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Patton’s Weather Prayer

 

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.”

 

 

Well, we had the first snow that stuck in Central Illinois this winter last Sunday.  Temperatures are quite brisk.  Time for my annual look at General Patton’s famous weather prayer!

 

The famous “weather prayer” of General Patton was written by a Catholic Chaplain, Colonel James H. O’Neill.  Continue Reading

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May 14, 1916: Patton Shootout

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The Punitive Expedition had been an exercise in frustration for General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing.  Pancho Villa, predictably, had eluded the Americans, refusing to stand and fight.  Thirty year old Second Lieutenant George S. Patton had been an aide to Pershing.  Requesting a chance to command troops, he was assigned by Pershing to Troop C of the 13th Cavalry.  In that capacity Patton took part in efforts to locate Captain Julio Cardenas, commander of the elite bodyguard of Villa, the Dorados, “Golden Ones”.

On May 14, 1916 Patton was on a mission to buy corn, his force consisting of a corporal, six privates and a civilian interpreter, all in three Dodge touring cars.  Learning from locals that Cardenas might be present at a ranch, which Patton had searched the previous week, near the town of Rubio, Patton decided to investigate.  Leaving two cars to block the southwest exit from the ranch, Patton, a driver, the civilian interpreter and a private took the remaining car to the northwest exit.  Patton advanced on the ranch with the civilian interpreter.  He spotted  an old man and a boy butchering a steer near a fence.  Suddenly three horsemen charged out from the ranch.

Initially they rode to the southwest.  Encountering Patton’s soldiers they then charged to the northwest, estimating presumably that the odds were in their favor against the lone American officer.

The Mexicans opened up at 20 yards.  Ignoring their fire, Patton coolly aimed his Colt single action pistol at the lead rider, knocking him off his horse.  Patton fired at the two remaining riders as they rode past him.  He then ducked around a corner of the ranch house and reloaded. Patton brought down the second horseman.  Patton waited while the bandit freed himself from his dead horse, Patton only shooting him when the Mexican attempted to fire rather than surrender.  The third bandit was brought down in a hail of fire from Patton and two of his soldiers who were now joining the fight.

The first bandit Patton had shot, got to his feet, made the mistake of going for his pistol, and was quickly brought down by the Americans.

The first bandit was identified as Captain Julio Cardenas, the second as Juan Garza and the third was never identified. Continue Reading

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December 23, 1945: Funeral of General Patton

And I see not in my blindness
What the objects were I wrought,
But as God rules o’er our bickerings
It was through His will I fought.

George S. Patton, Jr.

 

 

 

Fate denied General Patton the death he deserved:  in battle, at the head of his men.  His death was much more prosaic, the result of an automobile collision on December 8, 1945 caused by drunk joyriding GIs.  He spent most of the next 13 days in traction, paralyzed from the neck down.  His verdict on his situation was succinct and characteristically blunt:  “This is a hell of a way to die.”  He died on December 21, 1945 in his sleep.  It is perhaps superfluous to note that Patton met death with calm courage.  At West Point as a cadet he had already discerned the essential reality of death:  “What then of death?  Is not the taps of death but the first call to the reveille of eternal life?”  Per his request he was buried with other Third Army dead in the Luxembourg American Cemetery, the simple white cross above his grave precisely the same that marked the graves of the Christian GIs who had fallen in what Eisenhower had aptly called the Great Crusade. Continue Reading

Patton’s Weather Prayer

 

 

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.”

The famous “weather prayer” of General Patton was written by a Catholic Chaplain, Colonel James H. O’Neill.  Here is his article on the incident written in 1950.

Patton was an interesting mixture of contradictions in his spiritual life.  Foul mouthed even by the standards of an army known for profanity, and much too fond of war for a Christian, he also read the Bible and prayed each day.  A firm Episcopalian, yet he also firmly believed in reincarnation.    While in command in Sicily he began attending mass, initially largely for political reasons to build a bridge to the Catholic population, but then found that he enjoyed worshipping at mass.  He believed firmly in God and did not think that He stood aloof when men were fighting against one of the most evil regimes ever devised by Fallen Man. Continue Reading

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Christmas 1944: Battle of the Bulge

In 1944, seventy years ago, at Christmas the American and German armies were fighting it out in the Battle of the Bulge, the last German offensive of the War.

