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SIMS-CLASS DESTROYERS

By A. D. Jensen

The U.S. Navy's Bureau of Construction and Repair (BuC&R) began design studies in early-1936 for the Sims-class (DD-409) destroyers. At the same time, the second Naval Arms Limitation Treaty, signed in March 1936, included destroyers in a new category of light surface vessels, eliminating a previous treaty's limit of 1,500-tons. Under the new definition, destroyers could displace 3,000 tons, but the maximum tonnage for the total number of U.S. destroyers could not exceed 150,000 tons. In effect, any attempt to make the ships larger reduced the number that could be built. As it turned out, the navy was satisfied with the existing course of destroyer development and planned little increase in displacement. Conforming to the new limits, the navy's contract plans for the new destroyers allowed for increased structural "scantlings," improved sea keeping, and limited hull growth. Once complete, the plans were ready for Gibbs & Cox, the design agent, to begin the detailed working drawings.

The new Sims-class destroyers were a modest improvement over their predecessors, the Benham-class (DD-397). Although they retained the basic lines of the earlier 1,500-ton ships, they were lengthened by eight feet, which brought the ships' overall displacement to 1,570 tons. The additional 70 tons was used to strengthen the hull girder, subdivide the machinery spaces, and add some light ballistic protection to the new director and pilothouse. The Sims-class introduced the 5-inch MK 37 director to destroyer service in the U.S. Navy. With its computing elements located below decks, the new director was a considerable improvement over the MK 33. Whereas the Benhams mounted four five-inch guns and sixteen 21-inch torpedo tubes, the new design called for armament configured much like that of the Mahans, with five 5-inch guns and twelve 21-inch torpedo tubes. The 5-inch guns were all of the base ring-type, and mounts 51, 52, and 55 were fully enclosed. One torpedo tube was on the centerline, and the remaining two were wing mounts to port and starboard with provision made for four reloads so that a full eight-tube broadside could be fired to either side.

A notable feature of the design was the streamlining of the superstructure and deck edges, areas subjected to considerable windage, especially at high speeds. The forward end of the bridge was rounded, as were the edges of the forecastle and first superstructure decks. As originally designed the Sims-class had the following characteristics:

Measurements
Length overall: 347 feet 3 inches
Extreme beam: 36 feet 1 inches
Standard Displacement: 1,570 tons

Machinery
Three boilers
Two sets geared turbines
Two shafts/screws
Shaft horsepower: 50,000 hp
Speed: 38.7 knots

Armament (as built)
Five single 5-inch/38 caliber gun mounts

Three quadruple 21-inch torpedo tubes
Four .50 caliber machine guns

Two depth charge release tracks (for 600-pound charges)

Four single K-Gun depth-charge projectors (for 300-pound charges)

Armament (typical 1944)
Four single 5-inch/38 caliber gun mounts

Two quadruple 21-inch torpedo tubes
Two twin 40-mm gun mounts

Four single 20-mm gun mounts
Two depth charge release tracks (for 600-pound charges)

Four single K-Gun depth-charge projectors (for 300-pound charges)

Manning
Officers: 16
Enlisted: 235

The Anderson (DD-411), assigned to Federal Shipbuilding in Kearny, New Jersey, was the lead ship for the Sims-class. Upon completion, she was found to be almost 120 tons overweight and top heavy. To remedy the situation, at least partially, several things were done. First, mount 53, the 5-inch gun mount was landed, and the crew's shelter on the after deckhouse was removed. Next, one of the wing torpedo tube mounts was removed, and the other mount was relocated on the centerline at the deckhouse level amidships and aft of the forward tube mount. The provision for reloads was abandoned. Then, sixty tons of fixed ballast were added, the height of the mast was reduced and, finally, the splinter protection around the director and pilothouse was not installed on later ships. The first ships of the class were too far along to have the modification applied until after commissioning, but the later ships were modified before their completion.

The topside arrangement of the Sims-class was similar to the Benhams, with a raised forecastle protecting the officers and CPO quarters and the galley from the weather. Aft of the galley, the uptakes from the three boilers rose into a large single stack. The foundations for the torpedo tube mounts were mounted on each end of the midships deck house, which accommodated the torpedo and general workshops. The after deckhouse contained the crew's head, 40-mm ready service ammunition storage, and the handling room for mount 53 (originally mount 54) 5-in. gun mount. Internally, they were similar to the Benhams with accommodations, stores, fuel oil, and magazines forward and aft. The center, or machinery, section housed two boiler rooms, one with two boilers, and two engine rooms, the aft of which contained the distilling plant.

Wartime improvements in the armament included the addition of 40-mm heavy and 20-mm light antiaircraft guns. The four .50 caliber machine guns were replaced with single 20-mm guns. Later, two twin 40-mm gun mounts were fitted atop the after deckhouse forward of mount 53. This displaced the after two 20-mm guns, but one of them was kept and fitted on the forward side of the bridge. To save weight, mount 53, received a half shield and was similar to the other mounts but without roof plates. Gun crews were protected from the weather by a canvas roof.

The problems of excessive weight and instability plagued the Sims-class destroyers throughout their service life and made them ill-suited for service in areas such as the North Atlantic. A final attempt to solve the problems was made on the Mustin (DD-413) in August 1945. Both of her torpedo tube mounts were removed and replaced by two twin 40-mm mounts one on each side atop the midships deckhouse. This helped, but not enough to keep the survivors of the class on active service at the war's end.

From The Tin Can Sailor, April 2000

Copyright 2000 Tin Can Sailors, all rights reserved.

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