Charles Emery Rosendahl was born in Chicago, Illinois, on 15 May 1892. His family subsequently relocated to Kansas and Texas and, in 1910, he was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy from the latter state. Commissioned in the rank of Ensign in June 1914, upon graduation from the Academy, he served in three cruisers and the old battleship Oregon during the next few years and spent the first part of World War I as an officer of the armored cruiser Huntington. In 1918 he helped put the new destroyer McKean into commission as her Engineering Officer. Service in several other destroyers followed during the next three years. Lieutenant Rosendahl was an engineering instructor at the Naval Academy during 1921-1923, then went to the Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, New Jersey, to be trained in airship operation.
Designated a Naval Aviator in November 1924, Lieutenant Commander Rosendahl served in the dirigible Shenandoah, and distinguished himself by successfully bringing part of the shattered airship safely to earth after she broke up in the air on 3 September 1925. He next was Executive Officer, and later Commanding Officer, of the dirigible Los Angeles and took part in long-range flights on board the German commercial airship Graf Zeppelin. In 1930 Rosendahl was assigned to the Bureau of Aeronautics, in Washington, D.C., and in 1931-1932 commanded the new dirigible Akron.
Between mid-1932 and mid-1934 Rosendahl had sea duty on board the battleship West Virginia and heavy cruiser Portland. He was Commanding Officer of NAS Lakehurst from then until 1938, and also served as an official observer on the big German airship Hindenburg. Commander Rosendahl was Executive Officer of the light cruiser Milwaukee in 1938-1940. Two years of Navy Department duty followed, most of it involving the Navy's growing lighter-than-air effort.
Captain Rosendahl commanded the heavy cruiser Minneapolis during the last months 1942 and the first part of 1943, receiving the Navy Cross for his heroism and leadership in saving that ship after she was torpedoed during the Battle of Tassafaronga, off Guadalcanal, at the end of November 1942. In May 1943, after promotion to the rank of Rear Admiral, he became Chief of Naval Airship Training. This service lasted through the end of World War II and into the post-war era. Retired as a Vice Admiral in November 1946, he devoted much of the rest of his life to the advocacy of lighter-than-air flight. Vice Admiral Charles E. Rosendahl died on 17 May 1977.