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L. Ron Hubbard’s Navy record: Chris Owen critiques the ‘Business Insider’ story

HubbardNavyOne of the great results of Lawrence Wright’s New Yorker article on Paul Haggis and Scientology, which grew into his book Going Clear, was that he got the Church of Scientology to turn over a huge amount of documentation of L. Ron Hubbard’s life.

In that trove turned out to be a number of records concerning Hubbard’s career in the US Navy and the 21 medals Hubbard had supposedly been awarded, including two Purple Hearts for being injured in combat. But Wright had his own set of records that he’d acquired directly from the Navy, and they differed from the church’s documents in a number of ways, including a lack of any Purple Hearts or any other medals having to do with combat — since Hubbard hadn’t seen any. The implication seemed clear: Scientology wasn’t above doctoring things to make Hubbard’s World War II career appear more valorous than it was.

On Tuesday, Business Insider decided to take a look at the discrepancies in those sets of war records in what appeared to be a very detailed and rigorous article. Our readers noted that it made the front page of Yahoo News, so that tells us it was seen by a lot of people.

But when we took a close look at it, the story actually seemed somewhat muddled. Although we’re not experts on Hubbard’s war years, Business Insider’s piece was hard to follow and seemed to lack consultation with people who know this period well.

We thought this was pretty important material and ought to be treated with care. So we turned to a couple of researchers who know the Hubbard war record in minute detail. One of them was historian Chris Owen, who literally wrote the book on this subject. Here’s what he had to say about the Business Insider piece.



Business Insider has made a hash of its explanation of various aspects of Hubbard’s records. For instance, in Hubbard’s “Notice of Separation from US Naval Service” (form DD214), Business Insider mislabels Hubbard’s date of entry into active service as “entry dates” into the US Navy. But he wasn’t a regular US Navy officer — he was a reservist who was inactive for half of his entire service (1941-50). Hubbard actually joined the Navy in July 1941. He did three weeks’ active service in September-October 1941, then was inactive for a few weeks, then regained active status in November 1941. The Navy DD214 lists his contiguous active service as being from 24 November 1941 through to his separation from active service in February 1946. The Scientology version of the same form erroneously backdates it two months previously, apparently forgetting that the first three-week period of active service wasn’t contiguous with the rest.

Business Insider doesn’t pick up on some of the other errors in the Scientology version of the DD214. For instance, some of the medals listed (“Br. and Dtch Vict. Meds.”) don’t even exist, so Hubbard could never have been awarded them. There’s no record of Hubbard ever being part of a unit given a “Unit Citation.” There’s no record of any kind from anyone showing Hubbard serving in the European theater or anywhere east of the 35th meridian west, so not surprisingly there’s no explanation of how he supposedly got a European theater medal. The “USS Howland” didn’t exist at any point and the “USS Mist” didn’t serve in World War II — Hubbard’s first command, the USS YP-422, was a former trawler called the Mist but it was never given that name as a US Navy vessel. It also gets the date of separation wrong (December 1945 rather than February 1946). I’ve gone through this in some detail in “Ron the War Hero.”

Business Insider also makes much of Hubbard being promoted to Lieutenant Commander. It’s quite true that the Navy’s records are inconsistent on this point — there’s a record of his promotion but there’s no indication that Hubbard ever knew anything about it. In his letter of resignation from the Navy he referred to himself as a “lieutenant senior grade.” No Scientology biography mentions his Lt. Commander rank. It appears that the Navy either didn’t notify Hubbard or, more likely, the notification never reached him due to his itinerant post-war life. It is curious that the Navy itself seems to have forgotten about the rank in subsequent years, but I would guess that a clerical error was responsible. It would not have mattered much at the time as they were not paying him a salary in any case.

Business Insider talks about Hubbard spending a “a year in the South Pacific,” which is completely wrong, as even the documents which it has posted makes clear. His brief assignment to the District Intelligence Office of the Twelfth Naval District wasn’t in the South Pacific (unless San Francisco, the location of the district, has somehow been relocated). He was assigned to the Office of the Naval Attache, American Legation, Melbourne, Australia from 18 December 1941 to 2 April 1942, which Business Insider correctly notes, but it misinterprets this as meaning that he was actually present in Australia for all of that time. He didn’t get there until January 11, 1942, by ship, and by February 11, 1942, he had screwed up so badly that he was ordered by the Naval Attache to go back to San Francisco. His posting there took effect from 3 April 1942, as Business Insider’s documents show. So his supposed “year in the South Pacific” was actually little more than two months and change.

We pointed out to Chris that the Business Insider’s conclusion was that Hubbard’s Navy record was “strange,” and that even after the publication’s vetting, it remained a “mystery.” Here’s how the story ends: “All in all, L. Ron Hubbard’s time in the US Navy — whether as a lieutenant commander with a Purple Heart or a lieutenant with basic military training — remains a mystery, given all of the contradictions and discrepancies in official documents.”

