USS Harder (SS-257)

USS "Harder" (SS-257), a "Gato"-class submarine, was the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for the harder, a fish of the mullet family found off South Africa. One of the most famous submarines of World War II, she received the Presidential Unit Citation. Her skipper, the resolute and resourceful Commander Samuel D. Dealey, "a submariner's submariner," was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

"Harder"'s keel was laid down by the Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut, on 1 December 1941. She was launched on 19 August 1942 sponsored by Miss Helen M. Shaforth, and commissioned on 2 December 1942 with Comdr. Dealey in command.

Operational history

First War Patrol

Following shakedown off the East Coast, "Harder" sailed for Pearl Harbor; and, after a short stay there, she departed on her first war patrol 7 June 1943. Cruising off the coast of Japan, the submarine worked her way inside a picket line and sighted her first target 22 June. She made a radar approach on the surface and fired four torpedoes at the two-ship convoy, sinking "Sagara Maru". She returned to Midway 7 July.

econd War Patrol

"Harder" began her second war patrol 24 August 1943 from Pearl Harbor; and, after touching at Midway Island, she headed for the Japanese coast. While patrolling off Honshū on 9 September, she attacked and sank "Koyo Maru" and later that night ran by an escort ship at a range of 1200 yards (1100 m) without being detected. Two days later the submarine encountered a convoy. After running ahead to improve her firing position, she sank cargo ship "Yoko Maru" with a spread of three torpedoes. Continuing her patrol, "Harder" sighted two more ships 13 September, but she was forced down by enemy planes while firing torpedoes. Escorts kept the submarine down with a severe depth charge attack which lasted for over two days and almost exhausted her batteries. After evading the Japanese ships, "Harder" detected her next target 19 September; a torpedo sent "Kachisan Maru" to the bottom almost immediately. Though running in bad weather, "Harder" continued to find good targets. On 23 September she sank a 4500-ton freighter, "Kowa Maru", and a 5800 ton tanker, "Daishin Maru", off Nagoya Bay. Her torpedoes expended, "Harder" turned eastward 28 September. After shooting up two armed trawlers 29 September, she touched Midway 4 October and arrived Pearl Harbor four days later.

Third War Patrol

For her third war patrol "Harder" teamed with USS|Snook|SS-279|3 and USS|Pargo|SS-264|3 to form a deadly and coordinated "wolf pack" attack group. Departing 30 October 1943 for the Mariana Islands, "Harder" encountered a target 12 November. Promptly dispatching this one, she surfaced and sighted a trawler-escort damaged by the explosion of one of her own depth charges. Submerging again until sunset, the submarine sank the damaged ship with gunfire, then turned her bow toward Saipan in search of new targets. Sighting three marus on 19 November, she radioed her companions and closed for attack. After passing close by an escorting destroyer, "Harder" fired six torpedoes at two ships, sinking "Udo Maru". As depth charges began to fall, she pressed the attack, two more torpedoes finished "Hokko Maru". She surfaced to periscope depth after nightfall to finish off the third maru. Shortly before midnight, she fired several more shots at 6000-ton "Nikkō Maru"; but she stubbornly refused to sink. A brave, but doomed, enemy crew kept the cargo ship afloat until "Harder" had expended all torpedoes, many of which ran erratically. Rough weather the next day finally sank the damaged maru. "Harder" returned to Pearl Harbor on 30 November, then sailed to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard for overhaul.

Fourth War Patrol

Returning to action in the Pacific, "Harder" reached Pearl Harbor on 27 February 1944 and departed on her fourth war patrol 16 March withUSS|Seahorse|SS-304|3.

She headed for the western Caroline Islands where she was assigned duty as lifeguard ship for downed aviators. During American air strikes against Woleai on 1 April "Harder" received word of an injured pilot awaiting rescue from the beach of a small enemy-held island west of Woleai. Protected by air cover, she nosed against a reef, maintained her position with both screws, and sent a boat ashore through breaking surf. Despite Japanese snipers, boiling shoals, and the precarious position of the submarine, the daring rescue succeeded, and the intrepid submarine returned to the open sea.

On 13 April an enemy plane sighted "Harder" north of the western Carolines and reported her position to the patrolling Japanese destroyer "Ikazuchi". As the enemy ship closed to within 900 yards (800 m), "Harder" fired a spread of torpedoes that sank the attacker within five minutes. Dealey's terse report became famous—"Expended four torpedoes and one Jap destroyer." Four days later "Harder" spotted a merchant ship escorted by destroyers. Firing four torpedoes, she sank 7000 ton "Matsue Maru" and damaged one of the escorts. Then, adding to the enemy's misery, she returned to Woleai where she surfaced on the morning of 20 April to deliver a shore bombardment under cover of a rain squall. She returned to Fremantle, Australia from this highly varied and successful patrol 3 May.

