James Hugh O'Neill

Rt. Rev. Msgr. James Hugh O'Neill (January 14, 1892 – April 17, 1972) was an American Catholic priest who served as a chaplain in the United States Army from 1926 to 1952, rising to the rank of brigadier general. While serving as chaplain of the Third United States Army during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, he composed the famous "Weather Prayer" at the request of the Third Army's commander, General George S. Patton.[1][2]

James Hugh O'Neill
BG James H O'Neill.jpg
Chaplain (Brigadier General) James Hugh O'Neill
3rd Deputy Chief of Chaplains of the United States Army
BornJanuary 14, 1892
Chicago, Illinois
DiedApril 17, 1972(1972-04-17) (aged 80)
Pueblo, Colorado
Roselawn Cemetery
Pueblo, Colorado
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branchEmblem of the United States Department of the Army.svg United States Army
Years of service1926 – 1952
RankUS-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General

Early life and educationEdit

James Hugh O'Neill was born on Jan 14, 1892, the son of William O'Neill and Catherine Enright O'Neill. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree (1911) and Master of Arts degree (1913) from Loyola University (Chicago), he entered Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was ordained on May 20, 1915.

Early careerEdit

Father O'Neill was then assigned to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena, Montana and appointed to the faculty of Carroll College in Helena in the fall of 1915. While at Carroll, he was Professor of Physics, Registrar, Dean of Men, and Vice President (1921–26).

Military careerEdit

In 1926, Father O'Neill entered the Chaplain Service of the US Army. He saw duty throughout the United States (1929–1934; 1936–1942) and the Philippine Islands (1927–1929; 1934–1936), and served on the staffs of General Jacob Devers (1942–44) and General George Patton (1944–46) in the European Theater of Operations.

During the Battle of the Bulge Patton desired good weather for his advance, which would permit close ground support by U.S. Army Air Forces tactical aircraft, and requested that O'Neill compose a suitable prayer. O'Neill complied, and his prayer was printed and distributed to unit members:

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.[3]

When the weather cleared soon after, Patton awarded O'Neill a Bronze Star Medal.[4]

O'Neill later served on the staff of General Courtney Hodges (1946–1948) at Ft Jay, Governor's Island, New York. He was promoted to Brigadier General and became Deputy Chief of Chaplains of the United States Army, at Ft Myer, Arlington, Virginia (1948–1952). His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Croix de Guerre with Palm from France, the Croix de Guerre with Palm from Belgium, the Croix de Guerre from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the American Theatre Medal, and the American Defense Medal. He also earned battle stars for the campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe.


In 1952, Msgr. O'Neill retired from the US Army and continued his priestly ministry at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Diocese of Pueblo, Pueblo, Colorado. He died on Apr 17, 1972, in Pueblo, Colorado in the 57th year of his priesthood and the 81st year of his life. He was buried in the Bishop's Section of Roselawn Cemetery, Pueblo, Colorado.

In popular cultureEdit

Msgr. O'Neill was portrayed by Lionel Murton in the 1970 film Patton.


  1. ^ Donald R. McClarey, Patton’s Weather Prayer, American Catholic, December 12, 2008 accessed April 27, 2013
  2. ^ Msgr. James H. O’Neill, The True Story of the Patton Prayer, 1950 accessed April 27, 2013
  3. ^ James H. O'Neill, The True Story of The Patton Prayer, Review of the News, October 6, 1971, Reprinted on the Patton Society web site
  4. ^ Michael Collins, Martin King, Voices of the Bulge: Untold Stories from Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, 2011, pages 264-265
  • Carroll College newspaper "Prospector", May 28, 1948,
  • "Pueblo Chieftain", Pueblo, Colorado, Apr 18, 1972.

External linksEdit