Youngberg, Gilbert A.
Gilbert Albin Youngberg (1875-1962) was born to Swedish immigrants in Belle Creek, Minnesota. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1900 and transferred to the Corps of Engineers as a second lieutenant in 1901. In 1910 he served a four-year term as professor of practical military engineering at the U.S. Military Academy. During this time he authored "History of Engineer Troops in the United States Army, 1775-1901." Immediately after his professorship, Youngberg served as engineer of the Charleston, South Carolina District, where he was in charge of fortifications and river and harbor improvements.
In 1918 Colonel Youngberg was presented the Army Distinguished Service Medal for meritorious and distinguished services to the government during World War I. Additionally, he was awarded the Companion of Distinguished Service Order of Great Britain, Officer of the Legion of Honor in France, and Officer of the Order of Saints Mauricio and Lazaro in Italy.
His career continued to flourish as the assistant to the chief of engineers, U.S. Army, Washington, during the years 1919-1922. In 1922 he was relocated to Jacksonville, Florida as the U.S. District Engineer for the Jacksonville District. During this time, Colonel Youngberg collected and compiled data that led to the congressional approval of the federal plans and appropriations for the enlargement of the East Coast Canal, also referred to as the Inland Waterway. He assisted in securing the necessary legislation to form a special taxing district, the Florida Inland Navigation District. Known as F.I.N.D., this district secured and transferred to the U.S. the East Coast Canal property and the rights-of-way associated with this property. After the inception of F.I.N.D., Colonel Youngberg was appointed chief engineer in charge of surveys of right-of-way and spoil areas around the canal.
Colonel Youngberg retired from the Army in 1926 and moved right into private practice as a member of Hills & Youngberg, Consulting Engineers. Youngberg and his partner, George Hills, were instrumental in the federal government assuming the responsibility for flood control and navigation improvements around the Lake Okeechobee area. The firm is also linked to a significant number of port developments in the state, in addition to being involved in economic studies for the controversial Gulf-Atlantic Ship Canal.
Colonel Youngberg wrote numerous technical reports on the structural and economic viability of the Gulf-Atlantic Ship Canal project and traveled the state addressing local chambers of commerce and service clubs on the importance of the canal to Florida's future. Though his professional involvement in the canal project ended after these initial reports, he remained a supporter of the canal and continued to follow its progress.
Construction on the Gulf-Atlantic Ship Canal began in the fall of 1935. The surveyed and selected route for this canal follows the St. John's River from the Atlantic Ocean, past Jacksonville, winding through the central Florida river valleys, to empty into the Gulf of Mexico near Dunnellon, Florida. In the fall of 1936 construction on the canal was halted due to lack of funds. The controversial project was recommenced and halted several times before it was officially put to rest in 1971, nine years after the death of Youngberg.
In addition to his service in the army and as an engineer in a private firm, Youngberg was a fellow in the Florida Engineering Society, a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, a founding member and president of the Society of American Military Engineers, and a member of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association. He was also an active writer, having written not only his book on the history of engineer troops, but numerous articles for engineering and military publications, and writing and editing articles for the Encyclopedia Britannica.