It is understandable why William S. Sims was seen by many in his day as a troublemaker. As a lieutenant in 1901, he jumped the chain of command by writing directly to President Theodore Roosevelt to urge major changes in naval gunnery practices. During the early decades of the 20th century, he repeatedly gave speeches and wrote articles in Proceedings that were openly critical of Navy policies and practices that he believed were mired in debilitating conservative attitudes. In 1910, while in command of a battleship on a goodwill cruise to Europe, Sims caused the Navy to issue a general order forbidding naval officers to comment publicly on U.S. foreign policy when he declared to his British hosts, “If the time ever comes when the British Empire is seriously menaced by an external enemy, it is my opinion that you may count on every man, every dollar, every drop of blood of your kindred across the sea.”
When he was sent to Great Britain during World War I, Sims created much controversy by giving the Royal Navy operational control of U.S. ships for antisubmarine operations, a move that was in direct contradiction to the U.S. Army’s policy of maintaining control of its forces. After the war, he got into a heated public battle over naval policies with Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral William S. Benson that ultimately led to five months of disagreeable hearings in the Senate Naval Affairs Committee, which did little to enhance the Navy’s public reputation.