USS Harder (SS-257)

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USS Harder (SS-257)
Career
Builder: Electric Boat Company, Groton, Connecticut[1]
Laid down: 1 December 1941[1]
Launched: 19 August 1942[1]
Sponsored by: Miss Helen M. Shaforth
Commissioned: 2 December 1942[1]
Fate: Sunk by enemy vessels off Dasol Bay, Luzon, 24 August 1944[2]
General characteristics
Class & type: Gato-class diesel-electric submarine[2]
Displacement: 1,525 long tons (1,549 t) surfaced[2]
2,424 long tons (2,463 t) submerged[2]
Length: 311 ft 9 in (95.02 m)[2]
Beam: 27 ft 3 in (8.31 m)[2]
Draft: 17 ft 0 in (5.18 m) maximum[2]
Propulsion:

4 × Hooven-Owens-Rentschler (H.O.R.) diesel engines driving electrical generators[2]
2 × 126-cell Sargo batteries[3]
4 × high-speed Allis-Chalmers electric motors with reduction gears [2]
two propellers [2]
5,400 shp (4.0 MW) surfaced[2]

2,740 shp (2.0 MW) submerged[2]
Speed: 21 kn (39 km/h) surfaced[3]
9 knots (17 km/h) submerged[3]
Range: 11,000 nmi (20,000 km) surfaced at 10 kn (19 km/h)[3]
Endurance: 48 hours at 2 knots (4 km/h) submerged[3]
75 days on patrol
Test depth: 300 ft (90 m)[3]
Complement: 6 officers, 54 enlisted[3]
Armament: 10 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
 (six forward, four aft)
 24 torpedoes[3]
1 × 3-inch (76 mm) / 50 caliber deck gun[3]
Bofors 40 mm and Oerlikon 20 mm cannon
For other ships of the same name, see USS Harder.

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 (Cmdr) Samuel D. Dealey (1906–1944), "a submariner's submariner", was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Her 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 Cmdr Dealey, (Class of 1930) in command.

Operational history[edit]

First War Patrol[edit]

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, hitting the seaplane transport Sagara Maru (7189 BRT) (which was beached to prevent sinking, but later destroyed). She returned to Midway 7 July.

Second War Patrol[edit]

Harder began her second war patrol 24 August 1943 from Pearl Harbor, and after touching at Midway Island, she again 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 1,200 yards (1,100 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 the 4,500 ton freighter Kowa Maru and the 5,800 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[edit]

For her third war patrol Harder teamed with Snook (SS-279) and Pargo (SS-264) to form a deadly and coordinated attack group (a "wolfpack"). 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 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. Harder climbed to periscope depth after nightfall to finish off the third maru. Shortly before midnight, she fired several more shots at 6,000-ton Nikkō Maru, but the Japanese ship 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 target. Harder returned to Pearl Harbor on 30 November, then sailed to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard for overhaul.

Fourth War Patrol[edit]

Harder rescuing VF-8 pilot Ens. John R. Galvin off Woleai, 1 April 1944.

Returning to action in the Pacific, Harder reached Pearl Harbor on 27 February 1944 and departed on her fourth war patrol 16 March in company with Seahorse (SS-304).

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 propellers, 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.

Minazuki in 1927
Ikazuchi underway off China in 1938
Tanikaze in 1941

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 (820 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 the 7,000 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 terminated this highly varied and successful patrol at Fremantle, Australia 3 May.

Fifth War Patrol: Philippine Mission[edit]

Even greater successes lay ahead. 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 Redfin (SS-272) 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 1,100 yards (1,000 m). Two struck Minazuki 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, Harder took the initiative as the enemy closed the range. The sub 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 coastwatchers, 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 few miles from Tawi-Tawi. After submerging, she made an undetected approach and at 1,000 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, which 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 35 knots (65 km/h) toward her position. Once again, Harder became the aggressive adversary. As the range closed to 1,500 yards (1,400 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 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 (with Admiral Ralph Christie aboard), 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.

Sixth War Patrol[edit]

Harder, accompanied by Hake (SS-256) and Haddo (SS-255), departed Fremantle on 5 August 1944 for her sixth and final war patrol. Assigned to the South China Sea off Luzon, the wolf pack headed northward. On 21 August Harder and Haddo joined Ray (SS-271), Guitarro (SS-363), and Raton (SS-270) 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[edit]

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.

DD-Asakaze around 1924
DD-224 after recapture from Japanese Imperial Navy and recommissioning in the USN

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 the three-stack Siamese destroyer Phra Ruang. It was later found out to be Kaibokan CD-22 and PB-102 (ex-USS Stewart (DD-224)). 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 600–700 yards (550–640 m) dead ahead. Swinging southward, Hake then sighted the CD-22 about 2,000 yards (1,800 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.

Harder's loss brought an end to the U.S. submarine force's happy time, and the demoralization of the submarine force boosted Japanese morale, confident that as a result of these, more U.S. submarines will be lost while Japanese shipbuilding would easily catch up with shipping losses, and thus returning the tide of the war in favour of the Japanese.

Despite the losses however, towards the end of the war U.S. submarines were actively penetrating through the Inland Sea, and the Japanese shipping losses continued, albeit at a slower rate.

Excerpt from USS Harder's log[edit]

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

...

June 9th (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, was chosen as the first target and his angle on the bow was about 20 degrees port. At 4000 yards, he headed directly for us but his actions were interpreted as a routine zig. Increased submergence to periscope depth. At 3000 yards, 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 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.
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 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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Friedman, Norman (1995). U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. pp. 285–304. ISBN 1-55750-263-3. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775-1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 271–273. ISBN 0-313-26202-0. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305-311

As well as the TROM of PB-102

For a fellow submariner's view of the boat and its crew, see Silent Running: My Years on a World War II Attack Submarine, by Admiral James F. Calvert.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 15°50′N 119°43′E / 15.833°N 119.717°E / 15.833; 119.717