Charles E. Rosendahl

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Charles Emery Rosendahl
Charles E. Rosendahl.jpg
Lt. Cmdr. Charles Rosendahl, USN, circa 1930
Born(1892-05-15)May 15, 1892
Chicago, Illinois
DiedMay 17, 1977(1977-05-17) (aged 85)
Naval Hospital Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
AllegianceFlag of the United States (1912-1959).svg United States
Service/branchFlag of the United States Navy (1864-1959).svg  United States Navy
Years of service19101946
Rank US-O9 insignia.svg Vice admiral
Commands held Claxton (DD-140)
Los Angeles (ZR-3)
Akron (ZRS-4)
NAS Lakehurst
Minneapolis (CA-36)
Naval Airship Training Command
Battles/wars Mexican Revolution
World War I
World War II
Awards Navy Cross
Distinguished Service Medal
Distinguished Flying Cross

Charles Emery Rosendahl (15 May 1892 17 May 1977) was a highly decorated Vice Admiral in the United States Navy, and an advocate of lighter-than-air flight.

Vice admiral is a three-star commissioned naval officer rank in the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, with the pay grade of O-9. Vice admiral ranks above rear admiral and below admiral. Vice admiral is equivalent to the rank of lieutenant general in the other uniformed services.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. with the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 319,421 personnel on active duty and 99,616 in the Ready Reserve, the Navy is the third largest of the service branches. It has 282 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of March 2018, making it the second largest and second most powerful air force in the world.

Airship type of aerostat or lighter-than-air aircraft

An airship or dirigible balloon is a type of aerostat or lighter-than-air aircraft that can navigate through the air under its own power. Aerostats gain their lift from large gasbags filled with a lifting gas that is less dense than the surrounding air.



Early career

Rosendahl was born in Chicago, Illinois, although his family subsequently relocated to Kansas and Texas and, in 1910, he was appointed to the Naval Academy from the latter state and was later commissioned in the rank of ensign in June 1914, upon graduation from the Academy, [1] he was ordered to join the armored cruiser West Virginia (ACR-5) off Mexico during the Veracruz crisis. After West Virginia was decommissioned he served briefly on the battleship Oregon (BB-3) and the protected cruiser St. Louis (C-20), before reporting for duty aboard the protected cruiser Cleveland (C-19) on 14 May 1915. On 15 September 1916 he returned to the recommissioned West Virginia, which was subsequently renamed the Huntington. On 19 June 1917 he received promotion to lieutenant (j.g), and to full lieutenant on 31 August 1918, [2] having served aboard the Huntington escorting convoys of troops and supplies to Europe during World War I.

Kansas State of the United States of America

Kansas is a U.S. state in the Midwestern United States. Its capital is Topeka and its largest city is Wichita, with its most populated county being Johnson County. Kansas is bordered by Nebraska on the north; Missouri on the east; Oklahoma on the south; and Colorado on the west. Kansas is named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the (south) wind" although this was probably not the term's original meaning. For thousands of years, what is now Kansas was home to numerous and diverse Native American tribes. Tribes in the eastern part of the state generally lived in villages along the river valleys. Tribes in the western part of the state were semi-nomadic and hunted large herds of bison.

Texas State of the United States of America

Texas is the second largest state in the United States by both area and population. Geographically located in the South Central region of the country, Texas shares borders with the U.S. states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the southwest, while the Gulf of Mexico is to the southeast.

United States Naval Academy The U.S. Navys federal service academy

The United States Naval Academy is a four-year coeducational federal service academy adjacent to Annapolis, Maryland. Established on 10 October 1845, under Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft, it is the second oldest of the United States' five service academies, and educates officers for commissioning primarily into the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. The 338-acre (137 ha) campus is located on the former grounds of Fort Severn at the confluence of the Severn River and Chesapeake Bay in Anne Arundel County, 33 miles (53 km) east of Washington, D.C. and 26 miles (42 km) southeast of Baltimore. The entire campus is a National Historic Landmark and home to many historic sites, buildings, and monuments. It replaced Philadelphia Naval Asylum, in Philadelphia, that served as the first United States Naval Academy from 1838 to 1845 when the Naval Academy formed in Annapolis.

