L. RON HUBBARD AND THE U.S. NAVY, 1941-50
4.1 Uncovering the Evidence
L. Ron Hubbard's service record remained hidden in the US Navy's archives for many years after his departure from the Service. In the 1960s he became an increasingly controversial figure as newspapers latched on to his "mind-bending cult" (sic) and governments scrutinised his inventive financial dealings. Questions about Hubbard's service career began to arrive at the Bureau of Naval Personnel. The first recorded query was from a Miss Marjorie Holburn of Sydney, Australia in March 1964, requesting an overview of Hubbard's career. Further enquiries followed from a variety of sources, including the British Daily Mail newspaper, Dr. William V. Joel, "Consulting Scientologist" of New York City and Britain's Granada Television. In each case the information sought was a corroboration of Hubbard's basic claims (i.e. wounded in action, awarded numerous medals, etc.) Unfortunately, in each case the reply was the same: no personal information could be released without the permission of the individual involved.
The first breach in Hubbard's wall of myth was eventually made by the US Government itself. In the course of investigating a massive clandestine espionage operation which the Church of Scientology had instigated against Federal and State agencies across the country, in August 1976 the US Department of Justice requested the Navy to provide a summary of Hubbard's service. This was very brief - only one page - but was the first officially-released statement of Hubbard's service.
It is somewhat strange that it took the Church of Scientology until 1979 to obtain Hubbard's record; there is no indication that the man himself ever attempted to do so despite the access afforded by the Freedom of Information Act, for which Scientology had vigorously campaigned. Nonetheless, officials of Scientology's "Ministry of Legal Affairs" (sic) were granted powers of attorney to obtain the records on Hubbard's behalf, as part of the Church's drive to obtain every record on Scientology or Hubbard held by the US Government. Copies of these records leaked out a couple of years later when their custodian, Scientologist Gerry Armstrong, left the Church with copious quantities of Hubbard's personal papers.
The floodgates really opened in 1986, following Hubbard's death on January 24 that year. His service records were now public property and enquiries were not long in coming. The first neutral agency to obtain a full copy of the records was the Los Angeles Times, which submitted a request on September 9, 1986. The Navy also received requests from British authors Russell Miller (Bare-Faced Messiah) and Jon Atack (A Piece of Blue Sky), as well as from many other people subsequently.
In June 1988, Scientology made a move of long-term significance. The Church had attempted to block publication of Russell Miller's Bare-Faced Messiah in Britain, Canada and the United States. In connection with the latter case it sub-poena'd the US Navy for any correspondence with Miller, plus - the significant bit - the copy of Hubbard's record sent to Miller. The Navy was under a strict legal obligation to provide Scientology with true and accurate copies of all the documents requested. This it promptly did, and no complaints from Scientology are recorded. The significance of this event is discussed in section 4.3 - Verifying the Evidence.