George S. Rentz
Commander

USN
USS West Virginia
1938

The USS Rentz (FFG-46) was named in honor of Commander George S. Rentz.


BORN ON JULY 25, 1882 IN LEBANON PENNSYLVANIA GEORGE SNAVELY RENTZ GRADUATED FROM PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, WAS ORDAINED BY THE PRESBYTERY OF NORTHUMBERLAND IN 1909, AND PASTORED CHURCHES IN PENNSYLVANIA AND NEW JERSEY FOR EIGHT YEARS.

PASTORED CHURCHES IN PENNSYLVANIA AND NEW JERSEY FOR EIGHT YEARS. FOLLOWING ENTRY OF THE UNITED STATES IN WORLD WAR I, HE WAS APPOINTED ACTING CHAPLAIN WITH THE RANK OF LIEUTENANT JUNIOR GRADE AND ASSIGNED TO THE 11TH REGIMENT OF MARINES IN FRANCE UNTIL 1919. HE ATTAINED THE RANK OF COMMANDER IN 1924 AND HIS SEADUTY ASSIGNMENTS INCLUDED SERVICE ON USS FLORIDA (BB-30), USS WRIGHT (AV-1), USS WEST VIRGINIA (BB-48), AND USS AUGUSTA (CA-31). IN 1940, THE USS HOUSTON (CA-30 ) RELIEVED AUGUSTA AS FLAGSHIP OF THE ASIATIC FLEET, COMMANDER RENTZ TRANSFERRED TO THE NEW ARRIVAL. HE SERVED DEVOTEDLY AND ENTHUSIASTICALLY ON THIS CRUISER, PROVIDING THE SHIP'S CREW AND OFFICERS WITH GREAT HOPE AND PROMISE.

ON FEBRUARY 4, 1942, HOUSTON CAME UNDER SEVERE ATTACK BY JAPANESE AIRCRAFT WHILE IN THE FLORES SEA.. COMMANDER RENTZ SPURNED COVER AND CIRCULATED AMONG THE CREW OF THE ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTERY TO ENCOURAGE THEM. AN OFFICER NOTED THAT THE CREW MEMBERS AT THE GUNS “… SAW THIS MAN OF GOD WALKING FEARLESSLY AMONG THEM, THEY NO LONGER FELT ALONE..” DURING THE ATTACK, HOUSTON TOOK A DIRECT HIT THAT DISABLED TURRET III AND KILLED 48 MEN. LESS THAN A MONTH LATER, HOUSTON PARTICIPATED IN THE BATTLE OF JAVA SEA WITH THE AUSTRALIAN LIGHT CRUISER HMAS PERTH. BOTH SHIPS WERE OUTNUMBERED BY A JAPANESE TROOP CONVOY BUT THEY PERSISTED IN CLOSING WITH THE ENEMY, CAUSING SUCH CONFUSION AS TO HAVE A JAPANESE DESTROYER FIRE A SPREAD OF TORPEDOES THAT PASSED THE ALLIED CRUISERS AND CAUSED FOUR JAPANESE TROOPSHIPS CLOSE IN SHORE TO SINK. UNFORTUNATELY, THE WOUNDED PERTH AND HOUSTON WERE NO MATCH FOR THE JAPANESE CONVOY, THE JAPANESE ATTACK ON THESE TWO CRUISERS CAUSED THEM TO SINK BUT THEY WENT DOWN FIGHTING TO THE LAST SECOND.

DURING THE ABANDONMENT OF HOUSTON, COMMANDER RENTZ ENTERED THE WATER AND ATTAINED PARTIAL SAFETY ALONG WITH OTHER CREW MEMBERS ON A SPARE MAIN FLOAT FROM THE HOUSTON'S LOST PLANES. AWARE OF THE EXTREME OVERCROWDING AND DANGEROUS OVERLOADING, HE ATTEMPTED TO RELINQUISH HIS SPACE AND HIS LIFEJACKET TO WOUNDED SURVIVORS NEARBY, DECLARING “ YOU MEN ARE YOUNG, I HAVE LIVED THE MAJOR PART OF MY LIFE AND I AM WILLING TO GO,“ NO ONE WOULD OBLIGE THE GENEROUS, FEARLESS CHAPLIN. AFTER SEVERAL ATTEMPTS OF LEAVING AND BEING BROUGHT BACK BY HIS SHIPMATES, HE UPLIFTED THEM WITH PRAYERS AND SONGS UNTIL, ULTIMATELY, HE SUCCEEDED IN PLACING HIS LIFEJACKET NEAR A WOUNDED SAILOR WHO DID NOT HAVE ONE, AND COMMANDER RENTZ COURAGEOUSLY SLIPPED AWAY INTO THE SEA ON THE MORNING OF MARCH 1, 1942.

FOR HIS SELFLESS BRAVERY FOLLOWING THE LOSS OF HOUSTON IN SUNDRA STRAIT THAT NIGHT,HE WAS POSTHUMOUSLY AWARDED THE NAVY CROSS – THE ONLY NAVY CHAPLAIN TO BE SO HONORED DURING WORLD WAR II

COMMANDER GEORGE S. RENTZ – Chaplain, USS HOUSTON

A man of cloth, he chose to be
Among the men who followed the sea
Dedicated to our crew – with infinite care
He tended and wounded with earnest prayer

Unmindful of danger as the bombs rained down
This man of god was always found
Beside the dying and those terrible nights
Bringing strength and courage – and final rites

Thrown into the sea on the fateful night
He watched our battered Houston sink from sight
Seeking a raft in the light of a flare
He knows that god had answered his prayer

A sailor at his side clinging to the raft
Was wounded’ and strength was ebbing fast,
Having no life belt to keep afloat,
His chance of survival was indeed remote

Without a thought for self, but he careful haste
The chaplain fitted his life belt to the sailors waist
The hours passed, and come dawn
The sailor was safe, but the chaplain was gone

He had followed the law of the apostles Creed,
His life the price of a noble dead,
He went to his lord with no regret
Our fighting chaplain we’ll never forget

May his soul rest in peace – forever and ever, amen

With reverence and affection,

Lloyd V. Willey

11-21-78

from http://www.rentz.navy.mil/rentz_rentz.html

A photo taken on March 28, 1938 on the fantail of the USS West Virginia. From right to left are James Warner holding his son Stanley, Mrs. Warner and Chaplain George S. Rentz.


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