Fifth War Patrol: Philippine Mission

Even greater successes lay ahead for this valiant submarine. Having sunk one destroyer, "Harder" joined the all-out hunt against Japanese destroyers, once considered the most dangerous of foes. Assigned the area around the Japanese fleet anchorage at Tawi-Tawi, "Harder" departed Fremantle on 26 May 1944 with USS|Redfin|SS-272|3 and headed for the Celebes Sea.

On 6 June "Harder" entered the heavily patrolled Sibutu Passage between Tawi-Tawi and North Borneo and encountered a convoy of three tankers and two destroyers. She gave chase on the surface but was illuminated by the moon. As one of the destroyers turned to attack, "Harder" submerged, turned her stern to the charging destroyer, and fired three torpedoes at range of 1100 yards (1000 m). Two struck "Minatsuki" and exploded; the destroyer sank within five minutes. After attacking the second escort without success, "Harder" was held down by a depth charge attack while the convoy escaped.

Early next morning an enemy plane spotted "Harder". The submarine soon sighted another destroyer searching the area for her. As before, the enemy closed the range once again, "Harder" took the initiative. She fired three torpedoes at short range, and two of them struck amidships, one detonating the ship's magazine with a tremendous explosion. "Hayanami" sank a minute later. Following the inevitable depth charge attack, "Harder" transited the Sibutu Passage after dark and steamed to the northeast coast of Borneo. There on the night of 8 June she picked up six British coast-watchers, and early next day she headed once more for Sibutu Passage.

That evening "Harder" sighted two enemy destroyers patrolling the narrowest part of the passage, just a miles from Tawi-Tawi. After submerging, she made an undetected approach and at 1000 yards (900 m) fired four torpedoes at the overlapping targets. The second and third torpedoes blasted "Tanikaze"; she sank almost immediately, her boilers erupting with a terrific explosion. The fourth shot hit the second ship and exploded with a blinding flash. Within minutes "Harder" surfaced to survey the results, but both ships had disappeared. Soon afterward, she underwent the inevitable depth charge attack by enemy planes, then she set course for a point south of Tawi-Tawi to reconnoiter.

On the afternoon of 10 June "Harder" sighted a large Japanese task force, including three battleships and four cruisers with screening destroyers. An overhead plane spotted the submarine at periscope depth and a screening escort promptly steamed at convert|35|kn|km/h toward her position. Once again, "Harder" became the aggressive adversary. As the range closed to 1500 yards (1400 m), she fired three torpedoes on a "down the throat" shot, then went deep to escape the onrushing destroyer and certain depth charge attack. Within a minute two torpedoes blasted the ship with violent force just as "Harder" passed under her some 80 feet (24 m) below. The deafening explosions shook the submarine far worse than the depth charges and aerial bombs which the infuriated enemy dropped during the next two hours. When she surfaced, "Harder" saw only a lighted buoy marking the spot where the unidentified destroyer either sank or was heavily damaged.

"Harder" reconnoitered Tawi-Tawi anchorage 11 June and sighted additional enemy cruisers and destroyers. At 16:00 she headed for the open sea and that night transmitted her observations which were of vital importance to Admiral Raymond A. Spruance's fleet prior to the decisive Battle of the Philippine Sea. "Harder" steamed to Darwin on 21 June for additional torpedoes, and, after patrolling the Flores Sea south of the Celebes Islands, she ended the patrol at Darwin on 3 July.

The important results of "Harder"'s fifth war patrol have caused some to call it the most brilliant of the war. Not only did "Harder" further deplete the critical supply of destroyers by sinking four of them and heavily damaging or destroying another one in four days, but her frequent attacks and a rash of enemy contact reports on this fleeting marauder so frightened Admiral Soemu Toyoda that he believed Tawi-Tawi surrounded by submarines. As a result, Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa's Mobile Fleet departed 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, thus contributing to the stunning defeat suffered by the Japanese in the ensuing battle.

ixth War Patrol

"Harder", accompanied by USS|Hake|SS-256|3 and USS|Haddo|SS-255|3, departed Fremantle on 5 August 1944 for her sixth and last war patrol. Assigned to the South China Sea off Luzon, the wolf pack headed northward. On 21 August "Harder" and "Haddo" joined USS|Ray|SS-271|3, USS|Guitarro|SS-363|3, and USS|Raton|SS-270|3 in a coordinated attack against a convoy off Palawan Bay, Mindoro. The Japanese lost four passenger-cargo marus, possibly one by "Harder".

