THE "WAR HERO"
L. RON HUBBARD AND THE U.S. NAVY, 1941-50
3.9 "Crippled and blinded"
Blinded with injured optic nerves, and lame with physical injuries to hip and back, at the end of World War II, I faced an almost non-existent future. My service record states: "This officer has no neurotic or psychotic tendencies of any kind whatsoever," but it also states "permanently disabled physically."
- L. Ron Hubbard, "My Philosophy", 1965
At the School of Military Government
Hubbard's last active post with the US Navy took him, at his request, to Princeton, New Jersey in late September 1944. He was one of hundreds of officers from all arms of the United Stated Armed Forces who underwent a three month course in "Military Government" at the Navy Training School in Princeton. This prompted later claims that he had "attended Princeton University", perhaps even as a post-graduate. 1 As usual, the truth was far less impressive: the US Government had taken over some of the buildings on Princeton's campus and used them for official training classes. (The British Government did something similar, taking over many of the distinguished old colleges at Oxford and Cambridge Universities.)
The US Government was well aware that it faced a huge problem in the Pacific and East Asia when the war ended. Unlike the European countries occupied by the Nazis, many of the lands occupied by the Japanese had little or no experience independent self-government before the war. Territories such as the East Indies (now Indonesia) and many of the Pacific islands were run as colonies of Western powers such as France and the United States. Other territories, such as New Guinea or the Philippines, were dependents of Allied powers. The inevitable consequence of the Japanese invasions was that those lands' administrations, dependent as they were on Westerners, had been destroyed. In some countries, notably the East Indies, the Americans had to rely on Japanese administrators and the Imperial Japanese Army until as late as 1947. This made it absolutely essential for the United States to have a corps of trained administrators, ready to take charge of the newly reconquered territories - and ultimately, Japan itself.
Quite why Hubbard wanted this duty is unclear. Throughout the war he had consistently expressed a preference for deck duty aboard combat vessels. Even after his removal from the USS PC-815 in July 1943, he continued to lobby for a new command. In the Fitness Report covering the period immediately before his posting to Princeton, he expressed a desire for duty aboard auxiliary vessels or shore duty at the Hydrographic Office. Other than the letter which he wrote requesting assignment to the Military Government course, he is not recorded as ever having expressed a preference for duty as an US-based administrator. There is no obvious reason why he should have chosen such a radical change of career.
While he was at Princeton, he was invited to join a group of science-fiction writers who met every weekend at Robert Heinlein's apartment in Philadelphia to discuss possible ways of countering the Kamikaze menace in the Pacific. They were semi-official, brainstorming sessions that Heinlein had been asked to organize by the Navy, in the faint hope of coming up with a defence against young Japanese pilots on suicide missions. "I had been ordered to round up science fiction writers for this crash project," Heinlein later commented, "the wildest brains I could find." 2
Heinlein recalled that he had tried to avoid asking Hubbard to walk down the street as the latter had said that both his feet had been broken when his last ship was bombed: "Ron had had a busy war - sunk four times and wounded again and again."
Another of the group, Jack Williamson, then a Sergeant in the US Army, held a dinner on December 2, 1944 for his fellow writers and their wives. Hubbard told his colleagues of his adventures earlier that year. "Hubbard was just back from the Aleutians then," said Williamson, "hinting of desperate action aboard a Navy destroyer, adventures he couldn't say much about because of military security ... I recall his eyes, the wary, light-blue eyes that I somehow associate with the gunmen of the old West, watching me sharply as he talked as if to see how much I believed. Not much." 3
January 27, 1945, marked the end of Hubbard's time at Princeton. He had achieved a respectable score and a satisfactory report:
This officer has completed the course in Military Government at Princeton University standing about midway in the class of three hundred. He is forceful, resourceful, alert and wellpoised. He has a very good personal and above average military character. He is well fitted for promotion and is so recommended.
(Source: L. Ron Hubbard Fitness Report, 28 Sept 1944 - Jan 27 1945)
Again, he expressed a preference for deck service aboard auxiliaries in the Pacific but now also saw himself as a potential Navigation Instructor at the Submarine Chaser Training Center in Miami, Florida - no doubt harking back to his days there in 1942 when he was "used as something of an authority" on destroyers.
Together with four other officers, he was ordered to proceed to the Naval Civil Affairs Staging Area at the Presidio of Monterey, CA. On April 2, 1945, he and his colleagues were assigned to duty with a civil affairs team outside the continental limits of the United States. (This would most probably have been on one of the conquered Pacific Islands. Okinawa had been invaded the previous day and would soon become the US Navy's bloodiest ever battle, with 28 ships sunk, 131 damaged and 4,900 men killed and missing.) But just one week later Hubbard turned up at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital complaining of stomach pains. He was promptly hospitalised for examinations.
"Physically shot to pieces"
Every official biography of L. Ron Hubbard has included, without fail, the claim that Hubbard ended the Second World War at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, crippled and blinded with serious war wounds. A rather amateurish painting which has appeared in every edition of What is Scientology? 4 shows a comatose Hubbard in hospital, with a bandage over his eyes and hooked up to an intravenous drip, anxious medical staff and Navy colleagues looking on solicitously.
Hubbard himself said:
Blinded with injured optic nerves, and lame with physical injuries to hip and back, at the end of World War II, I faced an almost non-existent future. My service record states: "This officer has no neurotic or psychotic tendencies of any kind whatsoever," but it also states "permanently disabled physically."
And so there came a further blow - I was abandoned by family and friends as a supposedly hopeless cripple and a probable burden upon them for the rest of my days. Yet I worked my way back to fitness and strength in less than two years, using only what I knew about Man and his relationship to the universe. I had no one to help me; what I had to know I had to find out. And it's quite a trick studying when you cannot see.
I became used to being told it was all impossible, that there was no way, no hope. Yet I came to see again and walk again.
(Source: L. Ron Hubbard, "My Philosophy", 1965
There is absolutely no doubt that this came from Hubbard himself: the original text, in Hubbard's own handwriting, was admitted as evidence in the 1984 trial of his former biographer Gerry Armstrong. Today it is reported to be on display at Hubbard's former home, Saint Hill Manor in Sussex, England, and it is frequently disseminated by the Church of Scientology (not least on its own website). According to a gloss by the Church, "in alluding to injuries suffered through the Second World War, he is referencing wounds sustained in combat on the island of Java and aboard a corvette in the North Atlantic." 5 As discussed earlier in this account, there is no record of Hubbard having been anywhere near Java, nor of Hubbard having served aboard a corvette in any ocean.
Hubbard himself told a different story, however. In a 1960s interview he stated that he had spent "the last year of my naval career in a naval hospital. Not very ill, but I had a couple of holes in me - they wouldnt heal. So they just kept me." 6 It is hard to reconcile "crippled and blinded" with "not very ill".
What were these supposed injuries and where and when were they sustained? This most fundamental question went unanswered until as recently as 1997, when the Church of Scientology published a volume entitled Ron - Letters and Journals. In it we learn that
the muzzle flash of a deck gun had left him legally blind, while shrapnel fragments in hip and back had left him all but lame. In consequence, he could barely seat himself at a typewriter, could not focus on a printed page and, for that matter, could not discern the pages of his own books.
(Source: Ron - Letters and Journals, 1997)
This presumably came from Hubbard's official biographer, Dan Sherman (a Scientologist), who in 1997 told a worldwide audience of Scientologists about "the slivers of shrapnel [Hubbard] took in the chest." But Hubbard's extensive medical records show a very different story.
Hubbard's Active Duty Fitness Reports span the full range of his active service with the US Navy, from his preliminary examination in March 1941 through to his final active service assessment on December 6, 1945. It is perhaps worth noting the results of his first examination, on April 18, 1941. He was found to be entirely physically normal save for four missing teeth and poor vision - 17/20 in his right eye and 15/20 in his left, corrected to 20/20 with glasses. He was initially rated as "NOT physically qualified for appointment as an officer Class I-V(S)". Later that same year his eyesight was rated as having deteriorated to 12/20. As discussed earlier (see 3.2 - Joining Up), the US Navy's desperate need for manpower following the declaration of an Unlimited National Emergency led to this particular requirement being waived, thus allowing Hubbard to join the US Naval Reserve.
Skipping forward another year to June 1942, four months after his supposed exploits on Java, we find that Hubbard had suffered from "active conjunctivitis in Asiatics since January - receding" and his eyesight in his left eye had deteriorated further to only 8/20. He had also developed hemorrhoids and later suffered from urethral discharges, which are a classic symptom of venereal diseases; sulfa drugs were used in treatment but in excess could cause bloody urine, something which Hubbard's shipmate Thomas Moulton saw him passing on at least one occasion. Hubbard himself later complained about the amount of sulfa he had been fed in the Navy. Former Scientology spokesman Robert Vaughn Young claims that Hubbard's private papers refer to him having caught gonorrhoea from a girlfriend named Fern, which forced him to secretly take sulfa. Unfortunately this cannot be confirmed, as the only known copy of those papers is now held under lock and key by the Church of Scientology.
In Hubbard's medical files there is no mention of the broken ankle he claimed to have suffered in 1942 ("The Story of Dianetics and Scientology", 1958), nor the bullet wounds allegedly received at the hands of the Japanese (Thomas Moulton testimony, Church of Scientology v. Armstrong, 21 May 1984). As for the eye injury resulting from a muzzle flash, Thomas Moulton recalled that Hubbard had told him that it had been sustained while he was serving as Gunnery Officer aboard the USS Edsall prior to its sinking off Java on December 7, 1941. There are a few problems with this claim: there is no record of Hubbard having either trained or served as a Gunnery Officer aboard any vessel, there is no record of him having had any association with the ill-fated Edsall, and the vessel had been sunk with all hands on March 1, 1942, three months after Hubbard claimed it had been lost. It would seem that Hubbard's case of conjunctivitis, aka "pink-eye", was transformed in his own mind into a war injury.
His service aboard a "North Atlantic corvette" - actually the USS YP-422, a heavy beam trawler converted into a patrol gunboat - lasted barely a month before he was relieved of command and took him no further than the waters off Boston Harbor. The most warlike activity committed by the YP-422 under Hubbard's guidance was a 27-hour series of training exercises, during which a few practice rounds were fired to test the gun. There was no suggestion of enemy action, nor reports of injuries sustained by the crew. So he could not possibly have received those "slivers of shrapnel in the chest" aboard the YP-422.
He did conduct what he believed was a lengthy action against two Japanese submarines - or an underwater magnetic deposit, according to the US Navy - when commanding the subchaser USS PC-815 the following year. In his own subsequent Battle Report, however, he stated that the crew had suffered "total casualties, 3, all very minor". He did not include himself among them. So he could not possibly have received shrapnel injuries aboard the PC-815, either.
In fact, there is no evidence anywhere in Hubbard's records that he was, at any time in the war, engaged in a combat action or sustained injuries resulting from combat. Nor is Hubbard recorded as having made any claim through official channels relating to such injuries. He made the specific claim that "my service record states: 'This officer has no neurotic or psychotic tendencies of any kind whatsoever,' but it also states 'permanently disabled physically.' " No such statement appears anywhere in his medical records.
