Other Memories It was a long, hard climb, even for the Navy, but "Rosie" finally made it. Last week President Roosevelt nominated Captain Charles E. Rosendahl, foremost U.S. airship expert, for promotion to rear admiral. His new assignment: Chief of Naval Airship Training, with headquarters at his old stamping ground, Lakehurst (N.J.), where a separate training command for airship personnel is being set up.
When Rosie was sent to sea a few months ago, some friends feared he was being bypassed. Actually the transfer was a necessary step, so long as the Navy observed its ancient regulation barring promotion to flag rank except from a sea command (in this case a cruiser in the Pacific). Just turned 51, Rosendahl has been a fervent, crusading lighter-than-airman since 1921. His most spectacular exploit: free-ballooning the forward end of the wrecked dirigible Shenandoah to a safe landing with 29 survivors aboard.
His new command emphasizes the war-grown importance of blimp operation, which all but died after a succession of dirigible accidents that not even eloquent Rosie could explain. Successful use of a few motor-driven gas bags on antisubmarine patrol finally led Congress to relent, authorize a fleet of 200.
Blimp pilots are trained at Lakehurst in a harddriving, four-month course. Primary training is given in free balloons, since any airshipman becomes a balloonist if his motors quit. The U.S. cannot produce enough safe, nonburning helium gas for all wartime operations, so much of the balloon training must be done with inflammable hydrogen. Until last week, no U.S. balloon crew had been lost by explosion in this war. Then a Lakehurst training balloon, landing, ripped apart with a violent concussion, killed three ensigns trapped in the wicker basket as the 35,000-cu. ft. envelope collapsed in a roaring mass of flame.