George Snavely Rentz was born on July 25th, 1882 in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. After the United States got actively involved in the First World War, became Rentz the chaplain of the 11th Marine Regiment in France and stayed with this unit till 1919. In 1924 he was promoted to Commander and served onboard several warships, till he was placed in 1940 onboard the Heavy Cruiser USS Houston. (CA30)
Rentz was a well appreciated person and because of this he was a crew favorite. When the USS Houston came under a heavy Japanese air assault on February 4th 1942, commander Rentz refused to take cover and stayed between the anti aircraft gun crews to give them moral support. About a month later just after the lost Battle of the Java Sea, the USS Houston and the Australian Light Cruiser HMAS Perth were send to Ceylon to attack the Japanese supply lines over there but they encountered completely by surprise the Japanese invasion force and against all odds the Allied ships decided to attack them. In the following confusion one of the escorting Japanese destroyers fired a salvo torpedos at the two Allied ships but they missed and sank four Japanese transport ships that were lying a bit further away. But the Japanese escort was to strong and after a final Japanese assault they sank first the HMAS Perth and soon afterwards the USS Houston.
When the sinking ship was abandoned by its crew Commander Rentz found himself on a raft that became very fast crowded and was slowly starting to make water. Rentz wanted to give his place and lifejacket away to one of the many wounded man nearby because he stated "Youíre all still young men, Iíve lived the most part of my life and Iím ready to go." But every time he was hold back by the men onboard the raft. After Rentz prayed a couple of times and sang a few songs with the men, he finally managed to give his lifejacket to one of the wounded men. After he said another sort prayer, Rentz pushed himself away from the raft and slipped quietly and bravely beneath the waves.
For these courageous actions Rentz was posthumously awarded with the United States second highest award for valor, the Navy Cross. Georg Rentz is the only chaplain who is honored with this award.
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