History & Heritage
393816 - Leif J. Sverdrup (1898-1976): Outstanding Minnesota/Missouri and U.S. Civil and Military Engineer and Bridge Builder
Monday, June 4
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: Greenway CD
Leif J. Sverdrup (1898-1976) was a Norwegian-born American civil engineer who became the highest ranking reserve officer in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers history. Leif and his family immigrated to Minnesota after 1914, and he served in the U.S. Army during World War I (1917-18). Leif returned to Minneapolis and accepted a reserve officer’s field artillery commission and enrolled in University of Minnesota civil engineering (bachelor’s degree in 1921). He worked for the Minnesota and Missouri State Highway Departments. In 1928 he and his former civil engineering Professor John I. Parcel formed Sverdrup & Parcel Consulting Engineers, establishing their St. Louis office with the first job (Missouri River highway bridge). In October 1941, the War Department selected Sverdrup & Parcel to develop airfields across the Central Pacific with access to American bases in the Philippines. Sverdrup was a major general in charge of combat engineering in the Southwestern Pacific under MacArthur. Afterwards, the firm focused on transportation and defense, including construction of the world’s largest wind tunnels (Wright Field (Dayton, OH)). From 1947-58, Sverdrup became commander of the 102nd Division of the Army Reserve, and achieved the 3-star rank of lieutenant general. The firms major projects include Arnold Engineering Development Center and 1964 Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the latter being named a Seven Engineering Wonder of the Modern World. On 2 May 1975, Sverdrup attended the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' 200th Anniversary Dinner and presented MacArthur's Gold Castles insignia to the Chief of Engineers, Lieutenant General William C. Gribble, Jr.