Missing for 75 Years

As the Naval History and Heritage Command reported on May 23rd, the USS Harder, an iconic U.S. Navy submarine missing for 80 years, was located 3,000 feet beneath the ocean’s surface in the South China Sea. The Harder, known for its nickname “Hit ’em HARDER,” was found sitting upright and largely intact except for damage from a Japanese depth charge. This discovery was made using data from Tim Taylor, CEO of the Lost 52 Project, which was dedicated to finding 52 submarines lost during WWII. Thus far, he has located 9 formerly lost subs. 

A 4D photogrammetry model of the USS Harder wreck site was created by the Lost 52 Project, which scanned the entire vessel and compiled the images into a multi-dimensional model for study. Led by Cmdr. Samuel D. Dealey, the Harder earned its legendary status during its fifth patrol by sinking three destroyers and severely damaging two others within four days, forcing a premature departure of a Japanese fleet and delaying a crucial carrier force in the Philippine Sea, contributing to Japan’s defeat in a subsequent battle.

Sunk in 1944

However, on August 22, 1944, Harder’s fortune changed. After destroying three escort ships with the USS Haddo, Harder joined the USS Hake and headed for Caiman Point. Haddo departed to restock torpedoes, and before dawn on August 24, Hake detected enemy ships and dove deep to escape. Japanese records show Harder fired three times at an escort ship, which evaded the torpedoes and launched depth charges, sinking the Harder and killing all 79 crew members.

The “excellent state of preservation of the site” and the quality of Lost 52’s data enabled the Navy’s History and Heritage Command to confirm the wreck as Harder. NHHC Director Samuel J. Cox, U.S. Navy rear admiral (retired), remarked,

 “Harder was lost in the course of victory. We must not forget that victory has a price, as does freedom.”

USS Harder
The USS Harder (SS 257). Image credit: Naval History and Heritage Command

Presidential Unit Citation

Harder earned the Presidential Unit Citation for its first five patrols and six battle stars for WWII service. Cmdr. Dealey posthumously received the Medal of Honor. Dealey was also awarded the Navy Cross, two Gold Stars, and the Distinguished Service Cross during his career.

Tim Taylor, Lost 52 Project CEO, has previously located other WWII submarines, including USS Grayback, USS Stickleback, and USS Grunion. In 2021, he was awarded the Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Award for his work. In September, deep-sea explorers captured images of three Battle of Midway shipwrecks, including the first close-up photos of a Japanese aircraft carrier since it sank in 1942.