The USS Harder (SS-257) was a Gato-class World War II era submarine.
The namesake of the USS Harder is a fish of the mullet family found off South Africa.
The radio call sign of the USS Harder was NAN-ABLE-LOVE-ABLE.
On August 5, 1944, Harder, captained by Commander Samuel D. Dealey, left Fremantle for her sixth and final war patrol. Commander Dealey had been chosen to lead a wolf pack made up of Harder, USS Hake (SS-256), and USS Haddo (SS-255). Harder and Hake left together. Lieutenant Commander Chester Nimitz's Haddo would leave three days later. The three boats would rendezvous off Subic Bay and hunt for enemy shipping south of Luzon Strait. 1
Shortly before Harder and Hake left Fremantle, Commander William Kinsella, captain of USS Ray (SS-271), had sent out a call for help in connection with an enemy convoy he had been attacking and tracking. Kinsella had already sunk three ships in the convoy and was down to the last four torpedoes of the second load of his double-barreled patrol. The convoy had put into Paluan Bay on Mindoro Island. Dealey's pack and two other submarines would respond to Kinsella's call for help - USS Guitarro (SS-363) and USS Raton (SS-270). 2
In the early hours of August 21, 1944, Dealey rendezvoused with Nimitz in Mindoro Strait off Cape Calavite. Nimitz recorded the meeting in his patrol report:
In Mindoro Strait headed for rendezvous with HARDER off CAPE CALAVITE.
At the rendezvous. Radar contact on HARDER. HARDER came alongside and told us that there were at least 16 enemy ships holed up in Paluan Bay, (southern side of CAPE CALAVITE) and the entrance thereto was patrolled by two active AS vessels who had contacted him earlier in the evening. He then outlined the following plan for a dawn attack as the convoy sortied: RAY and GUITARRO to attack from northwest. (by the lighthouse) HARDER to attack from west. HADDO to attack from southwest. This plan presupposed that convoy was northbound and would round CAPE CALAVITE after sortie. 3
As the senior officer on site, Dealey had taken charge of the situation and before dawn had stationed the six boats for action. On the next day at 0545 hours, the convoy began leaving the bay. Kinsella in Ray fired his last four torpedoes, sending a 7,000-ton transport to the bottom. Ray then headed back to Fremantle. Nimitz in Haddo fired next, sinking two large transports with six torpedoes. Then Guitarro sank a 4,400-ton transport. In this short coordinated attack, the submarines had sunk four more ships from the convoy worth 22,400 tons. After the attack, Guitarro and Raton headed south for the Sulu Sea, and Dealey and his pack headed north for Manila Bay. 4
On the evening of August 21, 1944, Dealey and Nimitz spotted three small 900-ton frigates in Manila Bay. They would prove to be escorts from the unlucky Japanese convoy HI-71. Dealey ordered an attack. During the night of August 21-22, Harder sank two of them, Matsuwa and Hiburi. Nimitz finished off the third escort, Sado. The two boats then headed northward along the west coast of Luzon Island to team up with Lieutenant Commander Frank E. Haylor's Hake. 5
On the night of August 22, 1944, Nimitz sighted a destroyer and prepared to attack it. The destroyer also spotted Haddo and charged her. Nimitz was thus forced to fire four down-the-throat shots which missed.
The next day, Nimitz spotted what he thought to be a tanker under escort from another destroyer. He described the oiler as "One large new tanker resembling NIPPON MARU pp 278 ONI 206 J." He described the escort as a "ASASHIO class" destroyer. At 0653 hours, Nimitz fired four torpedoes at the destroyer. One shot hit and blew off her bow, but she remained afloat. He fired another torpedo that missed. His patrol report states that he "...and most of ship's officers and some personnel saw destroyer lying to with her bow rising up to the bridge and foremast bent double." This attack was made at coordinates 16°-06' N, 119°-45.9' E. 6
The following is quoted from USS Haddo's patrol report:
Off coast of Luzon heading north for CAPE BOLINAO.
Immediately on surfacing from previous melee had attempted to contact HARDER by voice without success.
Contacted HAKE and arranged for rendezvous 20 hours from now. Decided to run north at high speed so we could patrol off CAPE BOLINAO tomorrow morning in view of tonight's attack at HARDER's previously designated rendezvous. I should have ordered HAKE to come with me.
