The weather prayer
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In early December 1944, Gen. George S. Patton Jr., commander of the United States' 3rd Army, stood with his troops at Germany's doorstep. He'd pushed his men across France toward Germany with furious speed during summer and early fall, but in the last months, as he drove through France's Lorraine region toward the Saar River, progress stalled. Fuel and supplies were running short, and perhaps even more deviling, the weather wouldn't cooperate. Driving rains had mired his troops and grounded the fighter planes and bombers needed for air support.His maternal grand father was more than just a "landowner." He owned among other things what is now Orange County which he planted with citrus and grapes. He also owned Catalina Island where Patton played with his future wife who was visiting from Boston where her father was a wealthy patent medicine maker.
On Dec. 8, Patton turned to a higher power to clear the skies. He asked Chaplain James H. O'Neill if he knew of a "good prayer for the weather," according to military historian and Patton expert Kevin M. Hymel. "We must do something about these rains," Patton said, "if we are to win the war."
After some thought and research, O'Neill came up with the following:
"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."
O'Neill typed the prayer onto an index card, and on the flip side typed a Christmas greeting from Patton. Patton ordered 250,000 copies of the card printed and distributed to every man in the 3rd Army.
The prayer also makes one question what led Patton to his conviction that he could control the weather? Some clues might be found in his privileged upbringing in what is now San Marino.
"As a child, if he asked for something, he got it," Hymel said. "Patton got the message early on, if you ask, you will receive."
Patton, born Nov. 11, 1885, and called "Georgie" as a child, was the cherished only son of George Smith Patton and Ruth Wilson. (The couple also had a daughter born two years later, Anne, who was called Anita or Nita.) Patton Sr., a prominent attorney and the first mayor of San Marino, had attended the Virginia Military Institute, which George Jr. attended for a year before transferring to West Point. George Sr.'s father had commanded a Confederate regiment during the Civil War and was killed in Winchester, Va. Wilson's father, Benjamin David Wilson — the namesake of Mt. Wilson — had been the mayor of Los Angeles, a state senator and a powerful landowner.
Patton's childhood was an idyllic one, full of hunting, fishing, riding ponies around his parents' ranch and swimming in Lake Vineyard, which is now San Marino's Lacy Park. He was raised on stories of heroism; at night his father read to him Shakespeare's plays, the Odyssey and the Iliad, Scottish legends, Civil War tales and Bible stories.
Little was denied Georgie. He had his own carpentry shop, a ping-pong table, horses, swords, an army of toy soldiers and a shotgun, Hymel said. Home-schooled until he was almost 12, he was spared from having to compete with his peers. And when he did start attending traditional school, it was rough going as Georgie had trouble reading and writing. Some historians suspect he had dyslexia.
Not only did Georgie possess the unconditional love of his parents, but that of his doting Aunt Nannie, who lived with the family. Her devotion to Patton was twofold: She loved her nephew but she was also "in love with his father," Hymel said. She was so enamored with George Sr. that she even tried to accompany him and her sister on their honeymoon. "Because she could not have George Sr., she devoted her life to George Jr., and praised anything the boy did," Hymel said.
She went on a hunger strike when her father refused permission for her to marry Patton who was deemed not "wealthy" enough to support her, because he had chosen a career in the Army. Her dad eventually gave in and set up a trust, so the couple would never be short of funds.
I think Patton besides suffering from dyslexia, also had ADHD. He could excel under the stress of combat, but tended to get into trouble when the battles were over.
Patton is alleged to have given a medal to the chaplain who wrote the weather prayer.