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Legendary U.S. World War II submarine located 3,000 feet underwater off the Philippines

Navy submarine missing for 75 years found
USS Grayback, submarine missing for 75 years, found off Japan 01:00

The final resting place of an iconic U.S. Navy submarine that was sunk 80 years ago during World War II was located 3,000 feet below the ocean's surface, the Naval History and Heritage Command said Thursday.

The USS Harder – which earned the nickname "Hit 'em HARDER" – was found off the Philippine island of Luzon, sitting upright and "relatively intact" except for damage behind its conning tower from a Japanese depth charge, the command said. The sub was discovered using data collected by Tim Taylor, CEO of the Lost 52 Project, which works to locate the 52 submarines sunk during World War II.

4D photogrammetry model of USS Harder (SS 257) wreck site by The Lost 52 Project. The Lost 52 Project scanned the entire boat and stitched all the images together in a multi-dimensional model used to study and explore the site.  Tim Taylor and the Lost 52 Project.

The USS Harder, led by famed Cmdr. Samuel D. Dealey, earned a legendary reputation during its fifth patrol when it sunk three destroyers and heavily damaged two others in just four days, forcing a Japanese fleet to leave the area ahead of schedule, the command said. That early departure forced the Japanese commander to delay his carrier force in the Philippine Sea, which ultimately led to Japan being defeated in the ensuing battle.

But Harder's fortunes changed in late August 1944. Early on Aug. 22, Harder and USS Haddo destroyed three escort ships off the coast of Bataan. Joined by USS Hake later that night, the three vessels headed for Caiman Point, Luzon, before Haddo left to replenish its torpedo stockpile. Before dawn on Aug. 24, Hake sighted an enemy escort ship and patrol boat and plunged deep into the ocean to escape.

Japanese records later revealed Harder fired three times at the Japanese escort ship, but it evaded the torpedoes and began a series of depth charge attacks, sinking Harder and killing all 79 crewmembers.

USS Harder (SS 257) Naval History and Heritage Command

The "excellent state of preservation of the site" and the quality of the data collected by Lost 52 allowed the Navy's History and Heritage Command to confirm the wreck was indeed 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 received the Presidential Unit Citation for her first five patrols and six battle stars for World War II service, and Cmdr. Dealey was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. During his career, Dealey also received a Navy Cross, two Gold Stars, and the Distinguished Service Cross.

Commander Samuel D. Dealey Naval History and Heritage Command

Taylor, the Lost 52 Project CEO, previously located other submarines lost during World War II, including the USS Grayback, USS Stickleback, and USS Grunion. Taylor received a Distinguished Public Service Award from the Navy in 2021 for his work.

The Naval History and Heritage Command said the SS Harder 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."   

Other famed warships have been found in the waters off the Phillipines. In 2015, U.S. billionaire Paul Allen located the wreck of the Musashi, one of the two largest Japanese warships ever built, in the Philippines' Sibuyan Sea.

Last September, deep-sea explorers captured images of three shipwrecks from World War II's Battle of Midway, including the first up-close photos of a Japanese aircraft carrier since it sank during the historic battle in 1942.

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