Woodbury Sanderson Adams was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 2 February 1908, son of Edward Haven and Florence (Sanderson) Adams. He graduated from Portsmouth High School and attended Maine Wesleyan Seminary, Kents Hill, Maine. Prior to entering active Naval Service he was employed by the National Mechanics and Traders Bank, Portsmouth New Hampshire, the First National Bank of Boston (Massachusetts), and for a short period was an Assistant National Bank Examiner.
He was commissioned Ensign in the Supply Corps of the US Naval Reserve on 4 March 1932. Advancing progressively in rank, he subsequently attained that of Captain to date from 1 March 1954, having transferred to the Regular Navy in September 1946.
After receiving his commission in 1932, he had periods of training duty at the Receiving Ship, Boston, Massachusetts, (1932-1933); on board USS Conyingham (1937), and USS Wyoming (1937); and at the Navy Yard, New York, New York (1939). Ordered into active Naval Service, he reported in July 1940 for instruction at the Naval Reserve Supply Corps Officer's School, Georgetown University, Washington, DC. Completing the course there in September 1940, he then joined the staff of Commander Destroyer Division SIXTY as Division Disbursing Officer.
He was Disbursing, Commissary and Clothing Officer at the Naval Air Station and the Naval Operating Base, Bermuda, from March 1941 until December 1942, after which he was assigned to the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, Navy Department, Washington, DC, to serve as Security Officer, First Lieutenant and Special Assistant to the Administrative Officer. In March 1944 he joined USS Boston as Supply Officer, and while attached to that cruiser, participated in the Marshall Islands operation; raids on Palau, Yap, Ulithi, Woleai, Truk, Satawan, and Ponape, and the operations at Hollandia, Western New Guinea, Marianas, Western Carolines, Leyte, Luzon and Iwo Jima. Following the capitulation of the Japanese Empire, the Boston, with units of the THIRD Fleet, entered Tokyo Bay and subsequently participated in the destruction of coastal installations, naval craft, and ammunition dumps along the east coast of Honshu. He received a Letter of Commendation from the Commander Cruisers, US Pacific fleet, for services in the Boston.
Detached from the Boston in November 1945, he reported the next month as Industrial Relations Officer at the Naval Supply Depot, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. He remained there until July 1946, when he was assigned to the Officer Personnel Division, Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, Navy Department, Washington, DC. Between September 1947 and June 1949 he was Senior Assistant Supply Officer at the Portsmouth (New Hampshire) Naval Shipyard, after which he had three months' instruction in Spanish at the Naval Intelligence School, Washington, DC.
In October 1949 he became Supply Advisor to the Chief of the Naval Mission at Peru, and in December 1950 joined USS Franklin D. Roosevelt to serve as Supply Officer with collateral duty as Supply Officer on the staffs of Commander Carrier Division TWO and Commander Carrier Division FOUR. He was Executive Officer of the Ships Parts Control Center, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, from July 1952 until September 1953, when he reported as Officer in Charge of the Ship Supply Depot, Naval Supply Center, Norfolk, Virginia. From September to December 1955 he attended the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. In February 1956 he received orders to duty as Supply Officer at the Portsmouth (New Hampshire) Naval Shipyard.
Captain Adams had the Naval Reserve Medal; American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; the American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one silver star and four bronze stars (nine operations); the World War II Victory Medal; the Navy Occupation Service Medal, Asia Clasp; the National Defense Service Medal; and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two stars. He also had the Expert Pistol Shot Medal.
He was a member of the Warwick Club, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the Washington Lodge, AF&AM, Roxbury, Massachusetts; and the Harrisburg Consistory, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.