Danish WW2 Pilots

Pfc. Willy Due Alfred Rentzmann

(1912 - 1987)

PFC Willy Rentzmann was one of the Danes serving in the US Army Air Force. Few details are available, but he served in Italy in 1944. Before and after the war Rentzmann was active in the Mortal Re-Armaments movement.

Willy Alfred Due Rentzmann was born on 6 January 1912 in Aarhus, Denmark, the son of William Alfred Rentzmann and Mary Frederikke Due.[1]

The Moral Re-Armament Movement

Rentzmann became involved in the Moral Re-Armament (MRA) movement in 1939. MRA was an international moral and spiritual movement developed in 1938 from the American minister, Frank Buchman’s Oxford Group. Buchman was convinced that in order to cope with the present international crisis, nations should not only militarily, they also had to re-arm morally. Buchman gained support from many public figures in Britain and the United States. MRA.[2]

Rentzmann had arrived in the United States back in April by the SS Stavangerfjord arriving in New York from Oslo on 4 April 1939. There is no specific indication in the passenger list, if the purpose of the voyage was to participate in the world assembly of MRA in California in July 1939.[3]

On the third day of the assembly, 25 July, the focus was on youth and sport. Among the attendants were Willy Rentzmann, who was presented as ‘champion javelin thrower’, and another Dane, champion hurdler Ole Dorph-Jensen.[4] At the end of June, Rentzmann had been one of the representatives of the movement at a meeting on Moral Re-armaments though sports at the Curtis hotel in Minneapolis.[5]

Rentzmann remained in the United States. At the time of the draft he was employed by the priest Samuel M. Shoemaker at MRA.[6] Shoemaker was the rector of the Calvary Episcopal Church in New York City and the head of the US Headquarters of the Oxford Group. He was considered one of the best preachers of his era.[7]

Serving in the Mediterranean

Rentzmann entered the US Army Air Force in Los Angeles, California, on 2 April 1943 (39292183). His civil occupation was recorded as ‘authors, editors, and reporters’.[8] The information on the nature of his service is scarce. In August 1944 he was serving in the press relation section of the Air Forces in Italy.[9] He was serving with Lt. Jack Newman[10] and Cpl. Bob Cornthwaite.[11] Cornthwaite is known to have served as a writer and broadcaster with the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces from 1944 until 1945. He worked in several locations in this theatre of war, including Naples, Rome, Corsica and other locations in the Mediterranean area.[12]

Rentzmann was discharged from the USAAF on 24 December 1945. He was awarded European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Arrowhead device.[13] The arrowhead device to this medal was awarded for participation in airborne or amphibious assault landings. It is not clear from the material, however, which landing this may be in Rentzmann’s case.[14]

Rentzmann was naturalised as US citizen at some point. The naturalization record is not available, but he register as a voter in Los Angeles, California before September 1944, which indicate that he was naturalised at this point.[15]

Rentzmann returned to Denmark after the war, and became the personel director of Christiani & Nielsen, a Danish construction company. He remained active in the MRA movement after the war.


[1] DNA: Parish register, Aarhus, Sankt Pauls.

[2] Moral Re-Armament, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_Re-Armament

[3] Ancestry: New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957.

[4] Great Leaders Endorsing Moral Re-Armament Program, The Bangor Daily News, 4 Aug 1939, p. 41.

[5] Moral Rearmament Program Thursday, Star Tribune, 28 June 1939, p. 25.

[6] Ancestry: U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947.

[7] Sam Shoemaker, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Shoemaker (20 July 2022).

[8] Ancestry: U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946.

[9] Mediterranean, The Los Angeles Times, 11 Aug 1944, p. 13.

[10] Lt Col Julius John ‘Jack’ Newman (1918-1995). Enlisted in the Air Corps in 1942 and served until 1965. Served in Korea and Vietnam as well. He later became the deputy director for Radio Liberty in Europe among other things.

[11] Robert Rae Cornthwaite (1917-2006), Enlisted in the Air Corps in 1941 (39166095). He became a film and television character actor after the war.

[12] Robert Cornthwaite (actor), Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Cornthwaite_(actor) (20 July 2022).

[13] DNA: 1030-001, Danske som officerer i fremmed krigstjeneste (1815 - 1965): 1906.

[14] European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Wikipedia, Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European–African–Middle_Eastern_Campaign_Medal (20 July 2022).

[15] Ancestry: California, U.S., Voter Registrations, 1900-1968.