May 18, 1942
From: The Senior Line Petty Officer, U.S.S. SIMS,
(Robert James Dicken, C.S.M., U.S. Navy).
To: The Secretary of the Navy. Via: The Commander U.S. Submarines, Eastern Australia. Subject: Personal observations of SIMS #409 disaster.
- On May 7, I was serving as Chief Signalman on board the U.S.S. Sims. We were employed convoying the U.S. Navy Tanker Neosho when attacked by Japanese planes, bombed and sunk. After several days we were picked up by the U.S.S. Henley and while enroute to Brisbane Australia, I prepared a report which I gave to the Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Neosho who had been taken off by the U.S.S. Henley.
That report is as follows:
May 13, 1942
From: Dicken, R.J., C.S.M., U.S. N. To: The C.O. U.S.S. Neosho. Subject: Personal observations of SIMS #409 disaster.
On May 7 at 0930 I was in the Chief's quarters and heard a man in #1 handling room exclaim that a bomb had lit right alongside. General Quarters sounded immediately and duty gun opened fire. Upon reaching bridge the other guns had commenced firing on horizontal bombers. Recognition signals were attempted but no reply.
There were a large number of our shells which failed to burst at the beginning of the attack but after several rounds, number unknown, the fuse settings seemed to be operating satisfactory as bursts were observed near the enemy planes.
At beginning of attack Sims went to full speed and patrolled on either bow of tanker. Our gunfire seemed very effective in keeping the planes high and on the move.
Observed one bomb score near miss, port side, amidships. No damage reported. One casualty, slight shoulder wound, on #2 gun. Man treated during lull and returned to gun.
High level attack lasted ten to fifteen minutes.
For next two hours several Radar contacts made, distance fifteen to twenty miles, but no planes appeared.
#1 gun appeared to be blistered.
About 1155 planes approached, identification attempted and upon no response the order to commence fire was given. Enemy planes began dive bombing attack on tanker. A steady rate of fire was maintained from all 5" guns.
About 1215 Sims received direct hit on or near after set torpedo tubes. Bomb apparently pierced deck and exploded in after engine room. Deck buckled forward of after deck house. Radar fell across gig. Received two more hits, one on after deck house, port side forward, which appeared to have caused only local damage. Another hit on #4 gun caused local damage. #1 and #2 guns were continuing to fire by local control.
Personnel was ordered off bridge and reported to Assistant Chief Engineer Ensign Tachna who ordered us to take off our shoes and put motor whale boat in water.
Numerous fireroom personnel seemed uninjured by first hit in engine room. This force assisted in lowering boat. Two men in boat when lowered. Boat began drifting clear of side. I went over the side, swam to boat, took tiller and began picking up personnel in water.
The Captain, still on bridge, ordered me aft to try to get aboard to flood after magazines and extinguish fire on after deck house. This was necessary due to fact that main deck between after deck house and machine shop was awash.
An attempt was made to get aboard. Ship began settling from aft, whale boat pulled clear and immediately afterwards the boilers blew up followed by another but smaller explosion. The ship broke in two parts, and sank.
All men that were not apparently dead were taken aboard, search made for two life rafts with from ten to twenty (total) men aboard. We then proceeded to tanker and placed ourselves under that command. There were fifteen Sims survivors in boat.
I have questioned Sims survivors for more data but no further information available.
Robert James Dicken C.S.M.
- I never saw any sign of panic. Everyone was on their stations doing their job and the whole ship worked as a well organized unit until the end. Discipline was excellent.
- There are a few outstanding things that I can remember in addition to the above report:
The number one gun crew stood by their gun and kept up a steady rate of fire after the paint on their gun was burning and the ship was at such an angle that the decks were awash. The Chief Engineer was wounded severely but carried out several duties under extremely difficult conditions. He tried to fire the forward set of torpedo tubes to assist the Captain in lightening the ship and to remove the danger of the torpedoes exploding aboard. He also extinguished the fire on the torpedo deck house at the time. One outstanding act was done by an enlisted man named E.F. MUNCH, MM2c, just before he jumped over the side to be picked up by my boat, he secured a depth charge to the deck so it would not go over the side or accidently explode on deck.
- The last I saw of the Commanding Officer he was standing on the bridge when the ship was blown up by the explosion. He showed an example of courage throughout the entire engagement.
- To the best of my knowledge and belief all muster rolls, log books and valuable papers went down with the Sims. We did not have any books or papers in my boat at all. My boat was not loaded with a view to permanently abandon ship. The Captain believed that he could save the ship and was doing everything in his power to do so right up until the ship blew up and sank.
- During the entire four days of hard work in the boat, part of which time we were alongside the Neosho, and part clear of the Neosho, the conduct of the men was very good. We did the best we could to provision the boat and prepare it for sea. For the first three days we were repairing the 18 inch hole in the boat.
- Our small boat was left tied up alongside the Neosho when we were taken aboard the Henley. When the Neosho was fired on and purposely sunk, this boat went down with her.
No property of any kind remains of the Sims.
- To the best of my knowledge and belief the following are the only survivors of the U.S.S. Sims:
SERVICE NO. VESSIA, V.J. F2c Unknown LAWES, J. Jr. Sea2c Unknown TEVEBAUGH, J.W. RM3c Unknown GOBER, A.C. Sea2c Unknown CHMIELEWSKI, J. F1c Unknown SCOTT, M.W. F3c Unknown VERTON, J.C. Sea2c Unknown ERNST, G.E. FC3c Unknown SAVAGE, J. FC3c Unknown MUNCH, E.F. MM2c Unknown CANOLE, V.F. MM2c Unknown REILLY, T.F. WT1c Unknown CLARK, (unknown) CY Unknown PELIES, E.M. Sea2c Unknown DICKEN, R.J. CSM Unknown
I am the senior petty officer in this group of survivors. Of this list two men are now dead, they are: Chief Yeoman CLARK, who died the first night we were in the boat and PELIES, E.M., who died in the sick bay on board the Henley. To the best of my knowledge and belief there are no other survivors of the Sims.
Robert James Dicken, CSM.
Last updated: December 2, 2002Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation