Cliff Pratt was born in Juniata, Nebraska, on February 5, 1925; he was the only child of Ramon W. Pratt and Pearl L. Burling Pratt. He attended schools in Kenesaw, Wilsonville, and other small Nebraska towns; Cliff moved to Idaho just prior to his sophomore year in high school. His Dad was a school superintendent in Nebraska and moved the family to Idaho to find work during the later years of the Depression. He lived in the Idaho towns of Troy, Elk River, and Grangeville where his Dad was the head of public schools and he graduated from Grangeville, Idaho, High School in June of 1943.
He could not have known it at the time of his induction into the United States Army in June of 1943, but he was destined to become a U.S. Army combat veteran in World War II; he earned three battle stars as an enlisted man in the paratroops during WW II in Europe and also later rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force.
He was recruited out of Grangeville High School by Idaho Head Football Coach Francis Schmidt and was later offered a football scholarship to play in Moscow by then Head Coach Babe Brown; he also later played for Head Coach Dixie Howell. Unfortunately, the U.S. Army made him a better offer; in July 1943 he signed with the Army after high school graduation from Grangeville. After completing basic training in late 1943, he decided to volunteer for paratrooper training with the 82nd Airborne Division. Their nickname is "the All-Americans." He was not destined to be one in college football, but he was to be one in war time as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army.
He saw three battle actions as a combat infantry rifleman, earning three battle stars, and fought in three of the last major battles of the European Theatre during World War II; it was not an occupation designed to get you to retirement age. He rode a glider into combat at Operation Market-Garden, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and jumped at Operation Varsity with the 17th Airborne Division, the largest airborne operation in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces; he then returned and served with the 82nd Airborne Division as part of the occupation force in Berlin until late 1945.
Cliff graduated in 1949 with a degree in education from the University of Idaho. He then was called back in to the U. S. Army during the Korean War and assigned to the new branch of the service called the Air Force as a second lieutenant. He stayed in the U.S. Air Force as part of the buildup of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Vietnam War. He served for a total of 26 years in the military during a career that spanned three wars and achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel. He saw combat again when stationed on Guam as a member of a B-52 bomber wing during the early part of the Vietnam War.
Cliff then spent 22 years in a career as a secondary school principal in Nebraska and finally retired for good at age 65 in 1990 from the Papillion, Nebraska, Independent School System, finally putting his college education to good use. He also earned a master's degree in education from the University of Nebraska along the way.
He was one of only a very few remaining combat jump veterans from World War II.
He is survived by his wife, Ruth Ballou Pratt; three sons; two daughters-in-law; a sister-in-law; six grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Graveside service is 1 p.m. Thursday, September 5, at Juniata Cemetery in Juniata.