One thing that President Donald Trump will be remembered for is bringing the greeting “Merry Christmas” back into popular use and challenging the false notion of the separation of church and state.
No president in my lifetime has done more to advance the cause of religious freedom than the current commander in chief.
Gen. George S. Patton clearly had no qualms about calling on his whole Third U.S. Army to pray just as it was about to enter into one of its most decisive and brutal battles of World War II in December 1944.
Patton helped lead the Allied breakout from Normandy in August of that year following the successful D-Day landings earlier in the summer.
By the end of September, Allied forces stood poised to enter Germany after liberating much of France.
However, what the Nazi forces could not do, the weather did, bringing the Allies nearly to a halt.
Europe’s unusually wet fall bogged down the Third Army and the rest of the Allied forces for the next two months, as they waited for the dirt roads to dry.
The situation became so frustrating to Patton that on another rainy day in early December, he asked the Third Army’s head chaplain, James O’Neill, for a weather prayer.
By O’Neill’s account, the general said the weather would need to change if they were going to win the war.
The Catholic priest drafted a prayer card and hand-delivered it to Patton, who read it and ordered, “Have 250,000 copies printed and see to it that every man in the Third Army gets one.”
General Patton, desiring good weather for his advance, had Chaplain Fr. James O’Neill compose a card to be distributed to each one of the 250,000 troops under his command, and had all of the men pray this prayer. #WW2 pic.twitter.com/L8lCG3vI0o
— WWII Pictures (@WWIIpix) December 22, 2020
The prayer card read: “Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have 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.”
On the back of the card was a Christmas greeting from the general, which stated, in part, “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 blessing rest upon each of you on this Christmas Day.”
Stop right there. Can you imagine if a general issued such prayer cards to his entire army today?
The woke, secular, anti-religious, leftist crowd would go nuts: “Separation of church and state! You can’t do that!”
There would be countless stories and social media posts about Patton trying to impose his religion, instead of his true intent — exhorting them to ask God’s assistance in confronting and destroying their enemy, and encouraging his troops to stand firm in the fight.
Patton, like Trump, often ran afoul of the media and the PC crowd. His focus was on winning and caring for his troops.
After the general issued his order to O’Neill, he asked how much praying the chaplain felt the soldiers were doing.
O’Neill answered that he did not think it was much. When there’s fighting, everybody prays, but “when things quiet, dangerously quiet, men just sit around and wait for things to happen,” he replied.
“Chaplain, I am a strong believer in prayer,” Patton responded. “God has His part or margin in everything. That’s where prayer comes in.”
“A good soldier is not made merely by making him think and work,” he contended. “There is something in every soldier that goes deeper than thinking or working — it’s his ‘guts.’ It is something that he has built in there: It is a world of truth and power that is higher than himself.”
“I don’t know what you call it, but I call religion, prayer or God,” Patton said.
The war leader referred to the account of Gideon in the Bible who, despite being greatly outnumbered, fought bravely and prevailed because the Lord was with him.
O’Neill’s prayer cards went out to the Third Army’s ranks just days before the outbreak of the Battle of the Bulge on Dec. 16.
The Nazis launched their last major offensive of the war in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest, creating a 50-by-30-mile-wide bulge in the Allied lines and entirely surrounding the 101st Airborne Division in Bastogne.
Prior to the German Ardennes offensive, Patton had his staff working on a contingency plan because he sensed their enemy might counterattack in the Bastogne region.
Patton amazed all in a meeting called by Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower to formulate a response to the German offensive by saying that the Third Army could counterattack with three divisions (approximately 45,000 men) in 72 hours in the Bastogne region.
His forces were currently 85 miles to the south, with a portion already engaging the enemy — and the muddy roads were now icy and snow-packed. Eisenhower gave the unrelenting Patton the green light to implement his plan.
On Dec. 26, a beautiful sight appeared on the outskirts of Bastogne: a Sherman tank bearing the American star. The advanced elements of Patton’s Third Army were on their way, carving a tenuous, narrow corridor to the 101st that would widen the next day.
December 26 1944 Battle of the #Bulge
Relief of #Bastogne #BoxingDay Major #Milestone in #WW2#101st #Airborne #McAuliffe and 10th #Armored Div relieved by 4th Armored, spearhead of #Patton #ThirdArmy #USArmy #Ardennes pic.twitter.com/z8jczToEoU
— John Robson (@Jaeger_9) December 26, 2017
The Third Army continued attacking the enemy throughout the sector. With the help of Allied units to the north, by the end of January it had completely pushed back the Bulge and continued into Germany.
Patton saw O’Neill during this time frame and said to him, “Well, Padre, our prayers worked. I knew they would.”
The general then cracked O’Neill on the side of his steel helmet with his riding crop, which the chaplain knew was his way of saying, “Well done.”
Patton would die just over six months after the end of World War II in a car crash in Germany in December 1945, 75 years ago. He is buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery alongside fellow U.S. soldiers he led.
75 years ago on December 21, 1945. General Patton dies at the age of 60 due to injuries from a car accident.
For Rev War buffs, George Washington is “The General”. For 20th century military buffs, George Patton is “The General”.
I visited his grave last year. pic.twitter.com/0xjIp6He49
— History Dame (@dame1776) December 21, 2020
Trump, of course, is known for being a little rough around the edges in a Patton-esque way, but appears to have a profound respect for the Almighty.
In a recent Christmas address from the White House, Trump offered several observations about the meaning of Jesus Christ’s life.
The president declared that Jesus is “God’s greatest gift,” the “Son of the Most High,” “our Lord and Savior,” and the redeemer of mankind.
At a campaign rally in October after recovering from COVID-19, the president called Jesus Christ the most famous person in the world, adding, “it’s not even close.”
.@realDonaldTrump just said “Jesus Christ” is the most famous person in the world and added “it’s not even close,” while at a rally in North Carolina.
— Evan Kilgore 🇺🇸 (@EvanAKilgore) October 15, 2020
As Patton’s soldiers prayed so many years ago, may God’s justice be established on earth.
Portions of this article first appeared in “We Hold These Truths” by Randall DeSoto.