Sent HADDO dispatch informing CTF 71 of our torpedo situation (1 forward, 4 aft) and also clarified results of attack number one as reported by HARDER.
Dived eight miles off coast just south of CAPE BOLINAO and commenced closing coast. Went deep for BT card and when, at
I made the first periscope exposure, there to the northward was a big tanker coming down the coast. Range 11,000 yards, angle on the bow 20 degrees starboard. He was running about a mile off the beach. (Ship contact No. 6).
Closed beach at full speed in an effort to intercept the tanker.
Tanker changed course away, conforming to the coast. At this time sound picked up pinging and I made out an ASASHIO class DD trailing way back on near quarter of tanker. Shifted to DD as target. We were running silent all the time in case of an unseen escort, but at range 4000 yards the destroyer became aware of our presence and headed towards us, alternately presenting a small starboard then port angle on the bow. I believe the DD saw the sun glint off periscope since he was silhouetted in the rising sun making him very difficult for us to see at all through the morning mist. Turned tail to him and when range was 600 yards, angle on the bow 5 degrees port, at
fired all four stern tubes, spreading by periscope. Went deep immediately and turned off his track.
Four rapid explosions. We had fired the four torpedoes almost simultaneously because the situation was precarious. We had to fire enough to ensure hitting, and it had to be done quickly. One hit and the rest were countermined. Stayed deep, just to be sure, until
when I observed the destroyer to be lying to with his bow blown off and slightly down by the head. Photographed. Maneuvered around for the kill with our last torpedo, and after carefully ascertaining that target was in fact stopped, at 800 yards, 90 degree track, zero gyro angle, fired our last torpedo to hit amidships. The torpedo took a slight left angle and just missed. Catastrophic! Maybe we should have waited longer before firing, but at the time the best bet seemed to grab the opportunity while it lasted.
Using SD mast sent an urgent plain language message to any U. S. sub on 2880 telling of the situation. Hung around all day and watched with sinking heart while two trawlers and a destroyer came out at
and commenced getting the target in tow. Three planes appeared and circled the group all day. (Ship contact No. 7) (Plane contact No. 13)
The target moving south with one trawler towing, the other trawler made fast astern, to keep target from yawing, and the destroyer patrolling up and down about 3000 yards outboard. Was able to keep abreast of group at 50 turns so slow was the progress.
Surface and promptly located target by radar about 250 yards off the beach at CALIMAN POINT. Sent urgent message to HAKE and HARDER. Got receipt. Both coming. Target is apparently going to spend the night where he is. Sent HARDER a rendezvous position about 9 miles off since one of the trawlers was getting troublesome.
Received TCF 71 dispatch ordering us to proceed to the advanced base where ORION will be. Near BIAK.
HARDER lying to alongside. Gave them all the dope, received Sam's blessing, and left his wolf pack, heading south. HAKE also at rendezvous.
Sent HADDO dispatch to CTF 71 reporting morning's attack and expenditure of torpedoes.
Noon posit. Lat. 16°-03'-00'' N, Long. 119°-39'-00'' E 7
The tanker Nimitz spotted was a Type 1TL Standard Merchant Tanker. Its name was Niyo Maru. The destroyer was the Asakaze, one of nine Kamikaze-class destroyers built for the Imperial Japanese Navy following World War I. After her protector had been crippled, Niyo Maru prudently headed for the safety of Dasol Bay. Meanwhile, six steam and sailing ships took the immobile Asakaze under tow, also to Dasol Bay. However, the damaged destroyer continued to take on water and at 2230 hours she sank twenty miles from Cape Bolinao. 8
The Third Expeditionary Fleet dispatched escort vessel CD-22 and patrol boat PB-102 (ex-USS Stewart) from Cavite to intercept and assist Niyo Maru. PB-102 got there first and brought her into Dasol Bay. CD-22 joined them later. 9
Following Haddo's departure for Mios Woendi to refuel and reload, Harder and Hake rendezvoused off Dasol Bay. Based on the "dope" he had received from Nimitz, Dealey believed that the "old destroyer" had been towed inside Dasol Bay and that the enemy might attempt to tow her up to Manila the following day. He therefore stationed the two boats to lie in wait, and gave Hake the first crack at sinking her. 10
On August 24, 1944, at 0630 hours, Haylor aboard Hake mistakenly identified PB-102 as old Thai destroyer Phra Ruang and CD-22 as a minesweeper. As the Japanese ships began to exit the harbor they spotted both Harder's and Hake's periscopes. PB-102 turned and headed back into the harbor with Niyo Maru. CD-22 headed straight for the periscopes. Haylor did not like the setup, so Hake broke off. Harder continued into the bay and fired three down-the-throat torpedoes at CD-22. All three missed the mark. At 0728 hours, CD-22 picked up Harder with her Type 3 sonar and commenced a series of depth-charge runs with her Type 94 DC throwers with each charge set to detonate deeper than the last. The fifth salvo brought a large amount of oil and pieces of cork and wood to the surface. 11
