Catholic chaplain James Hugh O’Neill composed the “Weather Prayer” for General Patton to advance to victory during the Battle of the Bulge.
“Anyone in any walk of life who is content with mediocrity is untrue to himself and to American tradition.” – General George S. Patton
Eight days before the German surprise attack that opened the Battle of the Bulge on December 16th, General Patton called the Catholic chaplain on his staff, James Hugh O’Neill, and asked him: “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.”
O’Neill replied that he would “know where to look for such a prayer” and “would locate, and report within the hour.” Looking through his prayer books, he found none for fair weather that would be fit for the Army commander. He instead composed his own prayer and added a Christmas greeting from Patton to it.
“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.”
He returned to General Patton and presented the prayer card to him, who replied: “have 250,000 copies printed and see to it that every man in the Third Army gets one.” Patton also asked O’Neill to instruct the other chaplains and men in the ranks on the importance of prayer.
“We’ve got to get not only the chaplains but every man in the Third Army to pray. We must ask God to stop these rains. These rains are that margin that hold defeat or victory. If we all pray, it will be like what Dr. Carrel said [prayer is “one of the most powerful forms of energy man can generate”], it will be like plugging in on a current whose source is in Heaven. I believe that prayer completes that circuit. It is power.”
Army engineers worked day and night to reproduce 250,000 copies of the prayer card, which reached all troops less than a week later by the end of December 14th. Two days later on the 16th, Germans launched a surprise attack in the midst of heavy rains, thick fog, and “swirling ground mists that muffled sound, blotted out the sun, and reduced visibility to a few yards.”
Four days after the German surprise attack, and to the surprise of weather forecasters, the collective prayer of all the soldiers in the Third Army was answered. The rains stopped, the fog ceased, and Patton was able to advance to win the Battle of the Bulge.
“For the better part of a week came bright clear skies and perfect flying weather. Our planes came over by tens, hundreds, and thousands. They knocked out hundreds of tanks, killed thousands of enemy troops in the Bastogne salient, and harried the enemy as he valiantly tried to bring up reinforcements. General Patton prayed for fair weather for Battle. He got it.”
After the Allied victory at the Battle of the Bulge, O’Neill saw Patton again in late January of 1945, who congratulated him on the prayer he composed.
“He stood directly in front of me, smiled: ‘Well, Padre, our prayers worked. I knew they would.’ Then he cracked me on the side of my steel helmet with his riding crop. That was his way of saying, ‘Well done.'”
The Patton 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. Amen.”
Read Chaplain O’Neills account of the story written himself here.