Naval War College Museum opens new WWI exhibit

Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, president, U.S. Naval War College, gives remarks during a ceremony officially opening a new Naval War College Museum exhibit titled, “To Win or Lose All: William S. Sims and the U.S. Navy in the first World War.”
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NEWPORT, R.I. – The U.S. Naval War College (NWC) Museum opened a new exhibit titled, “To Win or Lose All: William S. Sims and the U.S. Navy in the first World War,” on Dec. 14.

The exhibit was officially opened on the second floor of the museum by Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, president of NWC, and Samuel Cox, a retired rear admiral and the director of Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington D.C.

“Truly this is a historic moment,” said Ryan Meyer, director of the museum. “The exhibit brings together for the first time a number of artifacts that have never before been seen by the public thanks to the graciousness of the Sims family. Our exhibit offers a very touching connection to Sims and his Navy of a century ago – themes which resonate to this day for our 21st century Navy.”

The exhibit explores the Navy’s role in World War I. It also has a variety of key artifacts on display from the Sims family. Some items to include: Adm. Sims’ personal swords, an original oil portrait of Sims by Bernard Finnigan Gribble, signed lithograph depicting surrender of German High Seas Fleet as presented to Adm. Sims by Gribble, and more.

“The hope is that this exhibit will encourage visitors to understand Sims and the sailors who served under him as real people who worked under difficult circumstances to meet the enormous challenges of wartime service,” said Rob Doane, curator of the museum.

After a period of neutrality in 1914, the U.S. declared war on Imperial Germany in the spring of 1917. At that time, Sims was NWC’s president and he sailed in advance of the American declaration of war to organize U.S. naval efforts in Europe. 

After World War I, Sims returned for a second tour as the president of NWC. Drawing from firsthand experience, Sims completely restructured NWC’s curriculum to educate those American military and naval professionals of the 1920s and 1930s who ultimately went on to serve at the highest levels of command.

“This exhibit serves as a reminder of Adm. William S. Sims’ contributions to the Navy, his time spent at the war college, and also a celebration of his accomplishments, achievements and legacy,” said Harley. “Our event also marks the 100th anniversary of U.S. naval participation in the first great war of the 20th century and the arrival of American battleships in European waters in Dec. 1917.”

Find out what’s new at the NWC Museum by following them on Facebook and their blog, “Soundings in Narragansett Bay’s Naval History.” 

One of nine official Department of the Navy museums, the NWC Museum collects, preserves, and exhibits artifacts and documents dating from the 1500s to the present day to interpret the naval history of Narragansett Bay, NWC, and the history of naval strategy. Located in the historic Founders Hall –built in 1820 – the museum is open to the public, although advance reservations are required for those without base access. For more information, visit or call 401-841-4052.

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