The first USS Harder (SS-257) was an American submarine which took part in six war patrols in the Pacific Theater in the years of 1943 and 1944.
Action in World War II
Under the command of Comdr. S. D. Dealey, the Harder began its first patrol out of Pearl Harbor on June 7, 1943, succeeding in sinking the convoy ship Sagara Maru. Her second patrol was even more successful as the Harder sunk five ships as well as shooting up two armed trawlers, although the submarine nearly succumbed to a severe depth charge attack which lasted for more than two days, a harbinger of the ship’s ultimate fate. With the help of the Snook and the Pargo, the Harder’s third patrol was also an unequivocal success.
After being overhauled in California, the Harder set out on its fourth patrol where it participated in the daring rescue of a downed pilot on a small enemy-controlled island in the western Carolinas. Afterwards, the Harder proceeded to down two more enemy ships, including a destroyer. But even after all this, her greatest success still lay ahead of her.
In what some have called the most brilliant patrol in all of World War II, the Harder was instrumental in the ultimate victory of the United States in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Over the course of four days, the Harder took five Japanese destroyers out of action. Indeed, the Harder caused so much havoc that the Japanese were convinced that the waters were full of American submarines, upsetting Japanese battle plans in the area prior to the battle.
Destruction at Sea
The Harder’s final patrol began on August 5 while accompanied with the Hake and Haddo. While harassing shipping in the South China Seas, the Harder and Hake spotted a Japanese minesweeper and a three-stack Siamese destroyer in the Dasol Bay on August 24. Having been spotted, the Hake commenced evasive action to avoid the coming depth charge attack. But while the Hake succeeded in surviving the attack, the Harder was sent to the bottom with nothing left but a little floating debris. For her service, the Harder received the Presidential Unit Citation as well as six battle stars while Comdr. Dealey was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, especially throughout conflicts of the last century, submarines also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. However, these risks extend beyond the inherent dangers that existed while operating the vessels during military conflicts. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were also common aboard submarines because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Furthermore, the enclosed environment of submarines put servicemen at an even higher risk of exposure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with or served on submarines should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.