We asked Chris what he thought about that assessment.


I don’t think much of their conclusion. Hubbard’s war records are complex, not mysterious. The final document that Business Insider has posted cuts through the complexity to spell out in great detail what he was doing at each point in his naval career. It’s the key to unlocking the whole thing. The Navy’s timeline of Hubbard’s career fits together without any gaps. To be sure, there are minor inconsistencies between the earlier documents, but that is hardly surprising — there were over 3.3 million personnel serving in the US Navy by 1945 and the emphasis was on getting things done quickly rather than perfectly, in admin as much as in anything else. Records were held in different places and errors are pretty common in wartime files. By the time that final document was written in 1979, the Navy was able to draw on his entire record, held in one place, to provide an overview of his entire career.

Thanks very much for that, Chris. We know we’ll never get out in front of the head start the BI story has, but we felt an obligation to try.


Tommy_DavisTommy Davis, still besties with COB

One of our readers, Dave Marshall, said he couldn’t help himself. He wondered if former Church of Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis would respond if he was sent an email.

Tommy left his post as Scientology mouthpiece in 2011. He testified in a deposition that he’s on “leave” from Scientology’s Sea Org, but still considers himself a member of the church. (Our own sources say that Tommy’s actually moved pretty far away from the church as well.) He and his wife, Jessica Feshbach, are based in Austin, and they’re raising a young child. But because Tommy works as a top assistant to Colony Capital honcho Tom Barrack Jr., who is based in Santa Monica, Tommy is often spotted in Los Angeles.

Marshall sent Tommy a note through his Colony Capital email address…

“My regards to Thomas (Tommy) Davis, one time right hand man of David Miscavige. So glad you escaped from his evil clutches. I know you haven’t left Scientology yet, but you still can. Be strong Tommy.”

Davis replied…

“Yes. I am a Scientologist. Moreover, David Miscavige always has been and always will be my friend. Keep your bigotry to yourself.”

Marshall responded…

“Great to get a reply. Hope you’re OK and that your wife is too.”

And Davis followed up with…

“You don’t care. Don’t act like you do. Don’t ever email me again and I haven’t a clue why you emailed one of my colleagues. Unlike you, my friends and colleagues respect my religious beliefs and have a intense dislike for people like you who preach hate.”

Hey, that’s our Tommy! Good to know he hasn’t changed a bit.


Nick_XenophonNick Xenophon back on the offensive

Our man in Paris, Jonny Jacobsen, has a good writeup at his site, Infinite Complacency, about Australian senator Nick Xenophon (pictured), who once again is demanding government action about Scientology.

In the wake of Alex Gibney’s film, Going Clear, Xenophon is asking Australia’s Charities and Not-for-profits Commission to review Scientology’s tax-exempt status — which is exactly what Gibney and author Lawrence Wright are hoping will happen in this country as well.

Read Jonny’s overview of what’s happening Down Under.


More dirt on David Miscavige from his own spies

TMZ has another great segment from the audio recordings of the spies arrested in Wisconsin in 2013 who were caught surveilling Scientology leader David Miscavige’s father, Ron Miscavige Sr.

The younger private investigator, Daniel Powell, explains what he knows about the situation. That Ron was the musical director at Golden Era Productions, but that Dave told him his style was out of date and demoted him. Ron took that as a sign that he needed to leave. (He escaped from the International Base near Hemet, California in the spring of 2012.)

Daniel claims that Miscavige had paid his father not to write a book about him, which was the “reason” Ron was in Wisconsin, implying that Scientology paid for Ron’s house. (Something the IRS might interested to hear.) And also that Miscavige bought off his father with a $5,000 trumpet. But still, Miscavige paid PIs $10,000 a week to watch Ron. “David has reason to be afraid, he’s a terrible person,” Daniel says…



Your proprietor gets around

Many of you were with us in the comments last night as we got to see tape of ourselves on Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell. We have to admit this was a bit of a thrill for us. We still remember how we grew fond of Lawrence when he was a frequent guest host for Countdown with Keith Olbermann (oh, how we miss that show). Our appearance last night was brief, but we really enjoyed the way it developed…


Also, we liked the idea of being on the radio in the Tampa area to discuss Scientology. Who knows, maybe some church members on the fence might dare to listen in. So we accepted a chance to talk with Bubba Clem, also known as Bubba the Love Sponge. We think we held our own with the rowdy group, and managed to get a few serious observations in. But it wasn’t easy!



Bonus photos from our tipsters

From London: Michelle Clerkin is now a fully certified professional SUPERVISOR!


Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!


Posted by Tony Ortega on April 10, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward

UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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