Thus, according to the above account, on August 24, 1944, sometime after 0728 hours, Harder was sunk by a depth-charge attack from Japanese escort vessel CD-22 in Dasol Bay, on the west coast of Luzon Island. All hands went down with her. According to the U. S. Navy, the fatal attack occurred at the geographic position 15°-50' N, 119°-43' E, which is designated by the orange marker in the thumbnail below. 12
For the next two weeks, Haylor on Hake tried unsuccessfully to contact Dealey. He hoped Dealey had returned to base and Nimitz would return with this news. When they rendezvoused on September 10, they both concluded that Sam Dealey was gone. They radioed their joint conclusion to the Commander Submarines Seventh Fleet. 13
According to accounts written by two other highly respected authors, Edwin Hoyt and Anthony Tully, a Japanese aircraft may have played a role in Harder's loss. Tully wrote that PB-102 and CD-22 were assisted by a depth charge-equipped plane which detected Harder's presence beneath the surface and dropped a depth charge on her. The explosion pushed the Harder deeper and marked her position for the surface craft. In Tully's account, the PB-102, not the CD-22, charged the Harder's marked position and commenced a series of depth-charge runs which sank her. 14 Hoyt told essentially the same story, albeit with a bit more detail. 15 Both authors indicated their source as an article written by a PB-102 junior officer, Tomoyoshi Yoshima, which appeared in the September 1981 issue of Rekishi to Jinbutsu (History and People), published in Tokyo by Chuokoronsha, Inc., and which was translated into English by Mr. Hoyt.
Harder's loss was made public on January 2, 1945:
Navy Department Communiqué No. 545, January 2, 1945
1. The submarine USS Harder is overdue from patrol and presumed lost. The next of kin of officers and crew have been informed.
2. The LSM 318 has been lost as the result of enemy action in the Philippine Area. Next of kin of fatalities and most other casualties have been notified and notification is en route to next of kin of other casualties.
3. The PT 300 has been lost as a result of enemy action in the Philippine Area. Next of kin of casualties have been informed.
4. The PT 311 was lost in the Mediterranean Area as the result of enemy action. Next of kin of casualties have been informed.
According to Ned Beach, Sam Dealey always attributed the Harder's success to her outstanding crew. Two of them in particular deserved the lion's share of the credit.
Frank Lynch, his executive officer, and Sam Logan, his torpedo officer, were his two mainstays, and to them he invariably tried to shift the credit. Frank, a behemoth of a man, had been regimental commander and first-string tackle at the Naval Academy. He combined qualities of leadership and physical stamina with a keen, searching mind and a tremendous will to fight. Sam, slighter of build, less the extrovert, was a mathematical shark and had stood first in his class at the Academy. Under pressure of the war years, he had discovered a terrible and precise ferocity which always possessed him whenever contact with the enemy was imminent. To him, operation of the torpedo director was an intricate puzzle, to be worked out using all information and means at his command, divining the enemy's intentions and anticipating them, working out new techniques of getting the right answer under different sets of conditions.
"With those two madmen pushing me all the time," Dealey would say, "there was nothing I could do but go along!" 16
The Harder's fifth war patrol was supposed to have been Sam Dealey's last one. The commander of submarines at Fremantle, Ralph Christie, had planned to rotate Dealey back to the United States and make Frank Lynch the Harder's next captain. 17 Edwin Hoyt believed Dealey would probably have been promoted and transferred to Pearl Harbor to serve as a staff officer or squadron commander. 18 However, Dealey convinced Ralph Christie to allow him to take the Harder out on one more war patrol, and then command of the boat would pass to Frank Lynch. Dealey insisted that Lynch sit out the next patrol so he could get some badly needed rest. Thus during her final patrol, one of the key "madmen" was not aboard. Also, on the last patrol there were seventeen new crew members on board, and for most of them it was their first war patrol. Lynch's absence and the rookies' inexperience could have been factors in the Harder's loss. 19
Beach also believed that in the final confrontation with CD-22 Dealey had purposely steered the Harder so she was between the charging kaibokan and the Hake.
