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WW2 submarine finally found after 80 years at the bottom of the South China Sea

The final resting place of a US submarine wreck has been found 80 years after its last patrol. USS Harder rests 3,000 feet (900 meters) at the bottom of the South China Sea near the northern Philippine island of Luzon.

The first USS Harder was commissioned on December 2, 1942, with Commander Samuel D Dealey in charge and was lost at sea with 79 submariners on board on August 24, 1944.

USS Harder, which carried the motto “Hit ’em Harder”, sits upright on her keel and is relatively intact apart from depth-charge damage aft of the vessel’s conning tower caused by a Japanese depth charge.

The submarine was taking part in a battle between the US and Japan to free the Philippines from occupation by the Japanese.

Retired US Navy Rear Admiral, Samuel J Cox, Director of Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC), said in a statement: “Harder was lost in the course of victory. We must not forget that victory has a price, as does freedom.”

He added: “We are grateful that Lost 52 has given us the opportunity to once again honour the valour 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.”

Data collected by Tim Taylor, Chief Executive of Tiburon Subsea and the Lost 52 Project, was used by NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch to confirm the wreck site.

Lost 52 Project locates and memorialises the 52 US submarines lost during World War Two. It has found at least six Second World War subs, including USS Grayback, USS Stickleback and USS Grunion.

Harder’s fifth war patrol was described by NHHC as the submarine’s most successful. The vessel sank three enemy destroyers and heavily damaged or destroyed two others within four days.

Her attacks led Imperial Japanese Navy Admiral Ozawa’s Mobile Fleet to sail from its base on the Philippine island of Tawi-Tawi a day ahead of schedule.

That move hindered Japanese battle plans and forced Ozawa to delay his carrier force in the Philippine Sea, helping to defeat the Japanese in the battle that followed.

According to the National Medal of Honor Museum, Harder came under attack from a Japanese destroyer. Cmdr. Dealey ordered a head-on torpedo shot at the bow of the enemy vessel, known as a “down the throat” shot.

The museum notes: “At 1,500 yards, Dealey fired three torpedoes and ordered the sub to dive. As the Harder passed 80 feet underneath the destroyer, two of the torpedoes struck the ship, sending shock waves through the submarine.”

Japanese records revealed Harder fired three torpedoes, but the Japanese ship evaded the attack and initiated a series of depth charge attacks. The fifth depth charge attack sank Harder and her crew.

Cmdr. Dealey was posthumously awarded the highest military decoration in the United States, the Medal of Honor, for his outstanding contribution to the war effort on Harder’s fifth patrol from March to July 1944.

As the final resting place of the sailors who gave their lives in defence of the United States, the wreck is a war grave, meaning it cannot be disturbed without official permission.


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