Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dec. 12 -26 1944, A Christmas Story: Patton's weather prayer and the relief of Bastonge

From Ladislas Farago's Patton: Ordeal and Triumph

"Chaplain," Patton told O'Neil, "I want you to pray for dry weather. I'm sick and tired of these soldiers having to fight mud and floods as well as the Germans. See if you can't get God to work on our side."

"Sir," the Chaplain replied, 'it's going to take a pretty thick rug for that kind of praying."

"I don't care if it takes a flying carpet," Patton said. "I want you to get up a prayer for good weather."

"Yes sir," Chaplain O'Neil said. "But, permit me to say, General, that it isn't the customary thing among men of my profession to pray for clear weather to kill our fellow men."

"Chaplain," Patton began to fume, "are you teaching me theology or are you the Chaplain of the Third Army? I want a prayer."

"Yes sir," Colonel O'Neil said. When he was outside he asked Harkins, "What do you think the Old Man wants?"

"The General wants a prayer," Harkins said crisply, because, as he put it, this whole transaction was perfectly clear to him. "He wants it right now, and he wants it published to the Command."

...The Lord was in no special hurry to answer the prayer. It was only on December
23rd that He and His inscrutable wisdom deemed it the right time to stop the rains and clear the weather. The timing was superb, because, as we shall see, Patton by then needed clear skies..

For, by then, Patton had been assigned a different task. He needed those clear skies to relieve the 101st Airborne, stubbornly holding on in Bastogne against heavy German attack..

"For the first time in weeks, the weather was actually fine. The clear skies were promptly filled with Allied aircraft - 7 groups of fighter-bombers, 11 groups of medium bombers, a division of the 8th Air Force, and a smattering of RAF planes.

Patton was jubilant. He called Colonel Harkins to his office at Luxembourg and received his Deputy Chief of Staff wearing a smile from ear to ear. "Goddamnit, Harkins," he exclaimed, "look at the weather! That O'Neil sure did some potent praying. Get him up here. I want to pin a medal on him."

Chaplain O'Neil was still in Nancy, but now he was rushed to Luxembourg on Patton's orders. The weather was still fine the next day when he walked into the General's office. Patton jumped to his feet and approached the embarrassed Colonel with hand outstretched. "Chaplain," he greeted him, "you're the most popular man in this Headquarters. You sure stand in good with the Lord and soldiers." Then he pinned the Bronze Star Medal on his chest.

"Everyone offered congratulations and thanks." Harkins recalled, "and we got back to the business of killing Germans."

And the famous 1970 film version of the prayer itself, as read by George C. Scott, accompanied by the incomparable Jerry Goldsmith's haunting score:

Sorry, that's the only version available on YouTube

Winston Churchill Christmas greeting to America - 1941

Winston Churchill speaks on Christmas Eve, from the White House, 1941 Click to listen, right click to download.

SOP for Visit of General Santa, from Colonel Kringle's desk.

Army Christmas Operations Order: 12-02-11

Subject: Christmas

1. An official visit by General Santa (NMI) Claus is expected at this headquarters 25 December 2011. The following instructions will be in effect and govern the activities of all personnel during the visit.

a. Not a creature will stir without official permission. This will include indigenous rodents. Special stirring permits for necessary administrative actions will be obtained through normal channels. Rodents stirring permits will be obtained through the Office of the Surgeon General, Veterinary Services.

b. Personnel will settle their brains for a long winter nap prior to 2200 hours, 24 December 2011. Uniform for the nap will be: Pajamas, cotton, light, drowsing, with kerchief, general purpose, camouflage; and Cap, camouflage w/ear flaps. Equipment will be drawn from CIF prior to 1900 hours, 24 December 2011.

c. Personnel will utilize standard field ration sugar plums for visions to dance through their heads. Artificially sweetened plums are authorized for those in their unit weight control program. Specifications for this item will be provided by the servicing dining facility.

d. Stockings, wool, cushion sole, will be hung by the chimney with care. Necessary safety precautions will be taken to avoid fire hazards caused by carelessly hung stockings. Unit Safety Officers will submit stocking hanging plans to this headquarters prior to 0800 hours, 20 December 2011, ATTN: G4, for approval.

e. At the first sign of clatter from the lawn, all troops will spring from their beds to evaluate noise and cause. Immediate action will be taken to tear open the shutters and throw open the window sashes. G4 Plan (Saint Nick), Reference LO No. 3, paragraph 6c, this headquarters, 2 February 2009, will be in effect to facilitate shutter tearing and sash throwing. Division chiefs will familiarize all personnel with procedures and are responsible for ensuring that no shutters are torn open or window sashes thrown open prior to start of official clatter.

f. Prior to 2400 hrs, 24 December 2011, all personnel will be assigned "Wondering Eye" stations (sectors of observation). After shutters are thrown open and sashes are torn, these stations will be manned. g. The G4 will assign one each Sleigh, miniature, M-66, and eight (8) deer, rein, tiny, for use of General Claus' driver who, IAW current directives and other applicable regulations, must have a valid SF 56 properly annotated by Driver Testing; be authorized rooftop parking and be able to shout "On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen, up Comet, up Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen".

2. General Claus will enter quarters through standard chimneys. All units without chimneys will draw Chimney Simulator, M-6, for use during ceremonies. Chimney simulator units will be requested on Engineer Job Order Request Form submitted to the Furniture Warehouse prior to 19 December 2011, and issued on DA Form 3161, Request for Issue or Turn-in.

3. Personnel will be rehearsed on shouting "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night." This shout will be given on termination ofGeneral Claus' visit. Uniformity of shouting is the responsibility ofdivision chiefs.

Colonel, USAOIC,
Special ServicesClassification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

From Arghhh!