When President-elect Donald Trump announced Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis as his pick for the secretary of defense, he told a crowd in Cincinnati, “They say that he is the closest thing to Gen. George Patton that we have,” according to RealClearPolitics.
That was no small statement. Gen. George Patton looms large over American political history, especially after George C. Scott’s masterful screen performance as the World War II general. Few scenes in American cinematic history are as iconic as Scott, in character, pacing before the American flag and delivering a speech to his men.
And yet, for all of Hollywood’s hero-making, the real man was even more of a legend — and this Christmas card proves just that.
During the holiday season of 1944, Gen. Patton’s Third Army was bogged down in their advance against the Germans. According to WND, Patton was bogged down as he was trying to reach Bastogne, a town in southern Belgium that held by 15,000 American troops but encircled by over 50,000 Nazi soldiers bearing down on it.
Unfortunately, due to the weather, Gen. Patton didn’t have the air cover he needed to relieve the 15,000 brave American troops holding off the Germans.
That’s when he decided to rely on the power of prayer.
Patton had Chaplain Fr. James O’Neill compose a card to be distributed to each one of the 250,000 troops under his command in the Third Army, and had all of the men pray this simple 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,” it read. “Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call 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.”
On the reverse side, Patton wrote, “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., Lt. Gen. Commanding, Third United States Army.”
And it worked. The next day, the weather cleared, Patton’s Third Army made its way into Bastogne to relieve the 101st Airborne, stymie the Nazis, and … well, you know the rest.
If that isn’t a Christmas card to end all Christmas cards, I don’t know what is. Manliness exemplified, indeed.
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