Many know the story of General Patton’s prayer for better weather in order to more efficiently kill the Germans in the winter of 1944. Few know of his Christmas Greeting that was issued along with the prayer, which he describes in War as I Knew It.
Contrary to popular belief, the prayer was not ordered to be written during the Battle of the Bulge. It was on the 14th of December that General Patton had the famous exchange with Chaplain O’Neill to write a prayer for good weather and to give a copy to each member of the Third Army. The Chaplain mentioned that it’s not a customary practice to pray for clear weather in order to kill fellow men.
Patton’s response was direct, “Chaplain, are you teaching me theology or are you the Chaplain of the Third Army? I want a prayer.”
After working out the logistics, each member of the Third Army (approximately 250,000 at the time) was issued a small card on the 22nd of December, 1944. By this time, the Battle of the Bulge was underway.
On one side of the card was the famous 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.
When Patton originally ordered the cards made, some of the General’s men convinced him to include a Christmas greeting for the troops. It was at this time Patton took a seat at his desk beneath the contemporary ceiling fans and penned something special. On the reverse side, the card had a personal message from the General:
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. May God’s blessing rest upon each of you on this Christmas Day.G. S. Patton, Jr.
Commanding, Third United States Army
The next day, the weather cleared and remained perfect for about six days while the Third Army pushed North to relieve the 101st Airborne at Bastogne.
Upon reviewing the weather, Patton said of the Chaplain, “God damn! Look at the weather. That O’Neill sure did some potent praying. Get him up here. I want to pin a medal on him.”
The next day, the Chaplain made it to Patton’s office. He shook the Chaplain’s hand and said, “Chaplain, you’re the most popular man in this Headquarters. You sure stand in good with the Lord and the soldiers.” Chaplain O’Neill then received a Bronze Star Medal.
On Christmas Day, Patton wrote in his journal that the day “dawned clear and cold; lovely weather for killing Germans, although the thought seemed somewhat at variance with the spirit of the day.” Patton went on to write how they managed to provide every soldier with turkey. Those in the front had turkey sandwiches while everyone else had hot turkey.