The following is NLHS member Rick Zitarosa's account of how he came to acquire his copy of Charles E. Rosendahl's manuscript, How Soon We Forget; US Navy Airship Operations in World War Two:
The NLHS copy of CE Rosendahl's manuscript HOW SOON WE FORGET; US NAVY AIRSHIP OPERATIONS IN WORLD WAR TWO was a gift to me from Mrs. Merle Robinson, widow of Dr. Douglas H. Robinson, who was the "Dean of Airship Historians" from the 1950's through the 1990's.
Doug Robinson passed away in July, 1998 a few days short of his 80th Birthday. From the time we first met in 1976, when I was a fourteen-year-old airship enthusiast, Doug was a teacher, mentor and friend. I was a regular guest in his home in Pennington, NJ and he took me flying in his plane on several occasions; our evening chats in his study, surrounded by his hundreds of books and artifacts, were an unforgettable experience.
A close friend of Vice Admiral Charles E. Rosendahl (1892-1977 ) Doug was one of a very few people who ever received a copy of the Rosendahl Manuscript, which the Admiral began writing and revising over a 30 year period beginning in 1946. For various reasons, the manuscript was never published and few people even knew of its existence until a copy came into my possession in the spring of 1999.
"CER" graduated the Naval Academy in the Class of 1914 and served in various seagoing assignments until he was accepted for Lighter-than-Air (LTA) training at NAS Lakehurst in 1923. Assigned to duty on the USS SHENANDOAH (ZR-1) Lieutenant Rosendahl made most of the flights of the Navy's pioneering large rigid airship; promoted to Lieutenant Commander and serving as Navigator, he free-ballooned the derelict nose section of the wrecked airship to a safe landing and, as Senior Surviving Officer, he was catapulted to national prominence as an outspoken advocate for Lighter-Than-Air.
Shortly thereafter, in 1926, Rosendahl was given command of the USS LOS ANGELES(ZR3) which had been delivered from Germany to the US Navy in 1924. Morale was low, funding was chronically short, and airships were held in suspicion by a skeptical Congress, other branches of the Navy, and the general public, but Rosendahl's unshakable faith and determination kept the LOS ANGELES flying and in the public eye.
In 1928, the AKRON and MACON were ordered from Goodyear-Zeppelin in Ohio; Rosendahl made the first transatlantic flight of the German GRAF ZEPPELIN that year and was also aboard for her round-the-world trip in the summer of 1929. Also around this time, Rosendahl was detached from the LOS ANGELES and given the title "Commander, Rigid Airship Training and Experimental Squadron, Lakehurst NJ."
In command of the new AKRON when she took to the air in September, 1931, Rosendahl flew her for nine months (including a much-publicized trip to the West Coast and back). He was assigned to Sea Duty when the AKRON was lost in April, 1933; a year later,with the rank of full Commander, he returned as Commanding Officer, NAS Lakehurst, a position he held for four years.
Rosendahl was in command of the Lakehurst Naval Air Station during all the HINDENBURG's 1936 flights and he was considered a key expert witness when the giant Zeppelin burned while mooring on May 6, 1937.
In between subsequent tours of sea duty, Rosendahl was instrumental in helping develop the Navy's non-rigid airship (blimp) anti-submarine warfare arm before and after the outbreak of World War Two. 1942 saw Captain Rosendahl in command of the heavy cruiser USS MINNEAPOLIS, where he saw heavy action at the Battle of Tassaffronga (Guadalcanal) and was decorated for bravery and superb seamanship. At one point, he badly injured his back while crawling through a hole in a bulkhead to assess damage; the back trouble was serious enough for him to be "ordered ashore" and he returned to NAS Lakehurst in early 1943 with the rank of Rear Admiral and the title of "Chief of Airship Training and Experimentation." Rosendahl retired as a Vice Admiral on November 1, 1946.
Purchasing a small waterfront estate in Toms River and christening it "Flag Point," CE Rosendahl remained close to his beloved airships and the Lakehurst base. Even in retirement, he remained very much "The Admiral" at Lakehurst and was extremely vocal as he saw the Navy gradually lose interest in airships through the 1950's, with blimp squadrons slowly disappearing and the final Program Termination taking place in June, 1961. Two blimps remained in Experimental service for another year and Rosendahl was aboard for the last flight of a US Navy airship at Lakehurst on August 30, 1962.
Remaining an outspoken advocate for airships and Lighter-than-Air matters, Rosendahl remained a regular visitor to Lakehurst to the end of his life, one day short of his 85th birthday, in May of 1977.
Through two books, countless articles and interviews and intimate involvement with LTA over a period of five decades, Charles E. Rosendahl is almost synonymous with Lighter-than-Air development in the United States and the US Navy.
Doug Robinson's scholarly writings are among the best ever written on the rigid airship era of the US Navy (1919-1935) and the German Naval Airship Division (1912-1918.) His books include:
THE ZEPPELIN IN COMBAT; A HISTORY OF THE GERMAN NAVAL AIRSHIP DIVISION (1962)
LZ129 HINDENBURG (1964)
GIANTS IN THE SKY; A HISTORY OF THE RIGID AIRSHIP (1973)
UP SHIP! US NAVY RIGID AIRSHIPS 1919-1935 (1982)
GRAF ZEPPELIN AND HINDENBURG; THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE GREAT PASSENGER AIRSHIPS (with Harold Dick)--(1986)
The CE Rosendahl Collection and the Douglas H. Robinson Collection are now both housed at the University of Texas, Dallas.