USS Harder, famed and deadly World War II sub, finally found (2024)

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The Harder, famous in Navy history for sinking several Japanese destroyers in World War II, was missing for eight decades.

USS Harder, famed and deadly World War II sub, finally found (2)

Eighty years after it sunk, the USS Harder has been found.

The USS Harder, one of the deadliest American submarines to fight in World War II, was located this week 3,000 feet below sea level off the coast of the Philippines, near the island of Luzon. The U.S. Navy’s Naval History and Heritage Command announced on May 23 that researchers had found the wreckage. Even though the Harder was missing for eight decades high-tech imagery of its resting place shows it mostly intact.

“Harder was lost in the course of victory. We must not forget that victory has a price, as does freedom,” NHHC Director Samuel J. Cox, U.S. Navy rear admiral (retired) said in a Navy release on the discovery.

The submarine sank in battle on Aug. 24, 1944 during the American campaign to retake the Phillipines from Japan. Before that though, it was commissioned on Dec. 2, 1942. The Gato-class submarine was named for a type of fish. For its entire time in service, the submarine was led by Cmdr. Samuel Dealey.

Dealey and the Harder fought extensively in the Pacific Theater, carrying out six patrols during the course of World War II. It first saw combat in June 1943, hitting a seaplane transport ship which eventually had to be beached and destroyed as a result of its damage. From there the Harder did better, engaging faster and stronger enemy ships and convoys, sinking several. In April 1944, it sank a Japanese destroyer within five minutes of engaging it. The submarine gained a motto — “Hit ‘em HARDER” — from its victories. But the Harder is most famous for its fifth patrol, which saw its biggest engagement.

The USS Harder took part in operations around the Philippines from May to July 1944. In less than a week, from June 6-11, the Harder attacked several elements of the Japanese fleet. It sank three Japanese destroyers and heavily damaged two more. In one engagement on June 10, the Dealey ordered a “down the throat” attack, firing three torpedoes straight at an approaching submarine. The Harder then dived to avoid counterattacks, the shockwaves of the direct hits on the destroyer rippling through the submarine. The victories helped push the Japanese fleet to leave the area earlier than planned, wrecking the Japanese strategy and contributing to the American victory in the area.

Weeks later during its sixth and final patrol, the Harder was operating in the South China Sea, near the Filipino island of Luzon. The USS Harder and two other vessels were in the process of attacking a series of Japanese escort ships. Operating in Dasol Bay, the Harder and the USS Hake, the USS Haddo having left to replenish ammunition, spotted two enemy ships. The Hake dived, while — according to Japanese records — the Harder engaged the escort ship CD-22. The submarine fired three torpedoes, but the CD-22 evaded them and countered with depth charges. The counterattack was a success and the USS Harder sank, lost for 80 years. 79 sailors, Dealey among them, went down with the submarine.

The submarine and its crew would earn the Presidential Unit Citation for the first five patrols, as well as six battle stars for its contributions in the war. Dealey himself would earn the Medal of Honor for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Harder during her 5th War Patrol in Japanese-controlled waters,” as the citation notes.

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The wreck of the USS Harder is in great condition, researchers said. The only serious damage is to the conning tower, where the depth charge hit. The Lost 52 project, a private research and exploration organization dedicated to locating the 52 American submarines sunk during the war, located the wreck. Given the nature of submarines and the depths of the water they were operating in, their exact resting place has been hard to pin down. The Lost 52 project previously found six other submarines.

“We are grateful that Lost 52 has given us the opportunity to once again honor the valor of the crew of the ‘Hit ‘em HARDER’ submarine that sank the most Japanese warships – in particularly audacious attacks – under her legendary skipper, Cmdr. Sam Dealey.”

The submarine is one of several American vessels sunk in fighting around the Philippines that has only been found in recent years. Other wrecks found include the USS Samuel B. Roberts, famous for its actions during the Battle off Samar.

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USS Harder, famed and deadly World War II sub, finally found (2024)
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