At the turn of the century, then-Lieutenant William Sowden Sims—pictured here in 1919 with Rear Admiral Victor Blue (left), and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt (right)—saw the tremendous advantages of continuous-aim firing. Through daring, persistence, and the willingness to support his ideas in writing, he was able to bring needed change to the Navy.
In 1899, five ships of the U.S. Navy’s North Atlantic Squadron shot for five minutes at a practice hulk anchored 1,600 yards away. When the smoke cleared, they had managed a typical score for the era: two hits to the target ship’s sails. A mere six years later, a single gunner on one ship, shooting for one minute at the same range, placed 15 hits into a 75- foot by 25-foot target, with more than 50% landing within a bullseye 50-inch square. The improvement in accuracy exceeded 3000%.1
How did such a dramatic change occur? The answer lies in the story of Lieutenant William Sowden Sims, U.S. Navy, and it holds a lesson for every military professional in a time of "rightsizing,” budget cuts, and constant change.