The question of Hubbard's "blindness" is another interesting matter. The chart on the right was plotted from the eyesight ratings recorded in Hubbard's medical examinations (with dotted lines representing extrapolated trends). As it shows, Hubbard's eyesight rating dropped by up to five points in the first year of his service in the US Navy. Nonetheless, with the aid of glasses he remained 20/20 in both eyes until the start of 1945. A rapid and inexplicable deterioration coincided with his decision to apply for a disability pension. At the time of his last report on December 12, 1945, he was rated at only 5/20 in both eyes (which glasses corrected to 12/20 and 14/20 in right and left respectively). This was certainly poor eyesight but whether it was "legal blindness" is doubtful. Certainly there is no record in his file of him having been declared "legally blind".
The tests performed at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital revealed that his problem was, in fact, a duodenal ulcer - the same problem for which he had been hospitalised in San Diego in July 1943. He was given a month's convalescent leave from July 31, 1945 to August 30, before being re-admitted to hospital. (This was not what one might expect if Hubbard really had been suffering from crippling physical injuries). A report sent to the Commanding Officer of Oak Knoll Naval Hospital on September 10, 1945 gives a concise summary of Hubbard's medical problems. There is no hint here of any injuries having been sustained.
This officer patient was admitted to the sick list at Naval Affairs Staging Area, Presidio of Monterey, Monterey, Calif., on 10 Apr 1945, with Ulcer, Duodenum. He was transferred to this hospital on the same day.
Review of the current health record reveals that on 15 July 1943, he was hospitalized at USNH [US Naval Hospital], San Diego, Calif., for epigastric pain and vomiting. X-ray examination at the time revealed a duodenal ulcer. The diagnosis was changed to Ulcer, Duodenum, on 24 July 1943, and he was returned to duty on 8 Oct 1943.
On admission here he complained of epigastric distress with a feeling of fullness and of nausea and vomiting, which was relieved by food. Gastro-intestinal examination by x-ray on 19 May 1945, and 16 June 1945, revealed a duodenal ulcer with slight deformity of the duodenal cap. Treatment has consisted of bland diet, belladonna, and pheno-barbitol 7 with continuation of symptoms. The gastro-intestinal series on 31 Aug 1945 was reported as: "Esophagus and stomach negative. Duodenal ulcer with deformity of duodenal cap. Deformity has not increased since the last examination. There is some scarring of the micosa but there is no demonstrable crater. No obstruction."
According to the history obtained from the patient his symptoms first began in April 1943, at which time he held his present commissioned rank of Lt. There is noting in the current health record or history to rebut the presumption of soundness prior to that time.
In view of the recurrence of a duodenal ulcer, and its persistence as demonstrated by x-ray evidence while under treatment, it is the opinion of the Board that this officer is not physically fit to perform all the duties of his rank, and that he should ordered to appear before a retiring board.
(Source: Report of Medical Survey on L. Ron Hubbard, 10 September 1945) (DOCUMENT A)
The Commanding Officer forwarded the Board's report to the Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, R.T. McIntire, recommending approval of the Board's opinion. But McIntire did not agree. On October 3, 1945, he disapproved the Board's recommendation with the words: "This officer is considered physically qualified to perform duty ashore, preferably within the continental U.S." The restriction to shore duty was due to Hubbard's ulcer, as he would need to have ready access to a hospital if it flared up again. The Chief of Naval Personnel supported this verdict but added that "since his services are not required in this limited capacity, he will be processed for release from active duty in accordance with the provisions of AlStaCon 282200, September, 1945".
Recovery and retirement
The Church of Scientology, predictably, has a very different view of Hubbard's medical problems and the Navy's verdict on Hubbard. When a TV documentary on L. Ron Hubbard was screened in Britain in November 1997, relating the story of Hubbard's career as documented in his naval file, the Church responded with a fierce counterblast:
But rather than present the little-known facts of this period of Mr. Hubbards life - as biographers may have been expected to do - the "Secret Lives" team knowingly presented a distortion of the truth. And to do that they had to take their motif of doctored facts even a step further.
[T]he fact is, L. Ron Hubbard very definitely suffered blinding and crippling injuries through the course of combat in the Second World War, and that fact is perfectly clear in his naval medical records.
One medical report describes a severe bone infection in the hip and back, forcing him to walk with a cane. Another shows his vision was registered at 20/100 - which, according to medical review, meant that he could not distinguish facial features until three or four feet away, could not make out a street sign beyond ten yards and could not read a newspaper.
(Source: "The People Behind 'Secret Lives'," Church of Scientology, 1998 - see http://freedom.org.uk/mag/issuea03/page04b.htm)
However, Hubbard's US Navy file does not reveal any "severe bone infections" or "vision registered at 20/100"; whatever this may have been, it apparently did not occur during his active service. Furthermore, his records specifically state that he did not suffer any war wounds. Neither alleged "bone infections" nor bad eyesight are indicative of combat injury. Yet, according to What is Scientology,
So complete was his recovery, that officers from the Naval Retiring Board reviewing Lt. Hubbards case were actually upset. After all, they reasoned, how could a man physically shot to pieces at the end of the war pass his full physical examination? The only answer, they concluded, was that L. Ron Hubbard must be somebody else. And when they found that all was in order, they designated him fit for active duty.