From 6 June 1918 [2] Rosendahl served as an Engineering Officer, putting the new destroyer McKean (DD-90) into commission. [1] On 30 July 1919 he was ordered to the Pacific Coast for further duty, first serving on the cruiser Brooklyn (CA-3) as Gunnery Officer, and receiving promotion to lieutenant commander on 27 January 1920. In August he began fitting out new destroyers, commissioning, and delivering them to the Fleet; they included the William Jones (DD-308), Yarborough (DD-314), Marcus (DD-321), and Melvin (DD-335). On 11 July 1921 Rosendahl assumed command of the destroyer Claxton (DD-140), before being ordered to duty at the Naval Academy as Instructor in Department of Electrical Engineering and Physics in September. [2]

Destroyer Type of warship

In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast, maneuverable long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller powerful short-range attackers. They were originally developed in the late 19th century by Fernando Villaamil for the Spanish Navy as a defense against torpedo boats, and by the time of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, these "torpedo boat destroyers" (TBDs) were "large, swift, and powerfully armed torpedo boats designed to destroy other torpedo boats". Although the term "destroyer" had been used interchangeably with "TBD" and "torpedo boat destroyer" by navies since 1892, the term "torpedo boat destroyer" had been generally shortened to simply "destroyer" by nearly all navies by the First World War.

USS <i>McKean</i> (DD-90)

USS McKean (DD-90/APD-5) was a Wickes-class destroyer in the United States Navy during World War II. She was the first ship named in honor of William Wister McKean.

Lieutenant commander commissioned officer rank in many navies

Lieutenant commander is a commissioned officer rank in many navies. The rank is superior to a lieutenant and subordinate to a commander. The corresponding rank in most armies and air forces is major, and in the Royal Air Force and other Commonwealth air forces is squadron leader.

Move to airships

The bow section of Shenandoah after the crash USS Shenandoah Wrack.jpg
The bow section of Shenandoah after the crash

When the Navy's Bureau of Navigation circulated a letter asking for volunteers for rigid airship duty, Rosendahl volunteered. [2] He reported to Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, to be trained in airship operation [1] on 7 April 1923. [2] Designated a Naval Aviator in November 1924, Rosendahl served on the dirigible Shenandoah (ZR-1) [1] as mooring officer and navigator. Promoted to lieutenant commander on 5 January 1925, [2] he distinguished himself by successfully bringing the bow section of the shattered airship safely to earth after she broke up in the air on 3 September 1925 over Noble County, Ohio. [1] For this action he was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The U.S. Navy's Bureau of Navigation was established in 1862 as part of the reorganization of the Navy Department. Principal responsibilities were to provide nautical charts and instruments and to oversee several activities involved navigation research, including the Naval Observatory. In 1889, the Bureau gained responsibilities for personnel management, and this eventually became its primary function. In 1942, the Bureau was renamed the Bureau of Naval Personnel (BuPers), under which name it continues today.

New Jersey State of the United States of America

New Jersey is a state in the Mid-Atlantic region of the Northeastern United States. It is a peninsula, bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, particularly along the extent of the length of New York City on its western edge; on the east, southeast, and south by the Atlantic Ocean; on the west by the Delaware River and Pennsylvania; and on the southwest by the Delaware Bay and Delaware. New Jersey is the fourth-smallest state by area but the 11th-most populous, with 9 million residents as of 2017, and the most densely populated of the 50 U.S. states; its biggest city is Newark. New Jersey lies completely within the combined statistical areas of New York City and Philadelphia and was the second-wealthiest U.S. state by median household income as of 2017.

United States Naval Aviator

A Naval Aviator is a commissioned officer or warrant officer qualified as a pilot in the United States Navy, United States Marine Corps or United States Coast Guard.

From 9 March 1926 he served as Executive Officer, and then as Commanding Officer from 10 May, [2] of the dirigible Los Angeles (ZR-3), [1] making numerous flights for crew training, radio compass station calibration and flight tests for National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Los Angeles also took part in the searches for Nungesser and Coli's aircraft "The White Bird", and Frances Wilson Grayson's "Dawn", both of which went missing during attempts on trans-Atlantic flights. [2]

USS <i>Los Angeles</i> (ZR-3) rigid airship

The USS Los Angeles was a rigid airship, designated ZR-3, which was built in 1923–1924 by the Zeppelin company in Friedrichshafen, Germany, as war reparation. It was delivered to the United States Navy in October 1924 and after being used mainly for experimental work, particularly in the development of the American parasite fighter program, was decommissioned in 1932.

