Vice Admiral Charles E. Rosendahl Papers

DSpace/Manakin Repository

Vice Admiral Charles E. Rosendahl Papers

 

Being a descendant from Swedish immigrants, Charles Emery Rosendahl was born on May 15, 1892 in Chicago, Illinois to Charles Oscar and Johanna Rosendahl, née Johnson. Rosendahl’s paternal grandfather was a superintendent at an iron ore mine and had been killed in an explosion, which caused his son Charles Oscar, a railroad worker, and his two brothers and sisters to come to the United States. His maternal ancestors were also from Europe. Charles Emery grew up in a Swedish speaking household.

After having attended public schools in Topeka, Kansas and Cleburne, Texas, he won an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland in 1910. On June 6, 1914, he graduated and was commissioned Ensign and progressed to Rear Admiral on May 2, 1943. His last advancement was during his retirement to the rank of Vice Admiral on November 1, 1946 based on his record of combat awards.

Throughout the First World War he served on a number of cruisers both in the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean in the latter theater to escort troop convoy ships. Six month before the Armistice, Rosendahl reported to duty at a Fuel Oil Testing Plant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He then became an Engineering Officer on various destroyers in that function until he was detached on July 30, 1919.

After serving on the USS Claxton in the Pacific, Charles Rosendahl was an instructor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Physics at the Naval Academy for about one-and-a-half years. He received his designation as Naval Aviator for Airships in November of 1924 and was a navigator on the USS Shenandoah at the Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey.

He held the rank of a Lieutenant Commander on navigation watch when the Shenandoah rigid airship crashed because of a storm near Ava, Ohio in September 1925. Of the forty-three crew members, fourteen were killed. With six of the surviving crewmen, Rosendahl, as highest ranking senior officer, was able to land the forward section of the dirigible safely on the ground. Due to his actions and heroism in this incident, he received by Act of Congress, the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1947. In 1926, Rosendahl was Executive Officer and later became Commanding Officer on the USS Los Angeles. In the second half of that year, Rosendahl assumed additional duties in the preparation of the World Flight of the Graf Zeppelin from Lakehurst as a U.S. Naval Observer and also being a guest of Captain Hugo Eckener.

From 1930 to 1932, for about a year, Charles Rosendahl assumed responsibilities in the Plans Division of the Bureau of Aeronautics, Navy Department, Washington, D.C., during which he also fitted out the USS Akron with a crew, conducted test flights and essentially assumed command of that airship. In June 11, 1934 Rosendahl assumed command of the Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey. During that time he continued being a U.S. Naval Observer on board the Hindenburg flying in the Atlantic Ocean. The Naval Air Station was under his command, when the Hindenburg fatally crashed over Lakehurst on May 6, 1937.

At the end of 1934, Charles E. Rosendahl married Ms. Jean Wilson, a business woman born in Houston, Texas, in Los Angeles, California in a private and quiet ceremony after a courtship of two years. At the time of marriage, Rosendahl was forty-two and his bride ten years younger. The couple did not have any children.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Rosendahl both served on several battle ships and fulfilled his duties in the Office of the Secretary of the Navy and Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, mainly responsible for lighter-than-air developments. In 1942 Rosendahl took command of the cruiser USS Minneapolis which was severely damaged during a battle at Tassafaronga by the Japanese, off Guadalcanal at the end of November 1942. As a consequence of his gallantry, bravery, and outstanding leadership, the USS Minneapolis was able ship back to port. For these actions, Charles Rosendahl was awarded the Navy Cross. Upon ending his command of the USS Minneapolis, he assumed in May 1943 in the rank of a Rear Admiral the position as Chief of Naval Airship Training at the Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey. There he commanded experimental and flight testing and oversaw the Training Center at the Naval Airship Training Center at Moffett Field, California among other outfits. Rosendahl’s command ended in summer of 1946 as Admiral with the title of Chief of Naval Airship Training and Experimentation.

After his retirement from the United States Navy, Admiral Rosendahl was the executive director of the National Air Transport Coordinating Committee (NATCC) implementing the reduction of aircraft noise levels.

Vice Admiral Rosendahl received many awards and medals among which the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross are the most prominent. He also held honorary degrees of Doctor of Science in Aeronautics form Tampa University, Tampa, Florida, and Doctor of Laws from Rider College, Trenton, New Jersey.

Charles Rosendahl was an active member in many societies, fraternities, and clubs such as the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, and John Ericson Society, and the Circumnavigator’s Club of New York City to name a few.

In his retirement, he was an aeronautical consultant and wrote many books and articles about airships as well his memoirs.

Vice Admiral Charles Emery Rosendahl USN (Retired) died on May 14, 1977 of natural causes at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital at the age of eighty-four.

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