At the dawn of the 20th Century, while the Navy fitted out its new warships with guns of greater caliber and sophistication, the methods used to employ them had not changed since the days of sail. As a result, the shots-fired to hits-registered ratio during the Spanish-American War was appalling.
Fortunately for the Americans, the Spanish gunnery was even more dismal.
In 1901 Lieut. William S. Sims met Capt. Percy Scott of the Royal Navy and learned of a new approach dubbed “continuous-aim” firing.
When Sims became Inspector of Target Practice within the Bureau of Navigation, he visited numerous wardrooms and found his presentations well-received. Embracing the new continuous-aim method, gunnery officers drilled their gun crews using a variety of training aids and bred a competitive spirit. Scores climbed as gun crews strove for perfection.
With his enthusiastic leadership, Sims injected a meaningful training regimen that instilled some fun into the ship’s routine and more importantly, contributed to the effectiveness of the U.S. Navy.