Until the movie “Patton” came out in 1970, my husband refused to tell anyone his full name – unless it was absolutely necessary. His grandmother named her first grandson for General George S. Patton, Jr. who she credited for bringing her son home safe. But her grandson was never called George. Instead his middle name was shortened to “Pat.” And that’s the only name most people knew. All that changed when he saw the movie about his namesake. George C. Scott’s portrayal of the famous General George S. Patton, Jr. gave my husband a vivid image of the man whose name he shared. Now my husband proudly tells his full name and the story of how he came to be named for the General.
The movie was also the first we had heard of the famous prayer for good weather that General Patton ordered his chaplain to write. We thought it was a bit of Hollywood embellishment until later when my husband’s grandmother gave us the scrapbook she kept during the war. A little piece of paper was tucked in among the newspaper clippings, maps and ration books. Her son had mailed his copy of the prayer to her and she had kept it all those years.
From my research on the web, Hollywood did use some literary license in how they presented the prayer in the movie. It was actually written before the Battle of the Bulge, not during the battle, and it was sent out to the men in Third Army as a Christmas greeting. Msgr. James H. O’Neill was Chaplain for Third Army and wrote the prayer at the direction of General Patton. The prayer, images of the card sent out and the story behind it can be found at more than one website, including the Official General Patton website.
As the prayer indicates, the weather was an important factor in the outcome of the war in Europe. Bad weather almost cancelled the D-Day invasion and added to the surprise of the Germans. Later a storm in the English Channel destroyed the Mulberry Harbour off Omaha Beach, yet the Allies continued to land men and supplies on the beaches for months after the initial landings. Rain stalled the Allies advance in the fall when they initially reached the German border. Rain and snow hid the build-up of German troops leading up to their counter-offensive known as the Battle of the Bulge. The winter of 1944-45 in Europe was colder than they had experienced for many years. Casualties from frostbite and trench foot were common. The ordeal that all the men in all the armies suffered that winter from exposure to the terrible weather added to the misery and desperation of the fighting and prolonged the war. For the remainder of his life, my father-in-law kept the heat turned up and said he had promised himself he would never be cold again. It is hard for us to even imagine what they went through.
My husband and I treasure his father’s copy of the prayer as a keepsake of his father’s service during World War II. It is a powerful prayer written in desperate times reflecting strong religious beliefs. I, for one, believe it was answered.