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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Patton: Blood, Guts, and Prayer

A new biography of General George S. Patton, one of America's greatest military leaders, reveals a side of him that few people know. He was a devoutly religious man who undertook very little without prayer. Known as "Blood and Guts" Patton, he was known for his speeches punctuated with profanity and violent exhortations, but he also wrote poetry and recognized that all men are afraid on the battlefield. This new biography is not a history of Patton's military feats, but concentrates on the character of the man.

Patton was born into a family of military veterans with southern roots. He was educated at home for his first 12 years. His first readers were the Bible and Pilgrims Progress. When a young kid, he thought the pictures on his walls were portraits of God and Jesus, but he later learned they were Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Patton suffered from dyslexia, and it was sheer determination that got him through his early education, and accepted to Virginia Military Institute and later to West Point.

Patton's outward brashness belied his humility when seeking guidance through prayer. His diaries, letters, speeches and personal papers reveal a man who continually turned to God for guidance and to give thanks. He wrote, "No one can live under the awful responsibility that I have without Divine help."

On one occasion in 1944, clear weather was needed before a battle could begin. Patton instructed his chaplain to come up with a "Fair Weather for Battle Prayer" that was then distributed on 250,000 cards to his soldiers. When the weather cleared, Patton declared, "That chaplain sure did some potent praying. Get him up here. I want to pin a medal on him." The name of this book by Michael Keane is Patton: Blood, Guts, and Prayer.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

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