Wreck of WWII Submarine Found After 80 Years (2024)

Wreck of WWII Submarine Found After 80 Years (1)

The USS Harder was prolific during World War II, sinking the highest number of Japanese warships of any American submarine during the conflict.

But on August 24, 1944, after a battle with a Japanese ship, the submarine disappeared somewhere off the coast of the Philippines with 79 crew members onboard. For the last 80 years, the exact location of the wreckage has remained a mystery—until now.

This week, the U.S. Navy announced that it had located the final resting place of the USS Harder, also known by its nickname “Hit ‘em HARDER.”

The vessel is submerged under 3,000 feet of water in the South China Sea near Luzon, an island at the northern end of the Philippines. The USS Harder is sitting upright on the seafloor and is relatively intact, except for damage to its conning tower from the Japanese depth-charge that sank the submarine.

Underwater archaeologists with the Naval History and Heritage Command confirmed the wreck site after reviewing data gathered by the Lost 52 Project, an initiative that aims to find missing American submarines.

Harder was lost in the course of victory,” says Samuel J. Cox, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral and the director of Naval History and Heritage Command, in a statement. “We must not forget that victory has a price, as does freedom.”

Wreck of WWII Submarine Found After 80 Years (2)

The USS Harder was built in Groton, Connecticut, starting in December 1941, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command. The ship was officially commissioned on August 19, 1942, under the leadership of Commander Samuel D. Dealey. The 311-foot submarine could reach speeds of up to 20.25 knots when surfaced and 9.75 knots when submerged.

After steaming through the Panama Canal and spending some time at Pearl Harbor, the vessel headed west toward Japan in June 1943. Once there, it began “hunting” enemy ships, per the Naval History and Heritage Command.

In total, the sub made six war patrols in a little over a year. During the vessel’s sixth and final patrol, the USS Harder joined two other submarines, the USS Haddo and the USS Hake, in the South China Sea near Luzon. At around 7:30 on the morning of August 24, the crew aboard the USS Hake reported hearing 15 rapid depth charges explode in the distance.

The USS Sake searched for the USS Harder in the area, but only found a ring of marker buoys that spanned a half-mile radius. Later, Japanese records filled in the missing details of what happened to the USS Harder.

The submarine had fired three torpedoes at a Japanese escort ship named CD-22. The ship evaded the attack, then began firing depth charges at the USS Harder. The fifth depth charge made contact and sank the submarine. The Navy declared the USS Harder presumed lost on January 2, 1945.

During the war, the USS Harder was credited with sinking six Japanese destroyers, two frigates and 20.5 freighters/tankers. After the war, those numbers were revised to four destroyers and two frigates, “which is still the most warships sunk by a single submarine commander/submarine in U.S. Navy history, and quite likely the most of any submarine commander in any nation,” Cox wrote in a post on LinkedIn.

The vessel received six battle stars for its service during WWII, as well as the Presidential Unit Citation for its first five patrols. Dealey, the sub’s commander, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and a Silver Star. He was known for making “particularly audacious attacks,” but also for using “astute judgment in being cautious depending on the tactical situation,” according to Cox.

The USS Harder is one of several American submarines located by the Lost 52 Project since 2010. The team has also found the USS R-12, USS Grayback, the USS Stickleback, the USS S-26, the USS S-28 and the USS Grunion.

In 2021, the Navy gave Tim Taylor, the founder of the Lost 52 project, its highest civilian honor, the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, for his work locating missing submarines and, perhaps more importantly, bringing closure to the surviving family members of the men killed onboard.

“It's not about finding wrecks,” Taylor told NBC News’ Anna Schecter and Rich Schapiro at the award ceremony in 2021. “It's not about finding ships. The loss of someone… and not knowing where they are, leaves a hole in families. The importance of our work is to connect families and bring some type of closure and peace even generations later."

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Wreck of WWII Submarine Found After 80 Years (3)

Sarah Kuta | READ MORE

Sarah Kuta is a writer and editor based in Longmont, Colorado. She covers history, science, travel, food and beverage, sustainability, economics and other topics.

Wreck of WWII Submarine Found After 80 Years (2024)
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