L. RON HUBBARD AND THE U.S. NAVY, 1941-50
2. L. Ron Hubbard:
his struggle with truth *
If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice.
- The Joker, Batman: The Killing Joke (1989)
L. Ron Hubbard was commissioned into the Navy before the war ("A Brief Biography of L. Ron Hubbard", 1960) or, alternatively, at its outbreak as a lieutenant (junior grade) ("What Is Scientology?", 1992 edition). He was ordered to the Philippines on the entry of the US into the war ("What Is Scientology?", 1978 edition). Alternatively, he was landed from the USS Edsall, on which he was the Gunnery Officer, on the north coast of Java on the same day as Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. However, he was cut off near Surabaya by invading Japanese forces in February 1942, and after a trek through the jungle to the south coast, scrambled into a rubber raft and sailed across the Timor Sea to within a hundred miles of the Australian coast before being picked up by a friendly destroyer (Church of Scientology v. Armstrong, 21 May 1984; also Dan Sherman, LRH Biographer, quoted in Freedom magazine, Spring 1997).
As a further alternative, he first served in Australia where he coordinated naval intelligence activities and was Senior Officer Present Ashore ("L. Ron Hubbard - A Chronicle", 1990). He went to Java as a counter-intelligence officer to organise relief for beleaguered American forces on Bataan ("Ron The Poet/Lyricist", 1996).
While escaping from the Japanese on Java, he suffered severe injuries after being machine-gunned in the back (Church of Scientology v. Armstrong, 21 May 1984). Alternatively, he fractured an ankle while evading the Japanese ("Ron The Poet/Lyricist", 1996). He was flown home in the Secretary of the Navy's private plane as the first US casualty returned from the Far East (Hubbard, "The Story of Dianetics & Scientology", taped lecture of 1958).
Another account states that during 1941-42 he served in Brisbane as a mail officer manning the only anti-aircraft battery in Australia ("An interview granted to the Australian Press on January 10th 1963 at Saint Hill Manor ... by L. Ron Hubbard"). His posting ended when he was relieved by fifteen officers of rank ("Mission into Time", 1973). An alternative is that he commanded a gunboat in the Pacific. Once he sailed right into the harbour of a Japanese occupied island in the Dutch East Indies. His attitude was that if you took your flag down the Japanese would not know one boat from another, so he tied up at the dock, went ashore and wandered around by himself for three days. (A.E. van Vogt, interview of July 22, 1986). As yet another alternative, in 1941 he rewrote the Hydrographic Office Publications for the US Navy (Hubbard, "Autobiographical notes for Peter Tompkins", 6 June 1972).
Arriving back in the US in March 1942, the shortage of skilled officers was such that after a week in hospital he was ordered at once to the command of a North Atlantic corvette (Hubbard, "The Story of Dianetics & Scientology", taped lecture of 1958) which was the former British corvette, the Mist. He saw service for the remainder of that year with British and American anti-submarine vessels in the North Atlantic ("A Brief Biography of L. Ron Hubbard", 1960). Ultimately he rose to command the Fourth British Corvette Squadron ("A Short Biography of L. Ron Hubbard", The Auditor magazine, issue 63). Alternatively, he commanded the subchaser USS YP-422 (aka USS Mist) and turned its crew - to a man, all hardened criminals transferred from Portsmouth Naval Prison - into the finest crew in the fleet (L. Ron Hubbard: The Humanitarian, 1996).
In 1943, he was transferred to the North Pacific where he was made Commodore of Corvette Squadrons ("Facts About L. Ron Hubbard - Things You Should Know", Flag Divisional Directive 69RA of 8 March 1974, revised 7 April 1974). He fought and sunk one or, alternatively, two enemy submarines off the Oregon coast in May 1943 ("L. Ron Hubbard - A Chronicle", 1990; "Ron The Poet/Lyricist", 1996; "L. Ron Hubbard as a Naval Officer", factsheet circulated by Church of Scientology of unknown but recent date).
The following years, 1944-45, he worked as an instructor at the Small Craft Training Center in San Pedro, California ("L. Ron Hubbard - A Chronicle", 1990). He subsequently served with amphibious forces ("A Report to Members of Parliament on Scientology", 1968) as Navigation Officer aboard the USS Algol ("L. Ron Hubbard - A Chronicle", 1990), a ship which he described as having "about 700 men aboard it... in the middle of the Pacific Ocean" ("The Story of Dianetics & Scientology"). While aboard he wrote a revolutionary textbook on navigation, greatly simplifying the art ("L. Ron Hubbard: Master Mariner/Yachtsman", 1996). Some of his adventures aboard the USS Algol were later made into a Hollywood film, Mr Roberts, by his screenwriter friends ("A Brief Biography of L. Ron Hubbard", 1960; also Hubbard, "Autobiographical notes for Peter Tompkins", 6 June 1972).
He later attended Princeton University as a post-graduate ("A Report to Members of Parliament on Scientology", 1968) or, alternatively, attended the US Navy's School of Government at Princeton as a student ("Who's Who in the South and Southwest", ca. 1963 - entry on Hubbard; also "L. Ron Hubbard - A Chronicle", 1990). As a further alternative, he saw action aboard a destroyer in the Aleutians in late 1944 (Jack Williamson, Wonder's Child: My Life in Science Fiction, 1984).
Hubbard ended the war (in 1944 or, alternatively, 1945) crippled and blinded after an unexploded shell, which had landed on the deck of his ship and which he was throwing overboard, exploded in his face (letter to Hubbard family, quoted by L. Ron Hubbard Jr. in letter of 26 January 1973). Alternatively, he had suffered flash-burn injuries to his eyes while serving as Gunnery Officer aboard the USS Edsall earlier in the war, resulting in him being declared "legally blind" (Church of Scientology v. Armstrong, 21 May 1984; also "Ron - Letters and Journals", 1997). Yet another alternative is that he had been left lame by shrapnel fragments in hip and back ("Ron - Letters and Journals", 1997). He was taken to Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in California where he was treated for injured optic nerves and physical injuries to his hip and back. He was officially assessed as having "no neurotic or psychotic tendencies of any kind whatsoever" (Hubbard, "My Philosophy", 1965).
Hubbard's long and heroic service took him to all five theatres of World War II, for which he was rewarded with 21 medals and palms ("Facts About L. Ron Hubbard - Things You Should Know", 1974), or alternatively 27 decorations (Flag Operations Liaison Memo of May 28, 1974) or even 29 ("The Church of Scientology: 40th Anniversary", 1994). By applying his own revolutionary mental therapies, which later became the basis of Scientology, he recovered so fully that he was reclassified for full combat duty, to the amazement of the Naval authorities ("Mission into Time"). He spent a full year in Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in California and was fully recovered by 1947 ("Research & Discovery Series" vol. 1, 1980), as a result of which he lost his retirement pension (Hubbard, "All About Radiation", 1979). Alternatively, his final post in the US Navy was as Provost Marshal in Korea in 1945 ("A Report to Members of Parliament on Scientology", 1968).
Hubbard was not a man who enjoyed war and had seen enough killing to last him a lifetime ("What Is Scientology?", 1992 ed.). He resigned his commission rather than assist government research projects and instead published, in 1948, his "original thesis" on his discoveries about the mind (FSM magazine, vol. 1 no. 1, 1968).
Confused? The Church of Scientology certainly is. This improbable and contradictory account was assembled from no less than twenty-seven different sources, twenty-four of which were published by the Church of Scientology itself. Scientology's own websites present at least three different versions of Hubbard's service career. 1
As this shows, Hubbard's followers have been chronically unable to present a coherent picture of what exactly he did in the war. This is remarkable, since every official account credits Hubbard's experiences in the war as being the catalyst for the development of his "science of the mind". Considering the fundamental importance of this period to Scientology's origins, it is most peculiar that the organisation which Hubbard founded has been unable to settle on a consistent account.
It is not clear whether Hubbard actually wrote all of these biographical accounts - the only ones directly attributable to him are "The Story of Dianetics & Scientology" lecture, "My Philosophy", his "Autobiographical notes for Peter Tompkins" and the "Interview granted to the Australian Press", plus also probably the accounts cited by Thomas Moulton in Church of Scientology v. Armstrong, 21 May 1984 and Jack Williamson in Wonder's Child. The latter two have never been disowned (indeed, Moulton was acting as a witness for Scientology and the claims which he reported as having been made by Hubbard have been reiterated and amplified in recent years by Scientology). Although the Scientology books and publications quoted are in most cases copyrighted to Hubbard, this was standard Scientology practice, even where someone else was credited as the author. According to former Scientology archivist Gerry Armstrong, Hubbard may also have written some of the third-person accounts not formally attributed to him. 2
There can, however, be little doubt that Hubbard approved most if not all of them. All were published by the Church of Scientology. The draconian penalties imposed for publishing unauthorised ("squirrel") material on Scientology would have ensured that executives at the highest levels would have had to approve their publication, probably clearing them via Hubbard himself. He was certainly the original source of the information. There was, quite simply, no other source - it was not until 1979 that the US Navy released his service record to an outside agency (the Church itself). The claim that he received 21 medals definitely came from him, as shown by a letter sent on his behalf in May 1974. His private papers have yielded a US Navy form which purports to show that he really did receive those medals.
As the compilation of accounts above shows, the Church of Scientology (which effectively means Hubbard himself) was careless about consistency in published biographical accounts. That did not really matter so long as people could not access his service records, which the US Navy guarded zealously from all enquirers. Without the benefit of those files, Scandal of Scientology author Paulette Cooper, for instance, found herself writing in 1971 that "he was severely injured in the war (and in fact was in a lifeboat for many days, badly injuring his body and his eyes in the hot Pacific sun)." She simply did not have any better information.
The passage of the Freedom of Information Act in 1973 (for which, ironically, the Scientologists had campaigned) began to open the floodgates. Although Hubbard's personnel record remained sealed to the general public until his death in 1986, other documents - such as his ships' log books and previously classified Action Reports - became publicly available. An amateur researcher, Michael Shannon, had by 1979 amassed "a mountain of material which included some files that no one else had bothered to get copies of - for example, the log books of the Navy ships that Hubbard had served on, and his father's Navy service file". Copies of Shannon's documents reached official Scientology archivist Gerry Armstrong.
The rosy picture of Hubbard's heroic wartime service ultimately was shattered in the US courts. Gerry Armstrong had by this time been declared a "Suppressive Person" and was expelled from Scientology for his insistence that Hubbard's life story had been grossly misrepresented over the years. He took with him a large number of highly sensitive documents, including material from Hubbard's Navy and Veterans' Administration files. He was subsequently taken to court by Scientology in a case that came to trial in May 1984. A keystone of Armstrong's defence was his contention that he was right about the incorrectness Hubbard's of publicised life story. In defence, Scientology put Hubbard's sometime second-in-command, former Lt. Thomas Moulton, in the witness stand to testify on Hubbard's war years. The subsequent cross-examination proved devastating for the Church of Scientology, which lost the case. Moulton's testimony is reproduced in full elsewhere in this website.
The death of Hubbard in January 1986 finally enabled the public release of his service record. The Los Angeles Times apparently was the first to obtain the full record, closely followed by British author Russell Miller, who published a withering account of Hubbard's naval career in his 1987 book, Bare-Faced Messiah. Another British author, Jon Atack, published a slightly expanded account in A Piece of Blue Sky (1992). This website aims to be the definitive account, bringing together an online copy of the most significant parts of his US Navy and Veterans' Administration files plus a detailed analysis of Hubbard's career, his subsequent claims, and related aspects.
* Title is with apologies to Gitta Sereny.
1 See "L. Ron Hubbard - A Chronicle" (http://www.lronhubbard.org/asi/chrono.htm); "Ron The Poet/Lyricist" (http://www.ronthepoet.org/p_jpg/thewar1.htm); and biographical sketches from "What Is Scientology?", 1992 edition (http://www.aboutlronhubbard.org/eng/wis3_1r.htm).
2 Hubbard certainly did this on other occasions - a third-person statement issued to and printed by the London Sunday Times in 1969, denying what turned out to be accurate allegations of his involvement in ritual sex magic in the 1940s, was later revealed (during the 1984 Church of Scientology v. Armstrong trial) to have been written by Hubbard himself.