Distinguished Sailors –
William S. Sims
Issue Date: February 4, 2010
First-day City: Washington, D.C.
William Sims (1858-1936) didn’t hesitate to speak his mind. A U.S. Navy officer, Sims reported in 1902 that even the most powerful U.S. warship was “glaringly inferior” to those of possible enemies. His superiors objected, so Sims sent his report to President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt listened and made Sims a naval aide.
Sims’ outspoken nature was also part of a keen naval mind that was open to new ideas. From his time spent as an observer in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, he concluded that the Navy needed to change to an “all-big gun” philosophy, since damage done by big ship guns more than made up for the versatility of ships with a mix of smaller guns.
Sims was reprimanded by President William Howard Taft in 1910, when Sims guaranteed U.S. support to England, but he was the admiral placed in charge of all U.S. Navy forces when war came. Sims’ use of convoys greatly improved the stream of supplies to Great Britain during World War I.
While his post-war criticism caused controversy, as head of the Naval Academy, Sims made major advances in Naval theory. His war-games predicted many of the strategies used by aircraft carriers – years before the first carrier was ever built. As a reformer, Sims helped modernize the U.S. Navy.