(Source: What is Scientology? 1992 edition - see http://www.scientology.org/wis/wiseng/wis1-3/wis3_1t.htm)
There is, of course, nothing in Hubbard's file which would support these claims. In fact, for a man who had supposedly been "physically shot to pieces", he seemed to have led a remarkably active life. In two separate statements made in the 1950s, 8 Hubbard claimed that when on leave in Hollywood on July 25, 1951, he was attacked by three petty officers, one with a broken bottle. Because of his knowledge of judo, Hubbard was able to fight them off. This was an impressive - not to say impossible - feat for a blinded cripple.
Hubbard was busy in other ways; he claimed that his stay at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital had enabled him to test and develop a revolutionary medical-psychological approach which, in the 1950s, became Dianetics and then Scientology. He later claimed that this was a pivotal juncture in his life and liked to relate it in considerable detail, as in an autobiographical recording made in 1972:
As the Captain of Oak Knoll Naval Hospital was an intimate friend of my father's, and as the War was obviously all over for me, I was very pampered and had the run of the place. I knew of course many Naval doctors and some of them had not only known Thompson but also knew me. They were engaged at that time in trying to do something for the Japanese prisoners of war who had been returned and who were in terrible physical condition from starvation and other causes. They had considerable research projects going and they were only too happy to hand out data and listen to any suggestions.
I was basically researching in the field of endocrinology to determine whether or not structure monitors function or function monitors structure. I had the run of the medical library and the doctors were very pleasant concerning my examination of their records on Japanese war prisoners. It was obvious that the ex-prisoners of war had damaged endocrine systems ... using nothing but Freudian Psychoanalysis and using a park bench as a consulting room. I set out to find out whether or not those who would not assimilate hormones had mental blocks.
There was a sufficient number of these done to make it very plain that those who could assimilate hormones did not have severe mental trauma, and those who could not assimilate it did have mental traumas.
It was in this way that I put together guidelines for further research. I was not interested in endocrinology but in resolving whether or not function monitored structure or structure monitored function.
(Source: Autobiographical notes for Peter Tompkins, 6 June 1972)
This was, and remains, the philosophical basis of Scientology: that the mind controls the body and (if properly developed) can exercise control over "matter, energy, space and time", enabling such feats as telekinesis, clairvoyance and out-of-body travel. There is no record in Hubbard's naval files of any such experiments having been conducted (though, to be fair, it probably would not have been something that would have been recorded anyway). The key claim of Hubbard's "endocrinological research" was that he had used his discoveries to heal his war wounds, to the astonishment of his superiors; however, his record shows that he had no war wounds to heal in the first place.
While the US Navy was deliberating on his future, he had again been released from hospital and on October 6, 1945 was ordered to go to Los Angeles to serve as a prosecution witness in the court-martial of two US Naval Reserve officers, Edmond Fain and Jacob J. Lauff. He stayed not at a hospital but at the Eleanor Hotel in Hollywood. It was here that he presumably received the news that he was to be mustered out of the US Naval Reserve. It was evidently not welcome news, for understandable reasons; as well as fulfilling his own personal ambitions, the Navy had provided the only regular income which Hubbard had ever had in his adult life. He sent an anxious telegram, playing down the seriousness of his ulcer:
Respectfully submit willingness to serve in full duty status 6 months. Require Form Y waiver for duodenal ulcer not acute. Desire sea duty as navigator full construction. Regular duty station USN Hospital Oakland awaiting results of medical survey now in Bureau. Have served at sea with present symptoms much worse as navigator large auxiliary without prejudice to duty and did not leave that duty because of present diagnosis.
(Source: Telegram from L. Ron Hubbard to Chief of Naval Personnel, October 12, 1945) (DOCUMENT B)
It was a sign of his anxiety that he followed this up with another telegram the next day, evidently the result of hurried consultations with friendly colleagues:
Supplementing my wire of yesterday on further advices here, if I can avail myself of October first promotion my desire is to transfer to regular Navy.
(Source: Telegram from L. Ron Hubbard to Chief of Naval Personnel, October 13, 1945)
This was a thin chance, and so it proved: the Bureau of Naval Personnel promptly sent a letter back to Hubbard in Los Angeles to reject his request:
In view of your general service classification and since reference (c) [the Report of Medical Survey] found you physically qualified for limited shore duty only, you are not considered physically qualified for promotion and the authority for your appointment to the rank of Lieutenant Commander under the terms of reference (d) [Alnav 317-45] has terminated.
By endorsement to reference (c) this Bureau modified the recommendations of the Board of Medical Survey and the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, and you are to be released from active duty since your services are not required in your limited capacity.
Therefore, no action will be taken to effect your promotion prior to your release from active duty.
(Source: Air mail letter to Hubbard from BuNavPers, October 19, 1945)
That was the end of the matter. On December 5, 1945, Hubbard was discharged from the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital and ordered to report to his last station as a USNR officer, the Officer Separation Center in San Francisco. His post there lasted only one day, during which the formalities of separation were conducted. He was then detached, albeit still on active duty, from which he was released on February 16, 1946.
Hubbard never again performed active duty for the US Navy, but he still remained a commissioned officer until October 30, 1950. The intervening period was colorful, to say the least: he befriended the brilliant JPL scientist and black magician Jack Parsons, eloped with Parsons' girlfriend, married her bigamously, wrote new pulp fiction stories, earned a conviction for petty theft and invented a mental therapy which was "a milestone for Man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his inventions of the wheel and the arch" (if Hubbard's own hype is to be believed). This period is well-documented in chapter 7 of Russell Miller's Bare-Faced Messiah (1987), so it does not need to be discussed again here.