National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics U.S. federal agency

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was a U.S. federal agency founded on March 3, 1915, to undertake, promote, and institutionalize aeronautical research. On October 1, 1958, the agency was dissolved, and its assets and personnel transferred to the newly created National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NACA was an initialism, i.e. it was pronounced as discrete letters, rather than as a whole word.

Charles Nungesser French flying ace and adventurer

Charles Eugène Jules Marie Nungesser was a French ace pilot and adventurer, best remembered as a rival of Charles Lindbergh. Nungesser was a renowned ace in France, ranking third highest in the country with 43 air combat victories during World War I.

Airship moored to USS Patoka Uss Patoka AO9.jpg
Airship moored to USS Patoka

In January 1928 Rosendahl flew Los Angeles out to sea off Newport, Rhode Island, to rendezvous with the aircraft carrier Saratoga (CV-3) and moored to the ship's stern to take on fuel and stores. Further experimental flights were undertaken, mooring to the airship tender Patoka (AO-9) during long-range flights. [2]

Newport, Rhode Island City in Rhode Island, United States

Newport is a seaside city on Aquidneck Island in Newport County, Rhode Island, located approximately 33 miles (53 km) southeast of Providence, Rhode Island, 20 miles (32 km) south of Fall River, Massachusetts, 73 miles (117 km) south of Boston, and 180 miles (290 km) northeast of New York City. It is known as a New England summer resort and is famous for its historic mansions and its rich sailing history. It was the location of the first U.S. Open tournaments in both tennis and golf, as well as every challenge to the America's Cup between 1930 and 1983. It is also the home of Salve Regina University and Naval Station Newport, which houses the United States Naval War College, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, and an important Navy training center. It was a major 18th-century port city and also contains a high number of buildings from the Colonial era.

USS <i>Saratoga</i> (CV-3) US Navy aircraft carrier sunk by nuclear weapon testing at Bikini atoll

USS Saratoga (CV-3) was a Lexington-class aircraft carrier built for the United States Navy during the 1920s. Originally designed as a battlecruiser, she was converted into one of the Navy's first aircraft carriers during construction to comply with the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. The ship entered service in 1928 and was assigned to the Pacific Fleet for her entire career. Saratoga and her sister ship, Lexington, were used to develop and refine carrier tactics in a series of annual exercises before World War II. On more than one occasion these exercises included successful surprise attacks on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She was one of three prewar US fleet aircraft carriers, along with Enterprise and Ranger, to serve throughout World War II.

USS <i>Patoka</i> (AO-9) replenishment oiler

USS Patoka (AO–9/AV–6/AG–125) was a fleet oiler made famous as a tender for the airships Shenandoah (ZR-1), Los Angeles (ZR-3) and Akron (ZRS-4). It was also notable in that its height figured prominently in the design of Rainbow Bridge in Texas.

In July 1928 Rosendahl traveled to Britain to observe their airship activities, and then to Germany for the trials of the airship Graf Zeppelin. In October he was an observer aboard the Graf as she made her first Atlantic crossing from Friedrichshafen to Lakehurst. [2]

On 9 May 1929 he was relieved as Commanding Officer of Los Angeles and assumed duty as the Commander of the Rigid Airship Training and Experimental Squadron at NAS Lakehurst. In August he was aboard the Graf Zeppelin's "Round the World" flight as observer and watch officer. [2] On 27 June 1930 [2] Rosendahl was assigned to the Bureau of Aeronautics, in Washington, D.C., [1] and from 21 October 1931 to 22 June 1932 [2] commanded the new dirigible Akron (ZRS-4), [1] during which time experiments in the role as an airborne aircraft carrier were tried. Between July 1932 and June 1934 [2] Rosendahl served at sea on board the battleship West Virginia (BB-48) and heavy cruiser Portland (CA-33). [1]

Hindenburg in flames, 6 May 1937 Hindenburg burning.jpg
Hindenburg in flames, 6 May 1937

On 11 June 1934 he assumed command at NAS Lakehurst, and was promoted to commander on 1 February 1935. Rosendahl served as an official observer on the German airship Hindenburg, on transatlantic flights between Frankfurt and Rio de Janeiro in August–September 1936. He was in command at Lakehurst on the night of 6 May 1937 and witnessed the destruction of the Hindenburg, leading fire fighting and rescue efforts. [2] He later testified at the Department of Commerce Inquiry into the accident [1] and stated:

When I saw the first blaze I knew the ship was doomed and I also thought that there would immediately be an explosion which would flatten every building at the field and kill everybody looking on. I thought it was curtains for all of us. [3]

