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This 1930’s era newsreel short “Sky Giants”, opens with a shot of a dirigible, probably USS Shenandoah, floating overhead. The film recounts the early era of ballooning and the golden era of air travel with heavy dirigibles or air ships. Vice Admiral Charles E. Rosendahl, the leading figure in America’s rigid airship program in the first half of the 20th century is featured. He was one of the most experienced airship aviators in the United States and was a tireless proponent of lighter-than-air aviation but is perhaps best remembered as the commander of NAS Lakehurst at the time of the Hindenburg disaster. Rosendahl’s distinguished career began in January 1923. He reported to Naval Air Station Lakehurst for training in April 1923, and by October he was assigned as a navigator and mooring officer aboard the USS Shenandoah. In March 1926, Rosendahl was assigned as Executive Officer of the USS Los Angeles, and was given command of the ship two months later. In 1931, Rosendahl was put in charge of the flight trials of the newly built USS Akron and then assumed command of the Akron when the ship was commissioned. Annapolis, Maryland, after the First World War. Many dirigibles fill the sky 1:00. An air shipyard is shown with dirigibles under construction 1:05. Stacks of gas containers are seen 1:16. Navy test balloons fly overhead 1:30. 1924 - the German built, USS Los Angeles, is ready for delivery to the United States 1:40. Rosendahl takes the helm 1:45. The German airship makes it safely to Lakehurst Air Station in New Jersey 2:00. “Shenandoah Spans Continent”, 1924. In 1925 and airship carried airmail across the ocean to the West Indies 2:13. In 1926 a goodwill tour led by Rosendahl crosses the country 2:20. The Shenandoah is seen flying over Ohio during a heavy storm 2:30. Disaster as the Shenandoah breaks in half and crashes to the ground in Ohio 2:42. 14 men are killed. Footage of Rosendahl in the aftermath 2:58. Sailors line up in front of the Los Angeles 3:10. Aerial view of New York City as three dirigibles fly overhead 3:20. An airplane is launched from the belly of the Los Angeles 3:34. Rosendahl attempts a anding on the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga 4:00. Rosendahl becomes a national hero 4:22. Naval officers line up 4:25. 1928 Berlin. Rosendahl travels to Germany to take part in the flight of the Graf Zeppelin across the Atlantic Ocean 4:47. The ship was a German passenger-carrying, hydrogen-filled rigid airship that flew from 1928 to 1937. It offered the first commercial transatlantic passenger flight service. The Graf Zeppelin arrives at Lakehurst 5:20. Rosendahl is transferred and gets a desk job 5:35. The nation’s capital Washington DC 5:45. The Akron is shown under construction 5:55. Rosendahl lands the commission of the USS Akron 6:14. Rosendahl is interviewed in front of the Akron 6:22. The Akron soars and Rosendahl reports on the ship 7:00. The crew of the Akron salutes Rosendahl as he retires 7:35. Navy destroyers are seen at sea 7:50. Tragically, the Akron crashes into the ocean 7:53. The USS Macon is destroyed in another accident 7:58. The German Zeppelin, Hindenburg flies overhead 8:20. May 1937, the Hindenburg reaches Lakehurst from Germany with Rosendahl on the field as commander 8:40. The Hindenburg catches fire and becomes a blazing mass, crashes to the ground. 35 people perish 9:05. The crash ushers in the death knell of dirigibles in the United States. Rosendahl defends the dirigible concept but it is in vain 9:45. Only one vestige of the era survives, as the U.S. Navy deploys blimps during WWII as spotter aircraft. The cruiser USS Milwaukee at sea 9:55. The Battle of the Atlantic rages 10:20. German subs fire torpedoes on American ships 10:30. Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) blimps take off in pursuit of the U-boats 10:40. Rosendahl is decorated for his service 10:56. Rosendahl’s medals are featured 11:07. Charles E Rosendahl, American naval explorer.
Charles Emery Rosendahl (May 15, 1892 – May 17, 1977) was a highly decorated Vice Admiral in the United States Navy, and an advocate of lighter-than-air flight.
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