Some aspects of his new life are documented in the remainder of Hubbard's naval file. On April 1, 1946, Hubbard wrote to request permission to visit South and Central America for the purposes of "collecting writing material auspices Allied Enterprises, Pasadena, Calif." commencing April 10, 1946. The address given, 1003 South Orange Grove Avenue, Pasadena, CA., was Jack Parsons' house, at which Hubbard was a lodger. Allied Enterprises was a business partnership between Hubbard, Parsons and Parsons' girlfriend (soon to be Hubbard's girlfriend and eventual second wife) Sara Northrup. Their original idea was to buy yachts on the East Coast and sail them to California to sell at a profit. Parsons appears to have been unaware of Hubbard's alternative plans to sail away to South America. In the event, he never did go to South America, instead eloping with Sara and $10,000 of Parsons' money. Parsons' occult "master" Aleister Crowley correctly concluded: "Suspect Ron playing confidence trick. Jack evidently weak fool. Obvious victim prowling swindlers."
Hubbard finally realised a long-held ambition the following year, when he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. He had actually been appointed Lt Cdr with effect from October 3, 1945 but the appointment had not been delivered and accepted while he was still on active service. The slow-moving wheels of naval bureaucracy did not get around to confirming his promotion until June 25, 1947. He was now entitled to wear the uniform and use the title of a Lt Cdr. Strangely, though, Hubbard continued to use his old title of Lieutenant and there is no sign that he was ever aware that he had been promoted; it is not mentioned in any Scientology biographies. He may not have received the letter appointing him to Lt Cdr - it was sent to Jack Parsons' house at 1003 South Orange Grove Avenue, Pasadena. Hubbard no longer lived there, having burnt his bridges as far as relations with Parsons went, but instead now lived with Sara Northrup in a rented trailer in North Hollywood. When the letter had arrived at Parsons' house, the embittered black magician had probably torn it up on the spot.
The Cold War was, by this time, in full swing. War had already broken out in Vietnam between the French colonial authorities and Ho Chi Minh's Moscow-supported communist guerrillas. Germany's postwar division was hardening into a military confrontation between Allied and Soviet forces, while at home the unlovely combination of Senator Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon was whipping up an anti-communist frenzy. War with Russia or its proxies seemed highly likely. World War II ships which had been slated for decommissioning, such as Hubbard's old vessel Algol, were brought back into full service. It seemed more than likely that the US Naval Reserve would sooner or later be reactivated. Against this background, in November 1947, Hubbard submitted his resignation from the United States Naval Reserve.
Twenty years later, Hubbard explained why he had resigned from the USNR:
Just before this publication [of the original draft of Dianetics in 1948], the US Navys Office of Naval Research approached me and made a threatening offer that I must go to work for them as a civilian or be recalled to active duty. The project was to make people more suggestible. I was able to resign before they could complete the threat. While I had no complaint about real active service, I had already done a prewar tour of duty in Washington offices and knew I could get little done there and I had no ambition to make people more suggestible.
(Source: L. Ron Hubbard, "A Paper on the Difficulties of Researching in the Humanities: A Summary on Scientology for Scientists", 1969 - see http://freedom.lronhubbard.org/page114.htm)
This is expanded upon in the 1978 edition of What is Scientology?:
The United States Government at this time attempted to monopolize all his researches and force him to work on a project "to make man more suggestible" and when he was unwilling, tried to blackmail him by ordering him back to active duty to perform this function. Having made many friends he was able to instantly resign from the Navy and escape this trap. The Government never forgave him for this and soon began vicious, covert international attacks upon his work, all of which were proven false and baseless.
(Source: What is Scientology?, 1978 edition)
But his correspondence with the Navy suggests a rather different scenario. On November 14, 1947 he wrote to the Secretary of the Navy:
1. I herewith tender my resignation from the United States Naval Reserve.
2. As an officer on inactive duty, I have no further reason to be connected with the Navy.
3. In view of my bad health for which I was separated from the Navy and the improbability of the Navy's needing my services, in my condition, in the future, I urge the acceptance of this resignation.
(Source: L. Ron Hubbard, letter of November 14, 1947) (DOCUMENT C)
The Chief of Naval Personnel wrote back regretting Hubbard's decision and enclosed a pamphlet, "Your Place in the Postwar Naval Reserve", in a clear attempt to change his mind. Hubbard did seem to respond positively, requesting on February 19, 1948 that his letter of resignation be disregarded in the light of the CNP's reply. (DOCUMENT D)
Hubbard changed his mind again two years later and again tendered his resignation, only a month before the outbreak of the Korean War. On May 27, 1950 he wrote to the Secretary of the Navy outlining his reasons (but again made no mention of the Navy's supposed attempts to take over his work):
1. I desire to resign my commission as lieutenant senior grade in the United States Naval Reserve as of this date.
2. Since the latter part of my active service in the war was served in a hospital, under treatment for nine months and since I have been before survey boards and the retiring board, I do not believe I could further serve in event of further emergency. Retirement was not granted but I am still considered to be 50% disabled by the Veteran's Administration.
3. As a writer, I sometimes must write on technical subjects and while these have no bearing on naval matters or government security of any kind I would feel much freer were I not a commissioned officer in the naval reserve.
4. In 1948 I tendered a resignation which was answered with a request from the secretary that I consider the matter again. I have duly considered this action and discover that I still find it expedient to resign.
5. As I would not be of use in the event of war, as I have taken no part in post war naval activities, it is certain that my continued commissioned status is of no benefit to the navy. It is therefore respectfully requested and urged that this resignation be accepted.