On 6 August 1938 he was relieved of command of NAS Lakehurst, and on 31 August he reported to Pearl Harbor [2] to serve as Executive Officer of the light cruiser Milwaukee (CL-5). [1]

On 23 May 1940 he was assigned to the office of the Secretary of the Navy for duty in airship evaluations, and was promoted to the rank of captain on 13 July. In September he became the senior member of the Board created to investigate sites for new airship stations. On 25 February 1941 he was detached from that duty to serve in the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and then on 23 April 1942 to the office of Chief of Naval Operations, under the Director of Fleet Training, for airship training and base selection. [2]

World War II

Minneapolis after Tassafaronga with her bows missing Damaged USS Minneapolis (CA-36) at Tulagi on 1 December 1942, after the Battle of Tassafaronga (80-G-211215).jpg
Minneapolis after Tassafaronga with her bows missing

On 6 September 1942 [2] Rosendahl took command of the heavy cruiser Minneapolis (CA-36). The ship was torpedoed during the Battle of Tassafaronga, off Guadalcanal, on 30 November 1942, [1] losing 80 feet (24 m) of her bows and had three of four boilers knocked out. Rosendahl kept her afloat and reached the safety of Tulagi. [2] For this action he was subsequently awarded the Navy Cross. [4] On 15 May he returned to NAS Lakehurst and assumed duty as the Chief of Naval Airship Training Command, receiving promotion to rear admiral on 26 May 1943. [2] This service lasted through World War II, [1] until he retired on 1 November 1946. He was advanced to the rank of vice admiral on the same day. [2]

Post-Navy activities

Between 1947 and 1952 Rosendahl was an aeronautical consultant and a Vice-President of the Flettner Aircraft Corporation, New York. In 1953 he was appointed Executive Director of the National Air Transport Coordinating Committee, a group set up to study air transport problems in the greater New York area after three crashes in Elizabeth, New Jersey, during 1952. [2]

Rosendahl retired to Toms River, New Jersey in 1960 to write and to organize the Lighter-Than-Air Museum Association at Lakehurst. The Navy conditionally deeded land to the LTA Museum Association, but because the group was unsuccessful in raising funds, the land reverted to NAS Lakehurst. [2]

The United States Navy ended airship operations in August 1962. Rosendahl was aboard the N class blimp ZPG-3W on the final flight. [2]

Rosendahl died on 17 May 1977 at the Naval Hospital Philadelphia. [1]

Personal life

On 30 June 1932 he met Jean Wilson on a train en route to Los Angeles, California. They were married on 22 December 1934. [2]


Rosendahl published several books, as well as numerous scientific and popular articles about airships.

His collected papers are held by the University of Texas at Dallas. [5] These include notes for an unpublished study of the attack on Pearl Harbor written with the assistance of Vice Admiral Ryūnosuke Kusaka, who Rosendahl had first met and befriended on the Graf Zeppelin circumnavigation in 1929. [2]


Rosendahl was a member of the following organizations:

Honors and awards


Rosendahl was the recipient of numerous honors:

He also received two honorary degrees:

Military decorations

Here is the ribbon bar of Vice admiral Charles E. Rosendahl:

Naval Aviator Badge.jpg
Navy Cross ribbon.svg Navy Distinguished Service ribbon.svg Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svg
Mexican Service Medal ribbon.svg
World War I Victory Medal ribbon.svg
American Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg
Naval Aviator Badge
1st Row Navy Cross Navy Distinguished Service Medal Distinguished Flying Cross
2nd Row Mexican Service Medal World War I Victory Medal with Fleet Clasp American Defense Service Medal with Atlantic Fleet Clasp
3rd Row Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one Service star American Campaign Medal World War II Victory Medal

Rosendahl appears in the pilot episode of the NBC series Timeless , where he iis portrayed by Kurt Max Runte.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 "Rosendahl, Charles E. (1892-1977)". Archived from the original on 4 August 2003. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 "Vice Admiral Charles E. Rosendahl Collection" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 June 2010. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
  3. "Transport: Waiting Room". TIME . May 24, 1937. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
  4. "Military Times Hall of Valor : Awards for Charles Emery Rosendahl". Retrieved 1 November 2010.
  5. "The Vice Admiral Charles E. Rosendahl Lighter-than-Air Collection". Retrieved 1 November 2010.

Further reading