Lloyd (Gunner) Briggs
Director, Navy Research Rockets
Served 1966 – 1986
Lloyd (Gunner) Briggs was born in Rushville, IL., on Dec. 21, 1919. He joined the Navy in 1940. During World War II he served aboard the Battleship USS Texas and participated in the Normandy invasion.
Briggs came to White Sands in 1966 as a chief warrant officer with the Navy. He was assigned as the research rocket officer in charge of the Aerobee Upper Altitude Research Rocket Program. In those days the program was centered at LC-35 and used only Aerobee 150 rockets.
In 1970, Gunner retired from the Navy and took on the job of Director of Research Rockets as a civilian employee. During his 20 years at White Sands, he supervised more than 650 rocket launches. Many of these rockets set altitude records or incorporated new technology. In addition, he shepherded the expansion of Research Rockets to LC-36 with more launch pads, an assembly building and test lab. The vehicles used expanded to include the Aerobee 170, 200 and 350 series, Nike Apache, Nike Cajun, Aries, Black Brant, Nike Black Brant and Terrier Black Brant.
Briggs led the launch of the 1,000th Aerobee. On Dec. 16, 1976, his Aries single-stage rocket reached a record-setting altitude of 319 miles. In 1977 he led a NASA/White Sands team to Australia to launch seven rockets at the Woomera Range.
For directing more than half the lifespan of the Aerobee program, NASA awarded Briggs the Exceptional Service Medal. The award was given for his “unusual initiative and creative ability.”
Briggs was known as the consummate “hands on” director. He didn’t just sit in his office and direct. He was always on site overseeing and lending a hand in all aspects of a rocket’s preparation to include: pre-fire tests, loading, fueling, launching and recovery.
Briggs retired in 1986 after 45 years of combined federal service. On his departure, the Navy named the launch area of LC-36 as “Briggs Site.”
Gunner Briggs died on Dec. 24, 1986.