When it comes to the key factors attributed to the victory of the Allies during World War 11, several could be named, including leadership, military power, cooperation, and bravery, among others. But it is less known that FAITH assumed a vital role in a critical battle in the history of the world.
The story below would bring revelation to many people, especially as now we are experiencing an unprecedented hard time amid the global spread of the CCP Virus (Wuhan pneumonia), with many countries hard struck. It is based on the accounts of chief chaplain James Hugh O’Neill of the Third Army.
During World War II, Chaplain James Hugh O’Neill joined the US military and served as a chaplain from 1926 to 1952. He served in the Third Army led by General George Smith Patton on the battlefields of Europe, along with the Allies against the Nazis.
On October 6, 1971, Chaplain O’Neill recorded the true story of the Patton Prayer in a book named ‘Review of the News’. As an on-site witness, he claimed he can recall this period of time more accurately than anyone. According to Chaplain O’Neill, General Patton was a talented commander and an outstanding military leader but also a patriot and a man of faith. He sincerely believed in God in every single moment. Even when the conditions turned unfavorable, Patton could still remain calm. No matter what he would pray to God, to seek the strength from God to win over evil, and restore peace.
German forces gain ascendency as Allied forces bogged down
It all happened in December 1944, during the well-known Battle of Ardennes. About 200,000 German troops gathered in the Forest of Ardennes, Belgium, poised to attack the Allies in the move considered to be Hitler’s last major offensive campaign on the western front. In the early days of the campaign, German armored forces had gained the upper hand, claiming several battlefield victories, and kept moving forward.
Persistent rain and snow halted the progress of the United States Airborne Division 101 and thousands of aircraft were grounded. Such a dire situation had already disheartened the whole US Army. One day, Chaplain O’Neill received a phone call, “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. Facing this rain, if we want to win, we need to do something.”
An hour later, Chaplain O’Neill managed to come up with a relevant prayer ritual, which was not available in any prayer books at hand. He typed it on a card and gave it to General Patton. On the card he wrote:
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.”
Given General Patton’s usual consideration for the soldiers and the soon coming Christmas, O’ Neill added a Christmas wish on the back of the prayer card on General Patton’s behalf: “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.”
Plugging into the source
To his surprise, Patton insisted on attaching a Training Letter highlighting the importance of prayer, underlining its power to the card. He visualized the power of prayer as “plugging in on a current whose source is in Heaven,”
The Letter commenced with the expression of gratitude to God for all the blessings and support bestowed on the Third Army, citing that God had spared them from pestilence and famine, reinforced their leadership, and strengthened them to win over the German Army. It further urged everyone in the Army to ignore all kinds of rituals and procedures and to practice prayers as much as possible.
It read, “Urge all of your men to pray, not alone in church, but everywhere. Pray when driving. Pray when fighting. Pray alone. Pray with others. Pray by night and pray by day. Pray for the cessation of immoderate rains, for good weather for Battle. Pray for the defeat of our wicked enemy whose banner is injustice and whose good is oppression. Pray for victory. Pray for our Army, and Pray for Peace.” “We must march together, all out for God. The soldier who ‘cracks up’ does not need sympathy or comfort as much as he needs strength. We are not trying to make the best of these days. It is our job to make the most of them. Now is not the time to follow God from ‘afar off.’ This Army needs the assurance and the faith that God is with us. With prayer, we cannot fail.”
The power of prayer
250,000 copies of the prayer card and training letter on prayer were speedily printed and sent to all officers and troops. Chaplain O’Neill recalled that on Monday, Dec. 16, 1944, after all the troops began to pray, the Allies could break through the siege. By Friday, Dec. 20, “The Lord responded to our prayers.” The weather gradually cleared, enabling the Third Army to move forward to Bastogne to rescue the besieged Division 101. Hundreds of thousands of US fighter planes subsequently bombarded the Germans, paving the way for the Third Army to achieve a resounding victory in the Battle of the Bulge.
According to Chaplain O’Neill, from December 8 when General Patton called on soldiers to pray until the 20th when the army made a decisive breakthrough, everything happened in less than two weeks.
Chaplain O’Neill also recalled General Patton’s words: “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. …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.”
Patton wrote in his book ‘The Battle Memoirs’ that the Battle of the Bulge was “the most brilliant operation we have thus far performed.” Such a reputable general with glorious victories, who terrified the enemy always maintained his righteousness and bowed to faith. He never took all the credits. He said, “God helped me and He saw me fulfilling my mission…I myself was only an unimportant and insignificant individual.”
Core American value
A belief in God is one of the core American values, it was laid as a foundation for the country in its conception and has been one of the core values of the people since the founding of the United States. Its importance has been once again highlighted with the designated National Day of Prayer under the Trump administration. Amid the fight against the deadly coronavirus, President Trump truly echoed the late general’s calling when he encouraged Americans to “turn toward prayer in an act of faith.