USS Sims (DD-409) was the lead ship of a destroyer class constructed for the U.S. Navy during World War II. She was the first naval vessel to be named in honor of Admiral William Sims, who is best known for his efforts in modernizing the Navy. Sims also commanded all of the United States naval forces in Europe during World War I.
Sims was laid down by Bath Iron Works Corporation in Bath, Maine on July 15, 1937. Launched on April 8, 1939, she was sponsored by Mrs. William S. Sims. Lieutenant Commander W.A. Griswold took command of Sims on August 1, 1939.
Following shakedown, Sims joined the Atlantic Squadron in Norfolk, Virginia. She then conducted Neutrality Patrol in South Atlantic and Caribbean waters before conducting patrol duties off Martinique in November and December of 1940. The following year, she began operating out of Newport, Rhode Island before sailing to Iceland with an American task force.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Sims joined Task Force 17 centered around Yorktown. She spent the early part of 1942 serving as part of a raid in the Marshall Islands. On January 25, Sims served as a screen as the force left Samoa. Three days later, Sims encountered an enemy bomber, but escaped without damage.
On February 16, Sims left Pearl Harbor to assist with the attack of Wake Island. Her orders were changed, however, and she was redirected to the Canton Island area. In late April, Sims was assigned to escort USS Neosho (AO-23) as part of the Battle of the Coral Sea.
On May 7, a Japanese search plane spotted Sims and Neosho. After reporting the vessels as a carrier and a cruiser, an all-out attack was ordered on the two ships. 15 high level bombers attacked the ships with no success. About an hour later, Sims was attacked again by 10 bombers. She once again managed to evade the attack.
Sims was not so lucky during the third wave of attacks, which consisted of 36 dive bombers. Both Neosho and Sims were devastated by the attack. Within minutes of the attack, Sims began to sink. Shortly after she disappeared below the water’s surface, an explosion launched the ship 15 feet into the air. 15 men survived the explosion.
Sims was struck from the Navy list on June 24, 1942. She received two battle stars for her service during World War II.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Sims (DD-409)
Most crewmen stationed or doing repairs on Sims were most likely exposed to asbestos fibers to a greater or lesser extent. Crewmen repairing engineering equipment were exposed more frequently and to a greater degree, as were those working in fire suppression efforts. Dock and shipyard workers were also exposed extensively to asbestos fibers in large quantities. Inhaling or swallowing of asbestos fibers can lead to a diagnosis of mesothelioma.
Sims’ grim fate means that many of her crew was lost. Her few survivors and those that were stationed aboard her before she was sunk may have suffered from exposure to asbestos during their service. Navy veterans injured by asbestos have legal rights.Sources
Sims. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Department of the Navy – Naval Historical Center.