WWII “Hit ‘em HARDER” submarine wreck site confirmed (2024)

Using data collected and provided by Tim Taylor, CEO of Tiburon Subsea and the Lost 52 Project, NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch confirmed the wreck site they discovered as the final resting place of USS Harder (SS 257).

Taylor received a Distinguished Public Service Award from the Navy in 2021 for Lost 52 Project’s work to locate, discover and memorialize the 52 submarines lost during World War II. Previous submarines located by Lost 52 project include USS Grayback (SS 208), USS Stickleback (SS 415), USS R-12 (SS 89), USS S-26 (SS 131), USS S-28 (SS 133), and USS Grunion (SS 216).

The first USS Harder (SS 257) was commissioned on Dec. 2, 1942, with Cmdr. Samuel D. Dealey in command; and lost at sea with 79 souls aboard on Aug. 24, 1944.

Resting at a depth of more than 3,000 feet, the vessel sits upright on her keel relatively intact except for the depth-charge damage aft of the conning tower. Submarines by their very design can be a challenge to identify, but the excellent state of preservation of the site and the quality of the data collected by Lost 52 allowed for NHHC to confirm the identity of the wreck as Harder.

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

Harder's fifth war patrol was the submarine’s most successful. Harder depleted the critical supply of destroyers by sinking three of them and heavily damaging or destroying two others in four days, and her frequent attacks resulted in Adm. Ozawa's Mobile Fleet departing Tawi-Tawi a day ahead of schedule. The premature departure upset the Japanese battle plans and forced Ozawa to delay his carrier force in the Philippine Sea, contributing to the defeat suffered by the Japanese in the ensuing battle.

The submarine’s last known location was in the South China Sea off Luzon during her sixth and final war patrol. Early on Aug. 22, Harder and USS Haddo (SS 255) attacked and destroyed three escort ships off Bataan – Harder sinking escort ships Matsuwa and Hiburi. Joined by USS Hake (SS 256) that night, the coordinated attack group headed for Caiman Point, Luzon. At dawn on Aug. 23, Haddo attacked and fatally damaged the destroyer Asakaze off Cape Bolinao. Haddo informed Harder and Hake that her torpedoes were expended and left for replenishment. Harder and Hake remained off Dasol Bay, searching for new targets. Before dawn on Aug. 24, Hake sighted the escort ship CD-22 and Patrol Boat No. 102. As Hake closed to attack, the patrol boat turned away toward Dasol Bay. Hake broke off approach, turned northward, sighting Harder's periscope 600 to 700 yards dead ahead. Swinging southward, Hake sighted CD-22 about 2,000 yards off her port quarter. To escape, Hake went deep and rigged for silent running. At 07:28 Hake’s crew reported hearing fifteen rapid depth charges explode in the distance astern. Hake continued evasive action, returning to the attack area shortly after noon to sweep the area at periscope depth – only finding a ring of marker buoys covering a radius of one-half mile. Japanese records later revealed Harder fired three torpedoes at CD-22. The Japanese ship evaded the torpedoes and began a series of depth charge attacks at 07:28. The fifth depth charge attack sinking Harder and her crew.

Harder received the Presidential Unit Citation for her first five patrols, six battle stars for World War II service. Cmdr. Dealey was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his outstanding contribution to the war effort on Harder's fifth patrol. Dealey’s other awards included a Navy Cross (Sept. 1943) for Harder’s first war patrol; a Gold Star in lieu of second Navy Cross (Nov. 1943) for second war patrol; second Gold Star in lieu of third Navy Cross (Feb. 1944) for third war patrol; the Distinguished Service Cross (July 1944); a third Gold Star in lieu of forth Navy Cross (July 1944) for forth war patrol; and the Silver Star (posthumously, Oct. 1948) for the sixth war patrol.

The wreck of USS Harder (SS 257) is a U.S. sunken military craft protected by U.S. law and under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy. While non-intrusive activities, such as remote sensing documentation, on U.S. Navy sunken military craft are allowed, any activity that may result in the disturbance of a sunken military craft must be coordinated with NHHC and, if appropriate, authorized through a relevant permitting program. Most importantly, the wreck represents the final resting place of Sailors that gave their life in defense of the nation and should be respected by all parties as a war grave.

For more information on USS Harder (SS 257), visit www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/h/harder-i.html.

NHHC, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for preserving, analyzing, and disseminating U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy's unique and enduring contributions through our nation's history and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC comprises many activities, including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, 10 museums, USS Constitution repair facility, and the historic ship Nautilus.

WWII “Hit ‘em HARDER” submarine wreck site confirmed (2024)
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