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Behind enemy li(n)es: Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s secret mission that never was

[The USS Edsall, sunk in 1942]

For our ‘Scientology Lit’ series this week, we’re posting another excerpt from Chris Owen’s monumental updated ‘Ron the War Hero,’ which was released a couple of weeks ago. We asked, and Chris generously agreed to give us another peek inside this very important book.


Thirty-five years ago this week, a retired US Navy officer dropped a bombshell in a California courtroom: His former shipmate, L. Ron Hubbard, had undertaken a secret mission behind Japanese lines on the island of Java in late 1941. This was news even to the Church of Scientology, which had sought Captain Thomas S. Moulton’s testimony in a case against Hubbard’s former biographical researcher, Gerry Armstrong.

In recent years, some of Hubbard’s apologists have sought to verify Moulton’s account. I’ve tackled these claims in my new book, Ron the War Hero, and shown that they are not only false but physically impossible.


Moulton testified that Hubbard had told him in the fall of 1942 that he was

“in Surabaya [in Java] at the time the Japanese came in or in the area of Surabaya and that he spent some time in the hills in back of Surabaya after the Japanese had occupied it…

He had been landed, so he told me, in Java from a destroyer named the Edsall and had made his way across the land to Surabaya, and that is when the place was occupied. When the Japanese came in, he took off into the hills and lived up in the jungle for some time until he made an escape from there …

He had been landed by the Edsall and she was sunk shortly after that. He was, as far as I know, the only person that ever got off the Edsall because he wasn’t aboard when it happened. She was sunk within a few days after that.”

Hubbard told Moulton that he had been injured by fire from a Japanese machine gun, which damaged his urinary system, “some time during his chasing up and around through the jungle before he made his escape.” The escape was effected when “he and another chap sailed a life raft, I believe, to near Australia where they were picked up by a British or Australian destroyer … 75 miles off Australia.”

At the time Hubbard told Moulton this tale, the pair were attending a US Navy training center in Miami. Hubbard had been posted there following his dismissal from command of the harbour patrol vessel USS YP-422 earlier in 1942. According to Moulton, Hubbard had claimed to be an experienced destroyer officer and was even used by the instructors as “something of an authority in the classroom.” He was told that Hubbard had served as gunnery officer on the Edsall.

This account was unknown before Moulton’s testimony but Scientology has endorsed it enthusiastically. One Scientology account says that Hubbard “saw action on the island of Java, and only eluded capture through a daring escape on a raft.” In March 1997, a worldwide audience of Scientologists heard about Hubbard’s time on Java “in search of stockpiled weapons and fast, shallow-draft vessels.”

Dan Sherman, Scientology’s official “LRH biographer,” quotes Hubbard saying that he “met some people who were not on my side” — the Imperial Japanese Army — so “we had to leave the battle.” Hubbard was said to have missed the last Allied plane out of Java “and was only able to escape the island after scrambling into a rubber raft and paddling out to meet an Australian destroyer.”

Hubbard’s account has a multitude of problems, not least the fact that his wartime medical records make no mention of any combat injuries. Nor does his service record show him aboard USS Edsall at any time, or anywhere near Java. A report that he wrote on February 3, 1942 shows that he was in Brisbane in January and February 1942. And it has never been explained by Moulton, Scientology, or anyone else why Hubbard would have been on Java in the first place.

Could Hubbard ever have been on Edsall? Both he and Edsall were in Australia at the same time, but at opposite ends of the continent. During January 1942, when we know from a report written by Hubbard the following month that he was working in Brisbane in eastern Australia for the US Army, Edsall was thousands of miles away in northern Australian waters off Darwin. She sailed on February 3 to Cilacap (then known as Tjilatjap) on the south central coast of Java. If Hubbard had ever traveled on Edsall, he would have had to have boarded her before she sailed to Java. But Hubbard himself wrote that he was in Melbourne and Brisbane when Edsall left Australian waters.

Edsall never returned to Australia. She remained in Cilacap through the rest of February before going to sea again at the end of the month. On 1 March, while sailing alone about 250 miles south-southwest of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, she was sunk by a Japanese task force. Although a few of her crew were rescued by the Japanese, they were later executed and none of those aboard the vessel survived the war.

Could Hubbard ever have been dropped at Surabaya, as he claimed, whether by Edsall or some other vessel? Surabaya is on the north-east coast of Java hundreds of miles away from Cilacap. Edsall never went near the city, as naval orders and the logs of other ships show, and there was no point at which she could have possibly made the round trip of at least 400 miles. There is no record of Hubbard being aboard any ship at the time.

Three events mentioned in Moulton and Sherman’s testimony allow the range of possible dates for Hubbard’s supposed sojourn on Java to be narrowed down. Edsall was sunk on March 1, 1942 around 250 miles (400 km) south of Christmas Island and the Japanese landed on the same date 100 miles (160 km) west of Surabaya. The last Allied aircraft left on March 6, according to Sherman, and the city fell on March 7, 1942. Yet according to the war diary of the cruiser USS Orleans, Hubbard was aboard the troop ship SS Pennant in Brisbane on March 8, on his way out of Australia; the Pennant left the following day.

Hubbard could not have encountered Japanese forces on Java before they invaded on March 1. According to Moulton, Hubbard said he was injured by an enemy machine gun while fleeing the invading Japanese. With no air route to safety, the badly wounded Hubbard would have had to cross mountains and dense jungle to reach an unidentified point on Java’s south coast, find a boat in the company of another officer whose name has never been disclosed, sail hundreds of miles across the Indian Ocean to within 75 miles of the Australian coast, be rescued by a vessel that has never been identified, transfer to an equally unidentified Australian port, recuperate and return to Brisbane in time for his transport out on the SS Pennant. All of that had to have happened within just seven days.


Moulton thought Hubbard’s supposed voyage was a remarkable feat of navigation, which it certainly would have been. The shortest distance between the south-easternmost point of Java and Australia is about 700 miles (1,100 km) across the shark-infested waters of the eastern Indian Ocean. Had Hubbard crossed from the south coast opposite Surabaya, it would have been closer to 900 miles (1,300 km).

As the Australian writer Steve Cannane points out, the crossing was supposedly made in the middle of the monsoon season, “the most dangerous period to attempt a sea crossing to northern Australia. Fishing boats carrying asylum seekers struggle to make it to Australia via this route, let alone men in rubber life rafts.”

One of the biggest unanswered questions for Hubbard’s apologists is: why would Hubbard be chosen for a secret mission to Java? He had never been to Java before; he did not speak Javanese, or claim any familiarity with the country; he had no obvious qualifications for a secret mission. Before coming to Australia, his only recorded work for the Navy was writing articles for its Public Relations office and cataloging photographs for the Hydrographer’s Office. Nothing in his background would suggest he had any qualifications that would have been of use in a covert mission.

Just days before the time of the supposed mission, he had been disciplined by two of the most senior Army and Navy officers in Australia, described as unfit for independent duty and ordered back to the United States. The likelihood that he would have then been entrusted with a secret mission in Java seems remote at best.

There is also no clarity from any of Hubbard’s apologists about what he was supposedly doing on Java in the first place. Moulton said nothing about the goals of the supposed secret mission. Sherman referred to Hubbard going “in search of stockpiled weapons and fast, shallow-draft vessels,, though it is not clear whether that was meant to be Hubbard’s mission — in which case what was the point of it? — or his response to supposedly being cut off by the Japanese and seeking a means of escape.

So why, apart from his usual egotism, would Hubbard choose to tell such an improbable story? Moulton said in his testimony that Hubbard made the claim “in Miami which would have been in the fall of ‘42.” The injuries Hubbard claimed to have sustained from Japanese machine-gun fire supposedly damaged his urinary system, which Moulton testified caused him “a great bit of difficulty in urinating.”

The timing of this claim closely matches Hubbard’s admission in his later “Affirmations” (written around 1946-47) that he had caught gonorrhea from a girl while at the Sub Chaser Training Center in Miami. One of the disease’s most typical symptoms is pain while urinating. Far from his “secret mission” being a testament to his wartime heroism, it seems much more likely that Hubbard came up with the story to explain away the effects of the clap.

— Chris Owen


HowdyCon 2019 in Los Angeles

THURSDAY NIGHT OPPORTUNITY: This year’s HowdyCon is in Los Angeles. People tend to come in starting on Thursday, and that evening we will have a casual get-together at a watering hole. But we also want to point out that Cathy Schenkelberg’s “Squeeze My Cans” will be running at the Hollywood Fringe, and we encourage HowdyCon attendees to see her show on Thursday night, June 20. Tickets and more dates available here.

Friday night June 21 we will be having an event in a theater (like we did on Saturday night last year in Chicago). There will not be a charge to attend this event, but if you want to attend, you need to RSVP with your proprietor at tonyo94 AT gmail.

On Saturday, we are joining forces with Janis Gillham Grady, who is having a reunion in honor of the late Bill Franks. Originally, we thought this event might take place in Riverside, but instead it’s in the Los Angeles area. If you wish to attend the reunion, you will need to RSVP with Janis (janisgrady AT gmail), and there will be a small contribution she’s asking for in order to help cover her costs.

HOTEL: Janis tells us she’s worked out a deal with Hampton Inn and Suites, at 7501 North Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank, (818) 768-1106. We have a $159 nightly rate for June 19 to 22. Note: You need to ask for the “family reunion” special rate.



Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[Erika Christensen, Ethan Suplee, and Juliette Lewis]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?



[ONE year ago] Erika Christensen shows off her new Scientology trophy for donating half a million bucks
[TWO years ago] Our photographer goes back for more Scientology ‘body routing’ on the streets of LA
[THREE years ago] As Scientology prepares for Saturday’s grand opening, its controversial sign goes up
[FOUR years ago] On Memorial Day, some new revelations from L. Ron Hubbard’s military record
[FIVE years ago] Scientology Sunday Funnies: Save the date for Maiden Voyage!
[SIX years ago] TMZ The Latest To Mix Up Tiziano Lugli for Tom Cruise
[SEVEN years ago] VIDEO: Dianetics Day 2012! See People Who Can’t Wait to Go “Clear”!
[NINETEEN years ago] John Travolta won’t talk to The Finger


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,457 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,586 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,090 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,610 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 630 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 521 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,828 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,696 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,470 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,244 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,590 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,156 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,076 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,243 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,824 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,085 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,124 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,836 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,362 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,451 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,591 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,911 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,767 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,886 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,242 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,544 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,650 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,052 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,924 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,507 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,002 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,256 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,365 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 25, 2019 at 07:00

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Our new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2018 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2018), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | 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 | Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | 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

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


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