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ADM William Sowden Sims

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ADM William Sowden Sims

  • Birth 15 Oct 1858 Port Hope, Northumberland County, Ontario, Canada
  • Death 28 Sep 1936 Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
  • Burial Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA
  • Plot Section 7, Lot 8002-B
  • Memorial ID 9773847

US Navy Admiral, Pulitzer Prize Winner. He served twice as president of the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island and was instrumental in modernizing the US Navy at the turn of the 20th century. Born to American parents who were living in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada, he attended the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland in 1876, graduating in 1880. As a young officer, he sought to reform naval gunnery by improving target practice. His superiors resisted his suggestions, failing to see their merit, and was also hindered by his low rank. In 1902 he overcame the opposition by writing directly to President Theodore Roosevelt. The President, who had previously served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, was intrigued by his ideas and made him the US Navy's Inspector of Target Practice. In March 1916 he became the first captain of the new battleship USS Nevada. When the US entered World War I in April 1917, he was serving as president of the Naval War College at the rank of rear admiral. Prior to the US entering the war, the Wilson Administration sent him to London as the senior naval representative. After the US entry in World War I, he was given command over US naval forces operating from England. His tact and ability of to work smoothly with his British counterpart, Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, contributed greatly to the success of Allied shipping that brought food, munitions, and other vital supplies to the Allied armies fighting in Europe. He played a major role in securing the adoption of the convoy system to protect Allied merchant ships against German submarine attack. During the war, he was promoted to the rank of vice admiral and by the war's end, he commanded all US naval forces operating in Europe. In 1919 after the war ended in Allied victory, he publicly attacked the deficiencies of American naval strategy, tactics, policy, and administration, charging that the failures had cost the Allies 2,500,000 tons of supplies, thereby prolonging the war by six months. He estimated the delay had raised the cost of the war to the Allies by $15 billion, and that it led to the unnecessary loss of 500,000 lives. The Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels was more of a politician than a naval strategist, but he ably countered the accusations, pointing to Sims' Anglophilism (a fondness for the English culture), stating his vantage point in London was too narrow to assess accurately the overall war effort by the US Navy. Daniels cited prewar naval preparations and strategy proposals made by other American leaders during the war to disprove his allegations. Much of his criticism of naval administration was deemed valid by a Congressional panel, yet he failed in his attempt to discredit Daniels. Congress allowed Daniels to continue in a weakly subordinate role to the political civilian appointees, a disappointment to many naval professionals who believed an effective Navy had to be run by its ranking officer instead of by a politician with little naval or strategic knowledge. Despite the public criticism, he emerged with his reputation unharmed and served a second tour as president of the Naval War College, from 1919 to 1922, retiring in that position at the rank of admiral with 42 years of continued military service. He was the recipient of the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. In June 1920 he received an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Columbia University in New York City, New York. Several weeks later, Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts conferred on him an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree. His account of the US naval effort during World War I, "The Victory at Sea," won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for History. In 1929 he received an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. He died at the age of 77. Several US Navy vessels have been named in his honor, with three ships have been named USS Sims, and a transport vessel was named USS Admiral W. S. Sims.

Bio by: William Bjornstad


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Raptorman
  • Added: 8 Nov 2004
  • Find A Grave Memorial 9773847
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for ADM William Sowden Sims (15 Oct 1858–28 Sep 1936), Find A Grave Memorial no. 9773847, citing Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .