USS Sims (DD-409)

USS Sims (DD-409) was the name ship of the Sims class destroyers. She served with the Neutrality Patrol in 1940-41, then joined the Yorktown task force after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. She took part in the early carrier raids, then moved south to defend New Guinea. During the battle of the Coral Sea she was mistaken for a cruiser by the Japanese and sunk by very heavy air attacks.

The Sims was named after William S. Sims, who served in the US Navy from 1880, commanding the US Naval Forces in British and European waters during the First World War.

The Sims was laid down at the Bath Iron Works, Maine, on 15 July 1937, launched on 8 April 1939 when she was sponsored by Mrs William S. Sims and commissioned on 1 August 1939.

After a shakedown cruise that took her to the Caribbean the Sims joined the Atlantic Squadron at Norfolk on 2 August 1940. She joined the Neutrality Patrol, and operated in the Caribbean and South Atlantic as part of Destroyer Squadron 2.

In November and December 1940, Sims patrolled off Martinque, watching the Vichy French warships based there.

1941

On 28 May 1941 the Sims arrived at her new base at Newport, Rhode Island.

USS Sims (DD-409), Boston Navy Yard, 1940 USS Sims (DD-409), Boston Navy Yard, 1940

On 16 June 1941 the United States agreed to replace the British garrison of Iceland. The first American troops landed on 8 July and were in complete control by 12 July. On 28 July the Sims departed for Iceland as part of an American task force that would be based on the island. In August she was used to patrol the approaches to Iceland, a key stage in the convoy route across the Atlantic.

In September and October the Sims carried out two long patrols in the North Atlantic.

On 26 October she was part of TG 14.3 (Savannah (CL-42), Philadelphia, New Mexico (BB-40), Yorktown and seven destroyers) which left Casco Bay, Maine, escorting a convoy of six British cargo ships across the western Atlantic. On 30 October the Sims was about to refuel from the Yorktown when a U-boat was detected on sonar. The Americans attacked the sonar target, briefly pausing when they decided they were attacking fish, but resuming when propeller noises were heard on sonar. However the U-boat escaped intact.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor it was decided to sent the Yorktown to the Pacific. The Sims joined the Yorktown’s Task Force 17 and departed Norfolk on 16 December, heading for San Diego.

1942

In late January Task Force 17 escorted a troop convoy carrying US Marines from San Diego to Samoa. She then formed part of the task force as it headed towards the Marshall Islands. On 28 January a land based bomber dropped four bombs on the Sims, but they missed to the stern. The carrier then raided Japanese bases on the Marshal Islands.

USS Russell (DD-414) and USS Sims (DD-409), Norfolk, 1941 USS Russell (DD-414) and USS Sims (DD-409), Norfolk, 1941

On 16 February the Sims was part of the Yorktown’s task force when it left Pearl Harbor heading towards Japanese held Wake Island. However before the task force could attack Wake it was ordered south to Canton Island instead.

In the aftermath of the attack the Sims and three destroyers were sent to try and find an TBD-1 Devastator which was reported to have come down in the seas behind the carriers. During the search a Kawanishi H6K4 attacked the Sims without success, and was then shot down by Wildcats from VF-42. However there was no sign of the missing aircraft.

The Sims departed Pearl Harbor once again on 16 February, again with Task Force 16 (Yorktown (CV-5), Louisville (CA-28), Anderson (DD-411), Hammann (DD-412), Walke (DD-416) and Sims), originally with orders to attack Wake Island. Soon afterwards they were diverted to Canton Island, on the air route from Hawaii to New Caledonia, to protect the area against a possible Japanese attack.

At the same time Task Force 11 (Lexington) had been ordered to carry out a raid on the Japanese base at Rabaul. However the Japanese had discovered the American task force, and hit it with a major air raid off Bougainville on 20 February. Task Force 17 was ordered to join up with TF 11 so that the combined force could launch a more powerful attack on Rabaul. The two carrier task forces met up to the south-west of the New Hebrides on 6 March, and headed back towards Rabaul under the command of TF 11’s Vice Admiral Brown.

Their plans were changed when the Japanese occupied Lae and Salamaua on the north coast of New Guinea. On 8 March Admiral Brown decided to move the combined force into the Gulf of Papua, south of New Guinea, and launch air attacks across the island to hit the new Japanese footholds in the north. While the main carrier force moved south, the Sims was part of a cruiser force that was detached to Rossel Island in the Louisiade Archipelago, around 150 miles to the east of New Guinea, from where they could watch for any Japanese surface forces moving around the eastern end of the island. The carrier strike was carried out on 10 March, and helped convince the Japanese that they needed to occupy Port Moresby on the south-eastern coast of New Guinea.

After the raid the Sims operated in the New Caledonia and Tonga Islands, further to the south-east, on the approach routes from the US to Australia.

By the end of April the Americans had discovered that the Japanese were planning to send a fleet into the Coral Sea to support an amphibious assault on Port Moresby. They ordered all available carriers to rush to the area, although those coming from Pearl Harbor arrived too late, leaving the Lexington and Yorktown groups to fight the resulting battle of the Coral Sea.

The two carrier groups met in the eastern Coral Sea on 1 May. On 3 May the Yorktown launched three raids on Japanese shipping off Tulagi in the Solomon Islands, which they had just occupied. The task force refuelled on 5 and 6 May, and then sent the oiler Neosho into what was believed to be a safe area south of the main fleet. The Sims was sent to escort her, possibly because her engines were proving somewhat unreliable.

Before 8am on 7 May a Japanese search plane spotted the two isolated ships and reported them as being a carrier and a cruiser (throughout the war Japanese aviators consistently exaggerated the size and important of any ships they’d seen or attacked). Admiral Takagi believed these reports, and ordered a series of assaults on these two ships.

The first two attacks involved high level bombers, with fifteen attacking at 0930 and ten at 1038. As was almost always the case these high level attacks missed, at least in part because the target ships were given plenty of time to avoid any falling bombs. However the third attack was by a force of thirty-six dive bombers. By this point the Japanese had realised that they were only attacking an oiler and a destroyer, and recalled a force of torpedo bombers to save their valuable torpedoes, but sent the dive bombers in.

This time the results were devastating. The Neosho was hit by seven direct hits and one crashing aircraft and set on fire. Although she stayed afloat, she was a crippled wreck.

The Sims was even less fortunate. Three 500lb bombs hit, with two exploding in the engine room. The ship began to sink stern first, but as she was going under she was briefly lifted back out of the water by a massive explosion. There were only thirteen survivors, who found refuge in a damaged whaleboat and stayed with the crippled Neosho until they were rescued by the Henley (DD-391) on 11 May. 

Sims received two battle stars for World War II service, for the Pacific Raids of 1942 and the battle of the Coral Sea.

Displacement (standard)

1,570t design
1,759.3t as built  

Displacement (loaded)

2,293.1t

Top Speed

35kt design
38.75kt at 51,387shp at 1,948tons on trial (Anderson)
36.91kts at 51,138shp at 2,230tons on trial (Anderson)

Engine

2-shaft Westinghouse turbines
3 boilers
50,000shp design

Range

6,500nm at 12kts design
5,640nm at 12kts at 2,350t wartime
3,660nm at 20kts at 2,350t

Armour - belt

 

 - deck

 

Length

348ft 3.25in

Width

36ft 1.5in

Armaments

Five 5in/38 DP guns
Twelve 21in torpedo tubes in three quad tubes in design
Eight 21in TT in two quads as built
Four 0.50in AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement

192

U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History, Norman Friedmann . The standard history of the development of American destroyers, from the earliest torpedo boat destroyers to the post-war fleet, and covering the massive classes of destroyers built for both World Wars. Gives the reader a good understanding of the debates that surrounded each class of destroyer and led to their individual features.
cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (21 November 2022), USS Sims (DD-409) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Sims_DD409.html

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