Monday, May 30, 2011

Pro Deo et Patria (cont.)

The card distributed to the US Third Army, Dec. 12 -14, 1944

In solemn observance of Memorial Day we present the last in a series of profiles of Catholics who served bravely in America's wars.   Today, we salute Monsignor James F. O'Neill, who served as  Chief Chaplain of the Third Army on the Staff of General Patton in World War II.   General Patton was a great believer in the power of prayer.  In December 1944, when faced with inclement weather which favored the German Wehrmacht and prevented the Allied air forces from flying, General Patton requested from Monsignor O'Neill a "weather prayer" to petition God for fair weather.  Monsignor O'Neill composed this 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.

General Patton ordered that the prayer be distributed to the 250,000 men of the Third Army.   Monsignor O'Neill suggested that following Christmas greeting from General Patton be typed on the reverse side of the prayer card: 

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.

General Patton added his signature to the Christmas greeting, and the card was distributed to the Third Army on December 12 -14, 1944.  On December 16, the Wehrmacht commenced a winter offensive which at first met with great success, due in part to the inclement weather.  On December 20, contrary to forecasts, the weather cleared and remained clear for more than a week.  Assisted by the Allied air forces, the Third Army succeeded in defeating the Wehrmacht's winter offensive in what became known as "The Battle of the Bulge."
Monsignor O'Neill retired from the Army as a Brigadier General.  Monsignor O'Neill's own account of these events here.

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