Dealey, Samuel David (1906–1944)

By: Art Leatherwood

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: May 29, 2020

Samuel David Dealey, Medal of Honor recipient, was born on September 13, 1906, to Samuel and Virgie Dealey in Dallas, Texas. He was a nephew of George B. Dealey and a cousin of Edward M. Dealey. His father died in 1912, and his mother moved to Santa Monica, California, where Sam, Jr., began school. He returned to Dallas and graduated from Oak Cliff (now W. H. Adamson) High School. He then studied for two years at Southern Methodist University before entering the United States Naval Academy in the spring of 1925. He failed to maintain adequate grades that year but reentered in 1926 and graduated in the middle of the class of 1930. He subsequently married Edwina Vawter of Santa Monica. They had three children.

After serving on various battleships, destroyers, and submarines, in December 1942 Lieutenant Commander Dealey became the first and only commander of the newly commissioned submarine USS Harder. He took the ship in 1943 to the Pacific and made five highly successful patrols, but failed to return from a sixth. He was particularly noted for heading toward enemy destroyers and discharging the sub's forward tubes before making the standard maneuver of diving into silent running; this effective but dangerous maneuver, which Dealey used by permission from the commander of the Pacific Fleet, sank five Japanese destroyers in four days. Dealey officially sank sixteen enemy vessels in all. He was Group Commander of a Submarine Wolf Pack consisting of the Harder, the Hake, and the Hado in waters off Luzon, Philippine. On August 24, 1944, the Harder was heavily and fatally depth-charged. Commander Dealey was declared missing in action and presumed dead on October 2, 1944.

During his command of the Harder in 1943 and 1944 he earned the Navy Cross with three gold stars, the army's Distinguished Service Cross (presented to him by Gen. Douglas MacArthur), two presidential unit citations, and a Purple Heart. He was commended for "sinking over 15,000 tons and damaging over 27,000 tons of enemy shipping," for "extraordinary the presence of formidable concentrations of anti-submarine vessels," for rescuing an Allied pilot "from a rubber raft off a Japanese-held island despite harassing fire," and for many other acts of valor. The Medal of Honor was presented to Dealey's widow on August 28, 1945, for acts that attested "the valiant fighting spirit of Commander Dealey and his indomitable command." For the Harder's sixth war patrol, Commander Dealey was awarded the Silver Star posthumously.

The United States Navy named a destroyer escort in his honor. In 1994 a neglected plaque in his honor was moved from Seawolf Park in Galveston to the Science Place in Fair Park, Dallas, and dedicated in a ceremony.

Committee on Veterans' Affairs, United States Senate, Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863–1973 (Washington: GPO, 1973). Dallas Morning News, August 18, 1994. Charles A. Lockwood and Hans Christian Adamson, Through Hell and Deep Water: The Stirring Story of the Navy's Deadly Submarine, the U.S.S. Harder, under the Command of Sam Dealey, Destroyer Killer! (New York: Chilton, 1956). "Samuel David Dealey, Great WWII Submariner," Medal of Honor Historical Notes, October 1976. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Military
  • Soldiers
  • World War II
Time Periods:
  • World War II
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Art Leatherwood, “Dealey, Samuel David,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
May 29, 2020

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: