Wreck of WWII US Submarine Known for Sinking Most Japanese Warships Discovered in South China Sea

In a remarkable feat of historical preservation and marine archaeology, the elusive wreck of the USS Harder, a submarine distinguished for its aggressive tactics and remarkable success during World War II, has finally been located. Resting more than 3,000 feet beneath the surface of the South China Sea, near Luzon Island in the Philippines, the discovery ends nearly eight decades of mystery surrounding the fate of the vessel and its brave crew.

The USS Harder, nicknamed “Hit ’em Harder” for its formidable combat prowess, vanished on August 24, 1944, during its sixth patrol mission. It was a day marked by valiant efforts and tragic loss as the submarine engaged Japanese forces in a fierce battle that ultimately led to its sinking. All 79 crew members aboard were lost, sealing the Harder’s fate as one of the most storied submarines in U.S. naval history.

This significant finding was made possible through the combined efforts of the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) and the Lost 52 Project, an initiative dedicated to locating the 52 U.S. submarines that disappeared during the war. Tim Taylor, CEO of Tiburon Subsea, spearheaded the project and has been instrumental in several underwater recoveries of lost WWII vessels.

According to Samuel J. Cox, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral and current director of the NHHC, the discovery of the USS Harder is a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by those who serve. “Each find is a tribute to the bravery and sacrifice that defines our military history, and the USS Harder is no exception. 

The submarine and its crew had an extraordinary impact on the war in the Pacific, sinking the highest number of Japanese warships, which earned its captain, Cmdr. Sam Dealey, the Medal of Honor,” Cox stated.

The wreck of the USS Harder was identified thanks to meticulous archival research paired with advanced underwater technology that deployed multiple autonomous robots to scour the ocean floor. The submarine lies upright on its keel and remains relatively intact despite visible damage aft of the conning tower from depth charges.

The USS Harder was a formidable asset in the U.S. Navy’s arsenal throughout its service. Commissioned in December 1942, it carried out six war patrols. Its most successful mission occurred during its fifth patrol, where it boldly attacked and sank three Japanese destroyers and damaged two others within just four days.

The submarine’s final and fatal engagement came during an operation alongside the USS Haddo. They targeted a convoy off the Bataan Peninsula, successfully sinking three escort ships. However, during an encounter with the Japanese escort ship CD-22, the Harder fired three torpedoes that missed their mark. The enemy ship retaliated with depth charges, with the fifth attack sealing the fate of the Harder and her crew.

The USS Harder was posthumously awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and six battle stars after its loss. Cmdr. Dealey received numerous accolades for his leadership, including the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, and the Silver Star.

Today, the site of the USS Harder stands as a solemn war grave, solemnly protected under U.S. law, and internationally respected as the final resting place of brave American heroes. The recent unearthing of this submarine not only provides profound closure for the families and descendants of the lost sailors but also ignites renewed interest in the stories of courage and sacrifice from World War II’s submarine campaigns.

The discovery of the USS Harder allows us to reclaim a crucial piece of naval history, reminding us of the perils faced under the ocean’s depths in pursuit of freedom. Each submarine we recover narrates a poignant tale of unity, bravery, and the complex strategies of war. 

As the USS Harder quietly rests on the ocean floor, it is a stark reminder of the high costs of achieving peace and freedom. These sites teach us about the enduring spirit of those who served with distinction in the darkest times, reflecting their unwavering commitment to their nation and each other. 

In remembering the USS Harder, we honor not just a submarine but a legacy of heroism that transcends generations, continuously reminding us of the price of freedom and the bravery necessary to secure it.