(Source: Letter from L. Ron Hubbard, May 27, 1950) (DOCUMENT E)
Crucially from the point of view of Hubbard's claims, this request was made a month after the publication of his seminal article on Dianetics in Astounding Science Fiction, and more than a year after his first manuscript on Dianetics had been produced. This time the request was granted and on October 30, 1950, Hubbard received an honorable discharge from the United States Naval Reserve.
The Veterans Administration saga
The story of L. Ron Hubbard's naval career would not be complete, however, without mention of his protracted dealings with the Veterans Association. One day after being mustered out of the US Naval Reserve, on December 6, 1945, Hubbard submitted a claim for a pension and disability benefits. He listed a long catalog of problems, though not, significantly, anything that could be described as a combat-related injury:
Malaria, Feb 42, Recurrent;
Left Knee, Sprain, March 1942;
Conjunctivitis, Actinic Mar 42 (eyesight Failing)
Sporad. Pain Left side and back, undiagnosed, July 42;
Ulcer Duodenum, Chronic, Spring 43;
Arthritis, Rt Hip, Shoulder, Jan 45;
(Source: Hubbard claim for pension, December 6, 1945) (DOCUMENT G)
Strangely, his recurrent malaria had never previously been documented by Navy doctors. He also claimed that he was earning up to $650 a month before the war but now had a monthly income of $0.00.
In February 1947, the VA rated Hubbard as 10% disabled and awarded him a monthly pension of just $11.50, commencing February 17. Not surprisingly, he lodged an appeal. He explained that his need to obtain milk and a special diet for his ulcer "results in me having to abandon my old profession as ship master and explorer". (This would doubtless have surprised the pulp fiction readers who knew Hubbard as the prolific author of such timeless works as "Six Gun Caballero", "Hot Lead Payoff", "Ride 'Em Cowboy", "The Boss of the Lazy B", "The Ghost Town Gun-Ghost", "Death Waits at Sundown", etcetera.)
He also referred to his eye problems, the origin of the oft-heard claim that he was "blinded" during his war service, apparently as the result of the muzzle flash from a deck gun. His own words reveal a rather different story:
I cannot now read for more than three to four minutes without suffering from headache [sic]. I have attempted to have glasses fitted by such an eminent opthamologist [sic] as the head of the Mt. Sinnai [sic] Eye Clinic without any relief ... My eyesight when I entered the service was very good. It began to fail after prolonged exposure to tropical sunlight in the Pacific in the spring of 1942. The diagnosis was "conjunctivitis actinic" and I was hospitalized for it at the Brooklyn Naval Hospital until I returned to duty on my own request. My eyesight failed until I found it very difficult to read.
(Source: Hubbard appeal of July 4, 1946) (DOCUMENT H)
He referred in a similar vein to his limb problems, still claimed today to have "crippled" him and attributed to machine-gun fire or shrapnel fragments. Again, he told the VA a rather different story to that later told to his followers:
A chronic infection in my right hip has lamed me ... This infection was contracted at Princeton University in 1945, January, according to record. Suddent transition from the tropics to the slush and icy cold of Princeton caused rheumatic chills which seem to have settled in the right hip. Warm weather slightly mitigates but does not banish this injury. I cannot walk on pavement [sic] without suffering severely ... This also prevents me from working at sea where one must stand much of the time.
(Source: Hubbard appeal of July 4, 1946)
Robert Heinlein later recalled Hubbard's difficulty in walking, adding that Hubbard had said that both his feet had been broken when his last ship was bombed. Another point to note is that Hubbard sent his appeal from his temporary abode in Miami Beach, Florida, where he was buying and sailing yachts on behalf of his business partner, Jack Parsons. It is not clear how he expected to sail yachts from the east to the west coast of the US with such an apparently crippling condition. At the end of the appeal, Hubbard reiterates his present financial situation, incidentally inflating his claimed pre-war salary by a third to "one thousand dollars a month".
To support his case, Hubbard got his new girlfriend Sara to write to the VA in the pose of an old friend wishing to provide independent corroboration of his rapidly deteriorating health. She put her parents' address in Pasadena on the top of the letter.
I have known Lafayette Ronald Hubbard for many years [not true - they had never met prior to August 1945] and wish to testify as to the condition of his health as I have observed it since his separation from the Navy.
Before the war, he was an extremely energetic person in excellent health and spirits . . . Since his return in December last year he is entirely changed. He cannot read because of his eyes, which give him much pain. He is rather lame and cannot take his accustomed hikes . . . He has tried to work at three different jobs and each he has had to leave because of an increase in his stomach condition. He seems to need an enormous amount of rest . . .
I do not know what he is going to do for income when his own meagre savings are exhausted, because I see no chance of his condition improving to a point where he can regain his old standards. He is becoming steadily worse, his health impaired again by economic worries.
(Source: Letter from Sara Northrup to VA, July 4, 1946)
Hubbard's efforts paid off in the short term when, on July 20, 1946, he was given a fresh medical examination. The doctor who examined "Capt." Hubbard accepted most of his claims and informed the VA that "it does not seem to us that a disability of 10% adequately expresses the amount of infirmity present and we feel that his rating should be markedly increased." The VA understandably wished to confirm this for themselves and summoned him to a further examination on September 19 at the VA medical center in Los Angeles. The subsequent report quotes the litany of problems claimed by Hubbard at the session:
Eyes are sensitive to bright sunlight and I can't read very much and I have severe headaches which radiate backwards. This handicaps me in my research work when I'm working on my writings. My stomach trouble keeps me on a very rigid diet - can only eat milk, eggs, ground meat and strained vegetable [sic]. Can't tolerate anything fried. This stomach trouble restricts my activities considerably in that I have to eat at home where these foods are not available - such as restaurants, etc. I tire quickly and become nauseated when I work hard. My left shoulder, hip - in fact the entire left side is bothered with arthritic pains - can't sit any length of time (at typewriter or desk) and restricts me to warm climates.
(Source: VA report of physical examination, September 19, 1946) (DOCUMENT I)
The doctors, however, were unable to find anything more serious than that Hubbard had "signs of sub deltoid bursitis", walked with "a hobble-like gait" and had only a "minimal duodenal deformity". The report noted specifically that there were no "residuals of gunshot wounds or other [combat] injuries".
Hubbard's so-called "Affirmations", entered into evidence in the 1984 Armstrong case, shed a fascinating light on his agenda in this and other examinations. Throughout the 1940s he appears to have tried to command (perhaps hypnotise?) himself into curing or playing up his injuries, as well as pursuing other highly questionable goals:
- Your ulcers are all well and never bother you. You can eat anything.
- You have a sound hip. It never hurts.
- Your shoulder never hurts.
- Your sinus trouble is nothing.
- The [foot] injury is no longer needed. It is well. You have perfect and lovely feet.
- Men are your slaves.
- You can be merciless whenever your will is crossed and you have the right to be merciless.
- When you tell people you are ill, it has no effect upon your health. And in Veterans Administration examinations you'll tell them how sick you are; you'll look sick when you take it; you'll return to health one hour after the examination and laugh at them.
- No matter what lies you may tell others, they have no physical effect on you of any kind. You never injured your health by saying it is bad. You cannot lie to yourself.
(Source: Transcript, Church of Scientology v. Armstrong, 1984)
Given his supposedly parlous financial state, it is a little strange that he repeatedly failed to show up at further VA examinations. On December 8, 1946 he wrote from the Hotel Belvedere in New York to acknowledge receiving orders to report for another examination, explaining his expensive address by saying that a friend had financed his trip back East in return for his advice on an expedition then being planned. It was never quite clear who this friend was. In the meantime, despite the terrible eye problems, rheumatism and everything else suffered by Hubbard, he nonetheless managed to sell a number of short stories, though nothing like enough to make a living wage.
By this time the Veterans Association was subsidising ex-servicemen's educational activities. In October 1947, Hubbard signed up to the Geller Theater Workshop in Los Angeles and thereby obtained an extra $90 a month subsistence. Whether he actually went to the course in question is another, unprovable, matter.
Only two weeks later he wrote a dramatic appeal for help:
This is a request for treatment . . .
After trying and failing for two years to regain my equilibrium in civil life, I am utterly unable to approach anything like my own competence. My last physician informed me that it might be very helpful if I were to be examined and perhaps treated psychiatrically or even by a psychoanalyst. Toward the end of my service I avoided out of pride any mental examinations, hoping that time would balance a mind which I had every reason to suppose was seriously affected. I cannot account for nor rise above long periods of moroseness and suicidal inclinations, and have newly come to realize that I must first triumph above this before I can hope to rehabilitate myself at all.
I cannot leave school or what little work I am doing for hospitalization due to many obligations, but I feel I might be treated outside, possibly with success. I cannot, myself, afford such treatment.
Would you please help me?
Sincerely, L. Ron Hubbard
(Source: Letter from Hubbard to VA, October 15, 1947) (DOCUMENT J)
This may have been an entirely justified claim - in later years, many of those close to Hubbard noted a certain mental instability, one girlfriend describing him as manic-depressive. However, there is no evidence that Hubbard ever actually did receive psychiatric treatment. Instead, the VA invited him to yet another medical examination at Birmingham VA hospital in Van Nuys.
His lengthy medical history was trotted out again but examiner Roy H. Nyquist notes a previously undocumented injury claimed by Hubbard:
1942 - Fell down a ladder on SS Pennent in 1942 injuring his back, rt hip, left knee and right heel.
(Source: L. Ron Hubbard medical assessment report, December 11, 1947) (DOCUMENT K)
This claim was rather strange - not only is there no previous mention of it in Hubbard's extensive medical records, but Hubbard does not appear to have sailed on the "SS Pennent". (His sea journeys in 1942 were made on the SS President Polk and SS Chaumont, as the shown in the records of his brief stay in Australia). Whatever the truth, the doctors found no sign of the injuries claimed by Hubbard, or even of his old duodenal ulcer, but instead diagnosed him with arthritis and myositis, an inflammation of the muscle tissue. This improved diagnosis may be the basis of Hubbard's later claim that he had been wholly cured of debilitating injuries (which, of course, he had never suffered) by 1947.
In the meantime, Hubbard had received a demand from the VA for $51 which he had been overpaid in subsistence - he had dropped out of college on 14 November, claiming he was too ill to continue studying, but had nonetheless collected subsistence until the end of the month. (Today it is claimed by Scientology that he spent this period conducting researching on the human mind using funds earned through writing.) He promptly sent another pleading letter to the VA:
I cannot imagine how to repay this $51 as I am nearly penniless and have but $28.50 to last me for nearly a month to come. Since leaving school in mid-November I have made $115 from various sources - about $40 from the sale of two bits to magazines in late November and the repayment of a bad debt for $75. These comprise my income to date except for the sale of a typewriter tonight for the above $28.50. My expenditures consist of $27 a month trailer rent and $80 a month loud for my wife and self, which includes gas, cigarettes and all incidentals. I am very much in debt and have not been able to get a job but am trying to resume my pre-war profession of professional writing. My health has been bad and I feel that if I could just get caught up financially I could write a novel which has been requested of me and so remedy my finances. It would take me three months and even then I would not be able to guarantee solvency. Is there any provision in the Veteran's Administration for grants or loans or financing so that I could get back on my feet?
(Source: Hubbard, letter of January 27, 1948) (DOCUMENT L)
Naval bureaucracy works in mysterious ways; despite the fact that Hubbard's list of verified complaints had shrunk in the most recent medical examination, his pension was actually increased to $55.20 a month and his disability rating re-assessed as 40%.
Hubbard resigned from the Naval Reserve in October 1950; a few months earlier he had at last made a name for himself with his new mental therapy, Dianetics, which briefly became a nationwide craze. He became a very rich man, his Dianetics Foundations having earned a reported $1m in their first year (in today's prices, probably equivalent to over $10m). Hubbard claimed that Dianetics would cure many conditions, amongst them his own problems of arthritis, bursitis, poor eyesight, ulcers, and even the common cold. He himself was held up as an example of what could be done, though his "war wounds" were not mentioned. The December 5, 1950 issue of Look magazine quoted him as saying he had been suffering from "ulcers, conjunctivitis, deteriorating eyesight, bursitis and something wrong with my feet," which matches well with his Naval medical record.
Yet despite having supposedly been cured of all these afflictions, and despite now earning thousands of dollars a month, Hubbard still continued to claim - in secret - a disability pension. On August 1, 1951, he was examined again and claimed that his ulcer had flared up again, having suffered from stomach trouble since 1943. The examining physician noted:
He states that he spent approximately thirteen months in hospitals during his navy service, and that a duodenal ulcer was demonstrated by x-ray on several occasions .... He says that he has been forced to follow a modified ulcer diet continuously since his initial gastrointestinal disturbance in 1943. The spring and the fall of the year are the most troublesome times for him, and he states that he has exacerbations lasting usually about a week with rather severe distress during these months .... The patient states that he invariably has trouble with his stomach when he is working long hours and under nervous stress. He is a poor sleeper, and states that he has been unable to take the usual soporifics because they seem to upset his stomach. He smokes very little, and then only intermittently. He believes that smoking definitely aggravates his epigastric distress.
Under the heading "Impression," the doctor wrote: "duodenal ulcer, chronic." Under the heading "Diagnosis," he wrote: "Duodenal ulcer, not found on this examination."
This was one of two specialist examinations performed on Hubbard that day in 1951. The second was orthopedic. In that report, it is noted:
He also gives a history of injuring his right shoulder, just how is not clear, and of developing numerous other things including duodenal ulcer, actinic conjunctivitis, and a highly nervous state. He has applied for retirement from the navy [from the Reserve list] which was eventually turned down .... He is a writer by profession and states he has some income from previous writing that helps take care of him .... This is a well nourished and muscled white adult who does not appear chronically ill ....
He has a history of some injury to the right shoulder and will not elevate the arm above the shoulder level. However, on persuasion, it was determined at this time that the shoulder is freely movable and unrestricted. It is noted that he has had a previous diagnosis of BURSITIS WITH CALCIFICATION. X-rays will be repeated. It is not believed that this is of significant incapacity .... Records show a diagnosis of MULTIPLE ARTHRITIS. However, no clinical evidence of arthritis is found at this time.
Hubbard's Scientology "Medical Officer," Kima Douglas, testified in court that while she attended him from 1975 to 1980, he suffered from arthritis, bursitis and coronary trouble, which Dianetics was also supposed to alleviate. Hubbard wore glasses throughout his adult life, but only in private. In July 1951, his doctors reported: "eyes tire easily has worn all types of glasses but claims he sees just as well as without as with glasses." As late as 1958, he was continuing to send letters to the VA. During the 1984 Armstrong case, a Hubbard letter to the Veterans Administration, dated April 2, 1958, was produced. Gerald Armstrong had this to say of it:
In my mind there was a conflict between the fact that here he is asking to have his V.A. [Veterans Administration] checks sent to a particular address in 1958, and in all the publications about Mr. Hubbard he had claimed that he had been given a perfect score, perfect mental and physical score by 1950, and by 1947 had completely cured himself, and here he is still drawing a V.A. check for this disability. ... It seems like there is at least a contradiction and possibly an unethical practice on his part.
1 "A Report to Members of Parliament on Scientology", Church of Scientology, 1968
2 Heinlein, foreword to Godbody, Theodore Sturgeon, 1986
3 Williamson, Wonder's Child: My Life in Science Fiction, 1984
4 The most recent edition was published in 1998.
5 L. Ron Hubbard: The Philosopher (1996), http://www.ronthephilosopher.org/page82.htm
6 L. Ron Hubbard: The Philosopher (1996), http://www.ronthephilosopher.org/page40.htm
7 This appears to have had unfortunate consequences; in a lecture of June 1950, Hubbard admitted that he had become addicted to phenobarbitol, presumably as a consequence of his anti-ulcer treatment.
8 Tape-recorded lecture of July 23, 1951, transcribed in Research & Discovery Series, vol. 6, p.409; HCO Bulletin of November 15, 1957, in Technical Bulletins of Dianetics & Scientology, vol. 3, p.146
Ron Hubbard - letter acknowledging discharge from US Navy, 30 October
Note Hubbard's new title of "President"!
|I. Report of physical examination of L. Ron Hubbard, 19 September 1946|
|J. L. Ron Hubbard - appeal to Veterans Administration for psychiatric treatment, 15 October 1947|
|K. Report of physical examination of L. Ron Hubbard, 11 December 1947|