The Battle of the Coral Sea

Action Report of the U.S.S. Sims



May 18, 1942



The Senior Line Petty Officer, U.S.S. SIMS,
(Robert James Dicken, C.S.M., U.S. Navy).


The Secretary of the Navy.


The Commander U.S. Submarines, Eastern Australia.


Personal observations of SIMS #409 disaster.


1.   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:

At Sea
May 13, 1942



Dicken, R.J., C.S.M., U.S.N.


The C.O. U.S.S. Neosho.


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.


Above:  The navy destroyer U.S.S. Sims (DD-409).

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.


Respectfully submitted
Robert James Dicken C.S.M.


2.  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.


3.  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 accidentally explode on deck.


4.  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.


5.  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.


6.  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.


7.  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.


8.  To the best of my knowledge and belief the following are the only survivors of the U.S.S. Sims:









































CLARK, (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.



Table of Contents:

U.S.S. Neosho (AO-23)

U.S.S. Neosho (AO-23) Home Page


SECTION 1:  Background

Specifications of the U.S.S. Neosho

Photo Gallery of the U.S.S. Neosho

The Four U.S.S. Neoshos


SECTION 2:  Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941)


Prelude to War:  Conflict in the Far East

Bill Leu's Early Years

The U.S.S. Neosho at Pearl Harbor

Interview of Bill Leu:  The Attack on Pearl Harbor

U.S. Navy Action Report:  U.S.S. Neosho


SECTION 3:  Battle of the Coral Sea (May 1942)


The Battle of the Coral Sea:  Summary

Battle Action:  April 30 - May 4, 1942

Battle Action:  May 5 - May 7, 1942

Battle Action:  May 8, 1942

The Ordeal of the U.S.S. Neosho

May 7, 1942:  The Japanese Attack

May 8, 1942:  Waiting for Rescue

May 9, 1942:  Fading Hope

May 10, 1942:  Neosho Sighted

May 11, 1942:  Rescue

The Battle of the Coral Sea (continued)

List of Survivors and Casualties

U.S.S. Neosho:  Survivors and Casualties

U.S.S. Sims:  Survivors and Casualties

Interview of Bill Leu:  The Battle of the Coral Sea

U.S. Navy Action Reports:  Battle of the Coral Sea

Action Report of U.S.S. Neosho

>  Action Report of U.S.S. Sims

Action Report of U.S.S. Helm

Other Ships at the Battle of the Coral Sea

The U.S.S. Sims (Neosho's Escort)

The U.S.S. Henley (Neosho's Rescuer)

The U.S.S. Helm (Rescued Life Raft)

Battle of the Coral Sea Scrapbook

Honolulu Newspaper:  May 8, 1942

S.F. Examiner Article:  July 10, 1942


SECTION 4:  Aftermath


President Bush's 1991 Speech at Pearl Harbor

Seattle Times Article:  Bill Leu at Pearl Harbor

John S. Phillips, Captain of the U.S.S. Neosho

U.S.S. Neosho Veteran's Forum

Fireman Third Class, Bill Leu

Jack Rolston and the Tragic "Raft of 68"

Links, Sources and Further Information

The current page is shown with a  >