Phil Harder – RIP

Phil HarderJust received the sad news that Phil Harder, brother of Flt Lt John Harder, passed away on 16th April.

Phil’s Obituary is here: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/startribune/obituary.aspx?n=philip-m-harder&pid=164383627&fhid=4454

This photo of Phil in Coast Guard uniform was supplied by Bobbie Harder (one of John Harder’s daughters & Phil’s neices)

I spoke to Phil a couple of years ago to discuss the “Men in the Shed” project & specifically his brother John. The conversation was full of humour & fun, reminiscing over the past. Phil then kindly followed this up with a letter…

John & Phil Harder

John Harder (L), Phil Harder (C), “Trapper Smart” (R) in front of Flt Lt John Harder’s Spitfire SH-L

 

Dear Mr Foster

I appreciated your phone call of last night re my brother John – John W Harder, RAF – who was shot down shortly after D-Day inland from the Normandy Beaches.

I was a Lt (JG), US Coast Guard – Navigating Officer in an LST (Landing Ships Tank) at that time. We were in at H+3, about 8am, on D-Day – at Sword Beach – carrying British troops. We had an easy time of it, compared with Omaha Beach. As I remember it, Sword was closed down subsequently; our later runs were mostly to Gold and Juno Beaches.

It all seems like a long time ago (and is; I’m 85 but relatively spry).

John loved the RAF and England; I share his feelings. My wife, Maggie, lived in London in 1935, ’36, ’37 & ’38 where her father was opening a branch for Banking Trust (now Deutsche Bank). We’ve visited London a number of times and with the help of a cabby found the house she lived in back in the ‘30s.

I’ve made passages there in the original Queen Elizabeth and in QE2 and once one way in Concorde – what a flight, 3hr 14min from New York.

Late in the summer of ’44 I was transferred into LCI(L’s) – Landing Ship, Infantry – berthing often in the River Dart. Lovely country, the fish & chips and Brussels’ Sprouts were superb.

Then we went to the Pacific – Eniewetok and Guam, preparing for the invasion of Japan. I’m one who’s grateful for the Bomb. We thought invasion of the Japanese mainland would take 1 to 3 years and many casualties.

Half of our LCI flotilla went to Okinawa at the heights of the Kamikaze attacks. One was hit, ‘though the main targets were destroyers in the radar screen and carriers (that hit must have been a mistake; an LCI(L) is ???? – 4 Officers, 20 Enlisted men. ‘though when loaded they carried 200 troops)

I was lucky – remaining in Eniewetok, doing odd jobs, fishing, swimming – a little air/sea rescue.

The war ended: I had a pretty high number & soon was on a freighter going home.

As I look back on it – I rather disliked all the Pacific duty. I loved England and the people. In the LCT we were running through the Channel day & night after D Day during the worst of the V-1 attacks. We ???? carried British anti-aircraft artillery 4.7’s, back from the beachheads to see them lined up, limb to limb – back from Dover – doing their best to shoot down the V-1s and 40 millimetres too, everything firing, including our own guns. There was so much flak (shrapnel, I guess from proximity fuses) falling on deck that eventually we put everyone under cover.

Once in a while we’d see a V-1 shot down – but seldom. At that time, we were loading often at King George V docks in London. That area took a beating – as you know.

Then came the V-2s; psychologically I think the V-1s much more depressing; you heard the motor cut out – and then Wham!! You never heard or saw the V-2, so no cringing, waiting for the explosion.

Thanks again for your call; Johnny was a good man.

Sincerely.

Phil Harder

Ps. Just for the record, I had two other brothers, both dead, now: Older brother Lew, US Navy, Torpedo Bomber pilot and Henry, younger a fighter pilot, US Navy (though the war ended before Henry saw action). Lew saw a lot, carrier strikes, DC (????), Pacific Theatre.

PS2. I also had some convoy escort duty – Atlantic. Your corvettes were tough ships – well fought. In the early years your ASW (Anti Submarine Warfare) techniques were superior to ours

I was aware that Phil had been ill for a while, but it’s still sad to hear of his passing

RIP

2 Comments

  1. Lewis Harder
    Posted May 22, 2015 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Little brother was named Henry not Hewey, probably Uncle Phil’s handwriting 🙂

  2. colinadmin
    Posted May 27, 2015 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Or perhaps my bad typing! Anyway, corrected now, Lewis, thanks for letting me know

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