For the USS Harder was a peer among peers, a fighter among fighters, and, above all, a submarine among submarines. And when she and her fighting skipper were lost, the whole Navy mourned, for her exploits had become legendary. It was characteristic that she gave her life to save one of her fellows, for she interposed herself in front of an attacking ship to give another submarine an opportunity to escape, and in doing so received the final, unlucky, fatal depth charge. 20
Beach also writes that if the Harder fired any torpedoes at the kaibokan the Hake did not detect them on her sound gear. 21 The extract from the Tabular Record of Movement for CD-22 cited above states that the Harder fired three down-the-throat torpedoes at the CD-22. Which account is correct? We will probably never know for sure. But I have to believe that Sam Dealey and the Harder would not have gone down without a fight.
The Harder received six battle stars for her World War II service. Commander Samuel D. Dealey was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for the Harder's fifth war patrol. The JANAC score for the Harder is sixteen enemy vessels worth 54,002 tons sunk. Her Alden-McDonald score is eighteen vessels sunk for 56,367 tons and five vessels damaged for 13,746 tons. The SORG score for the Harder is twenty and one-half vessels sunk for 82,500 tons and five vessels damaged for 29,000 tons. 22
A list of the personnel lost with the Harder is maintained at On Eternal Patrol.
1. Blair, Clay Jr., Silent Victory: The U. S. Submarine War Against Japan, p. 717.
2. Ibid., p. 718.
3. Submarine war patrol reports on CD, USS Haddo (SS-255), Report of War Patrol Number Seven.
4. Blair, op. cit., p. 718.
5. Ibid., p. 718-719.
6. Ibid., p. 719.
7. USS Haddo (SS-255), Report of War Patrol Number Seven, op. cit.
8. Komamiya, S., Senji Yuso Sendan Shi [Wartime Transportation Convoys History]. Tokyo, Shuppan Kyodosha, 1987, p. 237. My thanks to Ällyn Nevitt of CombinedFleet.com for helping me locate this information and providing a English translation of its content.
9. Hackett, Bob, Sander Kingsepp and Peter Cundall, "IJN Escort CD-22: Tabular Record of Movement," published online at Combined Fleet.
10. Blair, op. cit., p. 719.
11. See "IJN Escort CD-22: Tabular Record of Movement," op. cit.
12. United States Submarine Losses World War II, p. 105.
13. Sturma, Michael, Death at a Distance: The Loss of the Legendary USS Harder, p. 180.
14. Tully, Anthony P., "Convoy HI-71 and USS Harder's Last Battles," published online at Combined Fleet.
15. Hoyt, Edwin P., Submarines At War: The History of the American Silent Service, p. 272-274.
16. Beach, Edward L., Submarine!, p. 110-111.
17. Sturma, Michael, Death at a Distance: The Loss of the Legendary USS Harder, p. 152.
18. Hoyt, Edwin P., The Destroyer Killer, p. 204.
19. Sturma, Michael, Death at a Distance: The Loss of the Legendary USS Harder, p. 178.
20. Beach, Edward L., Submarine!, p. 109.
21. Ibid., p. 131.
22. Alden, John D., and Craig R. McDonald, United States and Allied Submarine Successes in the Pacific and Far East During World War II, Fourth Edition, see USS Harder (SS-257), Attack Nos. 906, 907, 908, 912, 913, 926, 927, 1096, 1101, 1126, 1143, 1144, 1171, 1304, 1305, 1321, 1322, 1323, 1823, 1835, 1836, 2063, 2064, 2076, 2077, 2079, 2487, 2488, 2491, and 2493; Submarine war patrol reports on CD, data collected by the Submarine Operations Research Group (SORG) in the report "Results of U. S. Submarine War Patrols Listed Alphabetically by Name of Submarine"; Japanese Naval And Merchant Shipping Losses During World War II By All Causes, Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee, USS Harder (SS-257).