Charles Rosendahl


Charles Rosendahl
Vice Admiral, United States Navy, and advocate of lighter-than-air flight

In reference to the Hindenburg accident: “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.”

May 15, 1892
Chicago, Illinois

Death/death place:
May 14, 1977
Philadelphia Naval Hospital

Jean Wilson

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. He later testified at the Department of Commerce Inquiry into the accident.

Rosendahl was the leading figure in America’s rigid airship program.  He was one of the most experienced airship aviators in the United States, and was a tireless proponent of lighter-than-air aviation.

: Jim Kemper


  • Rosendahl was a leading advocate for development of lighter-than-air flight.
  • Graduated from Cleburne, Texas High School in 1910 and was accepted at the U.S. Naval Academy.
  • Served on several Navy ships and in 1923 volunteered for duty on dirigibles.
  • He flew in most of the airships during the 1920’s and 30’s.
  • When the Shenandoah broke in two during a violent storm, he and 6 crewmen were able to “bleed-off” enough helium to land safely.
  • The Navy sent him to Germany as an observer as the Graf Zeppelin was being built.
  • He flew on it as a member of the crew on its first flight the Atlantic Ocean as well as the flight around the world. Total flight time was 288 hours.
  • Rosendahl was commander of the Los Angeles and the Akron and flew the Macon.


USS Los Angeles in Panama, 1929


  • 1942 Assigned to the heavy cruiser USS Minneapolis as its commander. A Japanese torpedo destroyed the bow and knocked out 3 of the 4 power plants. Rosendahl was able to reach shore where palm tree logs rigged a temporary bow so the ship could reach Pearl Harbor for more repairs then proceed to the United States
  • 1946 After 6,422 hours of the Lighter than Air flight Rosendahl retired to the Toms River, New Jersey

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