Lloyd Viel Berkner was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on February 1, 1905, son of Henry Frank and Alma Viel Berkner. He received his education from the University of Minnesota (B.S., 1927); George Washington University, Washington, DC; and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska. While attending the University of Minnesota, he enlisted in the US Naval Reserve for aviation training on April 1, 1926, and was designated Naval Aviator (Seaplanes) on April 23, 1927. He accepted appointment as Lieutenant Commander, USNR, on April 1, 1941; was promoted to Commander on September 5, 1942; and to Captain, to date from March 20, 1945. His selection for the rank of Rear Admiral was approved by the President on October 31, 1955.
After graduation from the University of Minnesota, he was employed for a year as an electrical engineer, supervising radio transmitter installation for the US Bureau of Air Commerce, Department of Commerce, Washington, DC. From 1928 to 1933 he was an electrical and radio engineer for the National Bureau of Standards, concerned with Radio Wave Propogation. During that period he was a member of the Byrd Antarctic Expedition, 1928-1930. He received the Gold Medal awarded by Congress to members of that expedition. Appointed Physicist in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution, Washington, DC. he served there until September 1941, during that period attended courses at George Washington University and the University of Alaska, and serving as a consultant (1940-1941) to the National Defense Research Committee.
Called to active duty on September 8, 1941, shortly prior to the outbreak of World War II, he reported to the Navy Department, Washington, DC, and was assigned to the Bureau of Aeronautics. He served in that Bureau throughout the war period in the Radio and Electrical Group of the Engineering Division, being head of the Bureau’s Electronics Material Branch, responsible for placing new scientific electronics developments in Naval aircraft, during the latter phase of the war. For outstanding service during the war period, he was awarded the Legion of Merit, and received a Letter of Commendation, with Ribbon, from the Secretary of the Navy. The citations follow:
Legion of Merit: “For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States while serving in various technical executive positions in the Radio and Electrical Group of the Engineering Division, Bureau of Aeronautics, from September 1941 to September 1945. Envisioning the tactical potentialities of laboratory developments in the field of electronic weapons, Captain Berkner unified separate groups of civilian scientists into a smooth working organization, establishing laboratory facilities for their experiments and test agencies under the close supervision of the Bureau of Aeronautics. His insight into tactical requirements, his formulation of far-reaching policies and his expeditious engineering of new and improved electronic devices contributed immeasurably to the protection provided to our Fleet against air and submarine attacks and to the increased striking power of carrier-based and patrol aircraft in night and day offensives in the Pacific Area.”
Letter of Commendation: “For outstanding achievement in a specialized field. Charged with the planning of a vital war program, Commander Berkner was responsible for the expeditious development and early availability of the superior equipment with which Naval Aircraft are presently equipped. By his unique ability keen judgment and engineering techniques, he has contributed greatly to the reduction of operational losses and to the increased effectiveness of offensive operations. Commander Berkner’s brilliant efforts and assiduous devotion to duty have resulted in exceptional advantage to our forces and area in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
He was released to inactive status on February 11, 1946, and later was recalled into active service for brief periods in 1952 and 1953.
In July 1946 he accepted the important task of organizing the Army-Navy Joint Research and Development Board. He resigned as Secretary of the Board, to return to full-time research activities on July 1, 1947. Secretaries Patterson and Forrestal, of the Army and Navy respectively, expressed their appreciation for the manner in which he carried out the organization of the Board, composed of military and civilian experts from a wide range of scientific and technical fields.
From July to September 1952 he was on active duty in Lexington, Massachusetts, in connection with the Lincoln Field Project. In December 1953 he again had active duty in connection with the Lincoln Project, this time at the Massachusetts of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In addition to the Legion of Merit, the Commendation Ribbon, and the Antarctic Expedition Medal, Captain Berkner has the American Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal.
He has traveled extensively, spending many months in England, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, and the Pacific Islands, including Tahiti, Samoa, Hawaii, Figi, and Ceylon. He is a member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers., Institute of Radio Engineers; American Physical Society, Geophysics Union; Washington Academy of Sciences; and others.
He died June 4, 1967.