Patton’s Third Army fought its way through to relieve the Americans desperately fighting to defeat the attacking German forces.  The weather was atrocious and Allied air power was useless.  Patton had a prayer written for good weather.  Patton prayed the prayer, the scene from the movie Patton depicting this may be viewed below.

 

The skies cleared after Patton prayed the weather prayer, and a personal prayer he said on December 23, 1944, and Allied air power was unleashed on the attacking Germans.

During the Battle of the Bulge, the 101rst Airborne Division made a heroic stand at Bastogne from December 20-27 which helped turn the tide of the battle.  On December 25, a packed midnight mass was held in Bastogne, with Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, who commanded the 101rst troops at Bastogne, in attendance.  Afterwards the General listened to German POWS singing Silent Night, and wished them a Merry Christmas.

General McAuliffe issued a memorable Christmas message to his troops: Continue Reading

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Patton on Prayer

 

 

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.”

 

The famous “weather prayer” of General Patton was written by a Catholic Chaplain, Colonel James H. O’Neill, Chief Chaplain of the Third Army.   Here is his article on the incident written in 1950.

The incident of the now famous Patton Prayer commenced with a telephone call to the Third Army Chaplain on the morning of December 8, 1944, when the Third Army Headquarters were located in the Caserne Molifor in Nancy, France: “This is General Patton; do you have a good prayer for weather? We must do something about those rains if we are to win the war.” My reply was that I know where to look for such a prayer, that I would locate, and report within the hour. As I hung up the telephone receiver, about eleven in the morning, I looked out on the steadily falling rain, “immoderate” I would call it — the same rain that had plagued Patton’s Army throughout the Moselle and Saar Campaigns from September until now, December 8. The few prayer books at hand contained no formal prayer on weather that might prove acceptable to the Army Commander. Keeping his immediate objective in mind, I typed an original and an improved copy on a 5″ x 3″ filing card:

Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.

I pondered the question, What use would General Patton make of the prayer? Surely not for private devotion. If he intended it for circulation to chaplains or others, with Christmas not far removed, it might he proper to type the Army Commander’s Christmas Greetings on the reverse side. This would please the recipient, and anything that pleased the men I knew would please him:

To each officer and soldier in the Third United States Army, I Wish a Merry Christmas. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We march in our might to complete victory. May God’s blessings rest upon each of you on this Christmas Day. G.S. Patton, Jr, Lieutenant General, Commanding, Third United States Army.

This done, I donned my heavy trench coat, crossed the quadrangle of the old French military barracks, and reported to General Patton. He read the prayer copy, returned it to me with a very casual directive, “Have 250,000 copies printed and see to it that every man in the Third Army gets one.” The size of the order amazed me; this was certainly doing something about the weather in a big way. But I said nothing but the usual, “Very well, Sir!” Recovering, I invited his attention to the reverse side containing the Christmas Greeting, with his name and rank typed. “Very good,” he said, with a smile of approval. “If the General would sign the card, it would add a personal touch that I am sure the men would like.” He took his place at his desk, signed the card, returned it to me and then Said: “Chaplain, sit down for a moment; I want to talk to you about this business of prayer.” He rubbed his face in his hands, was silent for a moment, then rose and walked over to the high window, and stood there with his back toward me as he looked out on the falling rain. As usual, he was dressed stunningly, and his six-foot-two powerfully built physique made an unforgettable silhouette against the great window. The General Patton I saw there was the Army Commander to whom the welfare of the men under him was a matter of Personal responsibility . Even in the heat of combat he could take time out to direct new methods to prevent trench feet, to see to it that dry socks went forward daily with the rations to troops on the line, to kneel in the mud administering morphine and caring for a wounded soldier until the ambulance Came. What was coming now?

“Chaplain, how much praying is being done in the Third Army?” was his question. I parried: “Does the General mean by chaplains, or by the men?” “By everybody,” he replied. To this I countered: “I am afraid to admit it, but I do not believe that much praying is going on. When there Is fighting, everyone prays, but now with this constant rain — when things are quiet, dangerously quiet, men just sit and wait for things to happen. Prayer out here is difficult. Both chaplains and men are removed from a special building with a steeple. Prayer to most of them is a formal, ritualized affair, involving special posture and a liturgical setting. I do not believe that much praying is being done.” Continue Reading

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Patton’s Prayer

There’s absolutely no reason for us to assume the Germans are mounting a major offensive. The weather is awful, Their supplies are low, and the German army hasn’t mounted a winter offensive since the time of Frederick the Great — therefore I believe that’s exactly what they’re going to do.

