William S. Sims, born in 1858 in Ontario, Canada, was appointed to the Naval Academy in 1876 and graduated in 1880. Seventeen years of sea duty were followed by assignments as Naval Attaché to Paris, St. Petersburg, and Madrid. Sims next served as Inspector of Target Practice; and, under his supervision, the naval gunnery system increased the rapidity of hits 100 percent and the general effectiveness of fire 500 percent. He also served as Naval Aide to President Theodore Roosevelt for two and one-half years.
On 11 February 1917, Sims became President of the Naval War College. In March 1917, he was designated by the Secretary of the Navy as Representative of the Navy Department in London. With the entry of the United States into World War I in April, he was ordered to assume command of all American destroyers, tenders, and auxiliaries operating from British bases. In May, he was designated as Commander of United States Destroyers Operating from British Bases, with the rank of Vice Admiral; and, in June, his title was changed to Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters. On 10 December 1917, he assumed additional duty as Naval Attaché, London, England. The North Sea Mine Barrage was laid under his direction.
Admiral Sims again became President of the Naval War College in April 1919 and served in that capacity until his retirement on 15 October 1922. He died at Boston, Mass., on 25 September 1936.
(DD-409: dp. 1,570; l. 348'2"; b. 35'4"; dr. 9'11"; s. 35+ k.; cpl. 241; a. 4 5", 8 21" tt; cl. Sims)
The first Sims (DD-409) was laid down on 15 July 1937 by Bath Iron Works Corp., Bath, Maine; launched on 8 April 1939; sponsored by Mrs. William S. Sims; and commissioned on 1 August 1939, Lt. Comdr. W. A. Griswold in command.
After shakedown training in the Caribbean and post-shakedown availability in the Boston Navy Yard, Sims joined the Atlantic Squadron at Norfolk on 2 August 1940. The destroyer operated with the Neutrality Patrol in Caribbean and South Atlantic waters. In November and December 1940, Sims patrolled off Martinque. On 28 May 1941, the ship arrived at Newport, R.I., and began operating from there. She sailed for Iceland on 28 July with an American task force. In August, the destroyer patrolled the approaches to Iceland. In September and October, the ship made two lengthy North Atlantic patrols. Sims had been attached to Destroyer Squadron (DesRon) 2 since she began making Neutrality Patrols.
With the outbreak of war on 7 December, DesRon 2 became part of a task force (Task Force 17) formed around Yorktown (CV-5). The task force sortied from Norfolk on 16 December 1941 for San Diego. From there, it sailed as part of a convoy taking marines to Samoa, arriving on 23 January 1942.
At the time, it was believed that the Japanese would attack Samoa to sever Allied communications with Australia. To thwart such a move, a carrier raid against Japanese bases in the Marshall Islands was planned. The Yorktown task force was to strike the islands of Mili, Jaluit, and Makin, while another force centered around Enterprise (CV-6) was to hit Kwaja-lein, Wotje, and Maloelap.
Task Force 17 departed Samoa on 25 January with Sims in the screen. At 1105 on the 28th, she sighted an enemy bomber. At 1114, a stick of four bombs fell approximately 1,500 yards astern, straddling the wake of the destroyer. The next day, the two carrier forces and a bombardment group attacked the islands and withdrew.
Sims, with TF 17, sailed from Pearl Harbor on 16 February to attack Wake Island. Shortly after departing, their sailing orders were changed; and they proceeded to the Canton Island area. Canton is a small island on the Honolulu-New Caledonia air route, and it was thought to be endangered by the Japanese.
By early March, the Japanese had occupied Lae and Salamaua on the north coast of New Guinea. To check this drive, a carrier strike was launched on 10 March from Lexington (CV-2) and Yorktown. Sims remained near Rossel Island in the Louisiades with a force of cruisers and destroyers to protect the carriers from enemy surface ships. Sims next operated in the New Caledonia-Tonga Islands area.
In late April, a Japanese task force was assembled to win control of the Coral Sea area and thereby isolate Australia. This consisted of a covering group to protect landing forces on Tulagi and Port Moresby and a striking force to eliminate Allied shipping in the Coral Sea. The light carrier, Shoho, was attached to the covering force; and the big new carriers, Shokaku and Zuikaku, were the striking force under command of Admiral Takagi. The American ships were divided into task forces centered around Lexington and Yorktown. Sims was ordered to escort oiler, Neosho (AO-23). The task force refueled on 5 and 6 May and then detached Neosho and Sims to continue to the next fueling point.
On the morning of 7 May, a search plane from the Japanese striking force sighted the oiler and destroyer and reported them to Admiral Takagi as a carrier and a cruiser. Takagi ordered an all-out attack. At 0930, 15 high level bombers attacked the two ships but did no damage. At 1038, 10 attacked the destroyer, but skillful maneuvering evaded the nine bombs that weredropped. A third attack against the two ships by 36 dive bombers was devastating. Neosho was soon a blazing wreck as the result of seven direct hits and one plane that dived into her.
Sims was attacked from all directions. The destroyer defended herself as best she could. Three 500-pound bombs hit the destroyer. Two exploded in the engine room; and, within minutes, the ship buckled amidships and began to sink, stern first. As Sims slid beneath the waves, there was a tremendous explosion that raised what was left of the ship almost 15 feet out of the water. Chief R. J. Dicken, in a damaged whaleboat, picked up 15 other survivors. They remained with Neosho, still afloat despite severe damage, until they were rescued by Henley (DD-391) on 11 May. Sims was struck from the Navy list on 24 June 1942.
Sims received two battle stars for World War IIservice.