfield Scott. While stationed there, he attended the West Point Preparatory School and was admitted to the U.S. Military Academy three years after Colonel Short. Graduating on D-Day in 1944, he received a commission with the Anti-Aircraft and Air Defense Artillery at Schofield Barracks Army Base in Honolulu, Hawaii. After World War II, he attended the University of Wisconsin, graduating with a Master's degree in Journalism in 1949 and then worked at West Point in the 1950s. Following an appointment as the Army Attaché to the Commander-in-Chief of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the completion of courses at the Command and General Staff College, Colonel Pappas went to Korea with the 8th Army. Upon graduating from the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks in 1966, he was assigned to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), the central command of NATO military forces. He returned to the Army War College as Assistant Chief of the Research and Publications Branch and was instructed to write a comprehensive history of the college; this work was published in 1967 under the title Prudens Future: The U.S. Army War College, 1901-1967. With this task accomplished, he turned his attention to building the U.S. Army Military Research Collection (MHRC). By 1970, it had become the central historical repository for the entirety of the U.S. Army's collection.
As his career neared its end, Colonel Pappas returned to Fort Winfield Scott and retired from active military service in 1974. At his retirement ceremony, he was awarded the Legion of Merit by Lieutenant General E.B. Roberts, Commander of the 6th Army. In his newfound role as retiree, he founded the Presidio Press, a publishing house in San Rafael, California with an emphasis on military history. In addition, he edited scientific research papers for Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories for many years while he continued to author various books.
The majority of the Colonel Pappas collection resides at the Center of Military History, with artifacts from his career that are pertinent to the Preparatory School and the Presidio of San Francisco held by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. In addition to what is featured, his collection consists of items used in the early part of his career on post.
The entirety of Colonel Short's collection is a large photograph album with hundreds of images from his experiences at the West Point Preparatory School at Fort Winfield Scott and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Impeccable in its aesthetic and historic value, the album offers scenes from his life at school in the classroom, at his living quarters, and with classmates on post.The album also documents his interactions with San Francisco as a whole, showcasing familiar sights such as Alcatraz Island as well as more intimate moments relaxing with friends on local beaches.
For more information:
Colonel George S. Pappas
West Point Preparatory School
Last updated: February 28, 2015