George C. Scott as Patton, as he guesses what the Germans are up to at the start of the Battle of the Bulge-Patton (1970)

Seventy years ago on December 16, 1944 the largest battle in American history, the Battle of the Bulge, began.  The last desperate throw of the dice by Hitler to try to snatch victory from obvious defeat, the battle would involve some 600,000 American troops and 125,000 Allied troops.  19000 Americans were killed, and 23,000 missing or captured, to some 67,000-100,000 killed, missing and wounded among the Germans.  Fighting raged until January 25, 1945 with the German counterattack decisively defeated.

The Germans relied on bad weather to neutralize Allied air power, and it did for a time, until enough fair weather broke to allow Allied bombers to aid General Patton and his Third Army in their drive to relieve the courageous men of the 101rst Airborne in their epic stand at Bastogne, the turning point of the battle.

Here is the prayer said by Patton, on his knees, at a chapel in Luxembourg City on December 23, 1944.  It is a rough soldier’s prayer and some may find it offensive.  Indeed, I would have phrased the prayer quite differently myself.  However, Patton believed with all his being in God, and when Patton requested His aid, he was never shy about stating to the Almighty precisely what was on his mind:

 

 

Sir, this is Patton speaking. The last fourteen days have been straight from hell. Rain, snow, more rain, more snow – and I’m beginning to wonder what’s going on in Your headquarters.  Whose side are You on, anyway?     

For three years my chaplains have been explaining that this is a religious war.  This, they tell me, is the Crusades all over again, except that we’re riding tanks instead of chargers.  They insist we are here to annihilate the German Army and the godless Hitler so that religious freedom may return to Europe. Up until now I’ve gone along with them, too.  You have given us Your unreserved cooperation.  Clear skies and a calm sea in Africa made the landings highly successful and helped us to eliminate Rommel.  Sicily was comparatively easy and You supplied excellent weather tor our armored dash across France, the greatest military victory that You have thus far allowed me.      Continue Reading

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Patton Unleashed

Today seventy years ago Operation Cobra began, the breakout of First United States Army from the Normandy Peninsula.  By the end of July the First Army had shattered the German forces before them and broken out of Normandy.  The stage was set for Patton and his Third Army, which became operational on August 1, 1944.  My favorite living historian Victor Davis Hanson describes the military masterpiece that followed:

When Patton’s Third Army finally became operational seven weeks after D-Day, it was supposed to play only a secondary role — guarding the southern flank of the armies of General Bradley and British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery while securing the Atlantic ports.

Despite having the longest route to the German border, Patton headed east. The Third Army took off in a type of American blitzkrieg not seen since Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s rapid marches through Georgia and the Carolinas during the Civil War.

Throughout August 1944, Patton won back over the press. He was foul-mouthed, loud, and uncouth, and he led from the front in flamboyant style with a polished helmet and ivory-handled pistols.

In fact, his theatrics masked a deeply learned and analytical military mind. Patton sought to avoid casualties by encircling German armies. In innovative fashion, he partnered with American tactical air forces to cover his flanks as his armored columns raced around static German formations.

Naturally rambunctious American GIs fought best, Patton insisted, when “rolling” forward, especially in summertime. Only then, for a brief moment, might the clear skies facilitate overwhelming American air support. In August his soldiers could camp outside, while his speeding tanks still had dry roads.

In just 30 days, Patton finished his sweep across France and neared Germany. The Third Army had exhausted its fuel supplies and ground to a halt near the border in early September.

Allied supplies had been redirected northward for the normally cautious General Montgomery’s reckless Market Garden gambit. That proved a harebrained scheme to leapfrog over the bridges of the Rhine River; it devoured Allied blood and treasure, and accomplished almost nothing in return.

Meanwhile, the cutoff of Patton’s supplies would prove disastrous. Scattered and fleeing German forces regrouped. Their resistance stiffened as the weather grew worse and as shortened supply lines began to favor the defense.

