Wreck of Famed WWII-Era American Submarine USS Harder (SS-257) Discovered In the South China Sea

Photo Credit: Tim Taylor / Lost 52 Project / 2nd Lt. Mary Andom / U.S. Navy / Press Release
Photo Credit: Tim Taylor / Lost 52 Project / 2nd Lt. Mary Andom / U.S. Navy / Press Release

The wreck of yet another American submarine lost during the Second World War has been located beneath the water’s surface. The USS Harder (SS-257) sunk following a depth-charge attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) in August 1944, with her crew of 79 going down with her. Nearly 80 years later, the vessel has been found by the Lost 52 Project, in the South China Sea.

USS Harder (SS-257) docked at port
USS Harder (SS-257), 1944. (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

Harder was one of the most successful American submarines to operate in the Pacific Theater during World War II, earning the Presidential Unit Citation. She performed six patrols over the course of the conflict, beginning in 1943, and her success against enemy vessels ultimately earned her the motto, “Hit ’em HARDER.” One of her final patrols even saw her destroy two Japanese destroyers and sink three, delaying the IJN’s carrier force.

The submarine met her end on August 24, 1944, while she was on her final patrol. Operating near Dasol Bay, off the coast of the northern Philippines with the USS Hake (SS-256), Harder was hunting two Japanese vessels. After firing three torpedoes at the escort CD-22, she encountered a depth-charge attack, which resulted in her sinking with her 79-man crew. Among those aboard were Cmdr. Samuel Dealey, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Hake managed to escape the situation.

USS Harder (SS-257) at sea
USS Harder (SS-257), 1944. (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy National Naval Aviation Museum / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

The discovery of Harder‘s wreck came through efforts by Lost 52 Project and Tiburon Subsea CEO Tim Taylor, who has dedicated his life to locating American submarines that were lost during the Second World War. Through data collected via the deployment of underwater robotics and advanced photogrammetry, he and his team were able to capture images of the sunken vessel.

According to the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC), Harder‘s wreck is over 3,000 feet beneath the surface of the South China Sea. Her keel is largely intact, except for where she’d suffered damage from the depth charge attack, just aft of her conning tower.

Harder was lost in the course of victory. We must not forget that victory has a price, as does freedom,” Samuel J. Cox, director of the NHHC and a retired US Navy rear admiral, said in a statement. “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.”

USS Harder (SS-257) rescuing a pilot at sea
USS Harder (SS-257), 1944. (Photo Credit: Air Group Commander Andrew Jackson, U.S. Navy / U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

More from us: Royal Air Force Pilot Loses Life After Supermarine Spitfire Crashes Near RAF Coningsby

Among the Lost 52 Project’s previous successes were the locating of the wrecks of the USS Grayback (SS-208), Grunion (SS-216), Stickleback (SS-415), S-28 (SS-133), S-26 (SS-131) and R-12 (SS-89).

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

Writing Portfolio
Stories of the Unsolved