Battle of Dasol Bay

Early the next day, "Harder" and "Haddo" attacked and destroyed three coastal defense vessels off Bataan, "Harder" sinking frigates "Matsuwa" and "Hiburi"; then, joined by "Hake" that night, they headed for Caiman Point, Luzon. At dawn 23 August "Haddo" attacked and fatally damaged "Asakaze" off Cape Bolinao. Enemy trawlers towed the stricken destroyer to Dasol Bay; and "Haddo", her torpedoes expended, informed "Harder" and "Hake" the following night of the attack and left the wolf-pack for replenishment at Biak.

"Harder" and "Hake" remained off Dasol Bay, searching for new targets. Before dawn 24 August they identified what they thought was a Japanese minesweeper and a three-stack Siamese destroyer Phra Ruang. It was later found out to be Kaibokan CD-22 As "Hake" closed to attack, the destroyer turned away toward Dasol Bay. "Hake" broke off her approach, turned northward, and sighted "Harder"'s periscope about 600 to 700 yards (500 to 600 m) dead ahead. Swinging southward, "Hake" then sighted the CD-22 about 2000 yards (1800 m) off her port quarter swinging toward them. To escape the charging escort, "Hake" started deep and rigged for silent running. At 07:28 she heard 15 rapid depth charges explode in the distance astern. She continued evasive action that morning, then returned to the general area of the attack shortly after noon. She swept the area at periscope depth but found only a ring of marker buoys covering a radius of one-half mile.

The vigorous depth charge attack had ended the career of "Harder" with all hands. The Japanese report of the attack concluded that "much oil, wood chips, and cork floated in the vicinity."

Dubbed "Hit 'Em Again, Harder," she had wreaked havoc among Japanese shipping. Her record of aggressive daring exploits became almost legendary. All six of her patrols were designated successful.

"Harder" received six battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation for World War II service. In accordance with Navy custom, the citation was presented to the second "Harder" upon commissioning.

Excerpt from USS "Harder"'s log

SUBJECT : U.S.S. HARDER (SS257) - report of Fifth War Patrol.

June 9 (cont.)

:2102::Sighted another destroyer. -- They were in line of bearing and patrolling the narrows on north-south, zig zag courses. Sounded "battle stations", submerged to radar depth and commenced the attack. The nearest destroyer, now at a range of 8000 yards (7300 m), was chosen as the first target and his angle on the bow was about 20 degrees port. At 4000 yards (3700 m), he headed directly for us but his actions were interpreted as a routine zig. Increased submergence to periscope depth. At 3000 yards (2700 m), both destroyers zigged 30 degrees to their right (with the first presenting a 30 degree port track) and the picture became "just what the doctor ordered" for the Harder. At a range of 1000 yards (900 m) on the nearest target, both destroyers were overlapping, with a 100 degree port track showing. Gyros were near zero and torpedoes set for running at 6 feet (1.8 m).

:2124::Commenced firing the bow tubes. No. 1 appeared to pass just ahead of the first destroyer, No. 2 struck it near the bow, No. 3 hit just under the destroyer's bridge, and No. 4 passed astern of the near target. The sub was now swung hard right to avoid hitting the first destroyer and fire was withheld on remaining tubes until a new setup could be put into the T.D.C. for an attack on the second destroyer. About thirty seconds after turning, the second destroyer came into view just astern of what was left of the first one, then burning furiously. Just then No. 4 torpedo which had passed astern of the first target was heard and observed to hit the second target. - (No more torpedoes were needed for either.)

::Meanwhile, a heavy explosion, believed to be caused by an exploding boiler on the first destroyer, went off and the sub then about 400 yards (400 m) away was heeled over by the concussion. At almost the same time a blinding explosion took place on the second destroyer (probably his ammunition going off) and it took a quick nose dive. When last observed, by the Commanding Officer and Executive Officer, the tail of the second destroyer was straight in the air and the first destroyer had disappeared. "Sound" now reported, "No more screws."

::The above listed pandemonium may not be in exact chronological order but is as accurate as the happenings over that eventful few minutes can be remembered.



As well as the TROM of PB-102:

For a fellow submariner's view of the boat and its crew, see , by Admiral James F. Calvert.

External links

* [ On Eternal Patrol: USS "Harder"]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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