Historians still argue over Patton’s August miracle. Could a racing Third Army really have burst into Germany so far ahead of Allied lines? Could the Allies ever have adequately supplied Patton’s charging columns given the growing distance from the Normandy ports? How could a supreme commander like Eisenhower handle Patton, who at any given moment could — and would — let loose with politically incorrect bombast?

We do not know the answers to all those questions. Nor will we ever quite know the full price that America paid for having a profane Patton stewing in exile for nearly a year rather than exercising his leadership in Italy or Normandy. Continue Reading

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Patton’s Granddaughter Is A Benedictine Nun

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Chaplain, I am a strong believer in Prayer. There are three ways that men get what they want; by planning, by working, and by Praying. Any great military operation takes careful planning, or thinking. Then you must have well-trained troops to carry it out: that’s working. But between the plan and the operation there is always an unknown. That unknown spells defeat or victory, success or failure. It is the reaction of the actors to the ordeal when it actually comes. Some people call that getting the breaks; I call it God. God has His part, or margin in everything, That’s where prayer comes in. Up to now, in the Third Army, God has been very good to us. We have never retreated; we have suffered no defeats, no famine, no epidemics. This is because a lot of people back home are praying for us. We were lucky in Africa, in Sicily, and in Italy. Simply because people prayed. But we have to pray for ourselves, too. A good soldier is not made merely by making him think and work. There is something in every soldier that goes deeper than thinking or working–it’s his “guts.” It is something that he has built in there: it is a world of truth and power that is higher than himself. Great living is not all output of thought and work. A man has to have intake as well. I don’t know what you it, but I call it Religion, Prayer, or God.

General George S. Patton, Jr to Monsignor James H. O’Neil, Chief Chaplain, Third Army

 

I am sure old Blood and Guts would have had something to say about this, both colorful and devout:

Mother Margaret Georgina Patton first came to the Abbey in the early 1970’s while a freshman at Bennington College amidst the social turmoil surrounding the Vietnam War. She was personally implicated in the conflict through her father George S. Patton’s distinguished service during three tours of duty, one as colonel, commanding the 11th Blackhorse Armored Cavalry Regiment. In conversations with our Foundress Lady Abbess Benedict, she discovered that her grandfather General George S. Patton Jr. and the American 3rd Army had liberated the Abbey of Notre Dame de Jouarre from Nazi occupation during World War II. Mother Benedict, an American who had entered Jouarre in 1936, had the inspiration to found a monastery in the United States in response to what she described as the “lifting of oppression” by the American soldiers on the day Jouarre was liberated. As Mother Margaret Georgina became drawn to monastic life at Regina Laudis she could begin to claim the rich genealogy of her military family. She completed her B.A. in English at Dartmouth College in 1976, and entered Regina Laudis in 1982 . Continue Reading

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First US Army Group

“There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years from now when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you WON’T have to cough, shift him to the other knee and say, “Well, your Granddaddy shoveled sh-t in Louisiana.” No, Sir, you can look him straight in the eye and say, “Son, your Granddaddy rode with the Great Third Army and a Son-of-a-G-dd—ed-B—h named Georgie Patton!”

General George S. Patton, Jr., June 5, 1944

 

General George S. Patton, Jr., not only had high military skills, he was also a skilled actor, using that skill to inspire his troops and sometimes to terrify his immediate subordinates.  After Patton was placed in the dog house due to the slapping of a private on Sicily, Army Chief of Staff George Marshall came up with the idea of using Patton as a decoy:  Marshall wrote to Eisenhower on October 21, 1943: “It seems evident to us that Patton’s movements are of great importance to German reactions and therefore should be carefully considered. I had thought and spoke to [Eisenhower’s chief of staff, Walter Bedell] Smith about Patton being given a trip to Cairo and Cyprus but the Corsican visit appeals to me as carrying much more of a threat [to northern Italy].” Eisenhower responded, “As it is I am quite sure that we must do everything possible to keep [the Germans] confused and the point you have suggested concerning Patton’s movements appeals to me as having a great deal of merit. This possibility had not previously occurred to me.”

Ironically, although the Germans after his dash across France at the head of Third Army would regard Patton as one of ablest Allied generals, prior to that time his name figures little in German intelligence reports, while constant attention was paid to the movements of Montgomery.  The plan to use Patton as a decoy was therefore based on a faulty premise, but of course Eisenhower and Marshall were completely unaware of that. Continue Reading