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On Memorial Day, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s ‘stolen valor’: His bogus war injuries

A big part of Scientology’s allure for its members is their ardent belief in founder L. Ron Hubbard as a man who was larger than life. And part of his legend were the tall tales he told about his experiences in the Second World War. Historian Chris Owen, a regular contributor here at the Bunker, took apart Hubbard’s war myths with his excellent 2019 book Ron the War Hero: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard’s Calamitous Military Career, an updated and rewritten version of his 1999 work. We asked Chris if we could publish an excerpt of his book for Memorial Day, and he sent us this superb peek inside his book about Hubbard’s claims about being injured in war versus the actual record.

“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 … 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.” — L. Ron Hubbard

Hubbard was referring to the supposedly miraculous discoveries he made through Dianetics and Scientology. Perhaps not surprisingly, his claims evolved over time. His claim to have been ‘crippled and blinded’ was written in 1965, a full twenty years after the end of the war. It was not until as recently as 1997 – a full half-century after the war – that the Church of Scientology provided any specific details about how Hubbard sustained his supposed injuries, which were claimed to have been sustained in combat. In an account almost certainly written by official Hubbard biographer Dan Sherman, “the muzzle flash of a deck gun had left [Hubbard] legally blind, while shrapnel fragments in hip and back had left him all but lame.” Oddly, Sherman told Scientologists in the same year that Hubbard had taken slivers of shrapnel in the chest instead.

Hubbard’s medical records show that at the outset of the war in 1941, he suffered from poor eyesight – photographs from the time show him wearing glasses – but was otherwise healthy. By July 1942, he had developed conjunctivitis and his eyesight had deteriorated somewhat. He also had hemorrhoids and later suffered from urethral discharges, which are a classic symptom of venereal disease. Hubbard recorded in his private papers that he had caught gonorrhea from a “very loose” girl named Ginger, which forced him to take sulfa to treat the infection. He picked up further ailments in the following three years. In December 1945, he listed his various ailments in a letter supporting a claim for a pension and disability benefits. He listed a catalog of problems, none of which could be described as a combat-related injury (and indeed, during his naval service Hubbard never claimed to have suffered a combat 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, R[igh]t Hip, Shoulder, Jan 45.

This matches fairly well with his statement to Scientologists in 1958 that he “wasn’t sick, I was just banged up.” In an early 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 wouldn’t heal. So they just kept me.” By 1992, however, this had been transformed in Scientology’s account to Hubbard being “a man physically shot to pieces at the end of the war”.

At no point in the war was Hubbard ever in combat with an enemy. His service aboard the USS YP-422, a former trawler converted into a harbor patrol vessel, lasted barely a month before he was relieved of command. it took him no further than the waters immediately off Boston Harbor. The most warlike activity committed by 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 any reports of injuries sustained by any of the crew.

He did conduct what he believed was a lengthy action against two Japanese submarines – or a likely underwater magnetic deposit, according to the US Navy – when commanding the USS PC-815 in the Pacific 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 specify the type of injuries, but they were likely cuts and bruises resulting from operating the ship’s weapons). He did not include himself among the casualties. There was no suggestion from any of the vessels involved in the “battle” that they had received any enemy fire, or had been the victims of friendly fire. So he could not possibly have received shrapnel injuries aboard PC- 815, either.

The third vessel on which he served, the USS Algol, did travel to combat zones and received commendations, but this was well after Hubbard had left the ship. His service with the vessel was again quite brief, comprising nine months in a dockyard working on its conversion or undertaking sea trials subsequently. At no time during Hubbard’s service with Algol did the vessel see combat, nor was Hubbard ever recorded as having sustained an injury while aboard.

Hubbard’s hospitalization at Oak Knoll was due to the “Ulcer Duodenum, Chronic” that he mentioned in his December 1945 letter. Through the course of Hubbard’s medical examinations from March 1942 onwards, he made consistent complaints of eye problems, pains in his body – which he attributed variously to accidental injury or arthritis – and stomach problems, caused by his ulcer. A medical report from November 1945, just before the end of his active service, raised the possibility that he was suffering from what was then called Reiter’s Syndrome and is now known as reactive arthritis.

Conjunctivitis is a classic symptom of the syndrome. It presents early in the course of reactive arthritis and can recur periodically. The onset of reactive arthritis can be caused by an infection, most commonly the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia, but also from stomach infections and food poisoning. Hubbard was known for his prolific affairs – in August 1946, his fellow science fiction writer L. Sprague de Camp told Robert Heinlein that Hubbard had “six other gals who were all hot and & moist over him … How many girls is a man entitled to screw in one lifetime, anyway? Maybe he should be reincarnated as a rabbit.” If Hubbard’s eye problems were caused by a sexually transmitted disease, it would not have been the first time that his libido had got him into trouble.

Hubbard’s December 1945 list includes “Arthritis, R[igh]t Hip, Shoulder” which he said had begun in January 1945. The following year, he complained to the Veterans’ Administration that he had suffered a “chronic infection in my right hip [that] has lamed me.” He linked the ‘infection’ and arthritis to a “sudden transition from the tropics to the slush and icy cold of Princeton” that “caused rheumatic chills.” In fact, he had been transferred from Oakland, California – hardly the tropics – and his records show that at the time when he was under treatment at Oak Knoll, he got involved in a serious fight – hardly something of which a “cripple” could have been capable.

In the 1950s, Hubbard claimed that in July 1945 he was attacked by three enlisted men who were causing a disruption outside the hotel where he was staying as an outpatient. Because of his knowledge of judo, Hubbard was able to fight them off:


I said, “The shore patrol has been called, and if you boys are very smart you will get out of here quick.” I started to pass them and go on down the street, and one of them grabbed me by the arm and started poking me with his finger. Then one of them picked up a beer bottle, the other one swung me around with my back to the one with the beer bottle and the guy swung the beer bottle, aiming at my head. One of the things that I had been doing in trying to rehabilitate myself was carrying on with judo. I had gotten training in judo in 1941 before I went into the service, but up at the hospital it was just regular exercise. The judo instructor and I had had quite a bit of fun.

It was very instinctive to duck underneath this beer bottle as it was coming down, and that made the fellow with the beer bottle come over to the side with his wrist in reach, so what I did was break his arm automatically and throw him over his head into the man who was holding me. That guy went into a bumper and cut his face open and the fellow with the bottle went into him with a broken arm. The beer bottle fell on the pavement, and the third guy got up off the running board of the car where he had been sitting and came at me, so I just caught up the beer bottle and shoved it in his face… I am not trying to tell you what a great warrior I am, but that what that did for my morale was fantastic. I don’t think I would be alive today if I hadn’t handled those three men.

Hubbard went on to claim that the men had been court-martialled in a proceeding in which he was also involved. There is some evidence of this in his service file. An order in his file shows that on October 6, 1945, he was summoned as a prosecution witness to a general court martial scheduled for October 10 at the US Naval Receiving Station, San Pedro. He was to testify in a case involving Carpenter’s Mate Third Class Edmond Fain and Shipfitter Second Class Jacob J. Lauff. The details are not recorded on his file, but it is likely that the two men were involved in the fight, and were most likely charged with assaulting a superior officer.

Hubbard’s boasting to his followers does not seem to have been entirely truthful, however. His notorious “Affirmations,” written around 1946-47, suggest that he was trounced in the fight:

You are not a coward. Fist fighting had no bearing on your courage. You were ill when you were fought before. You did not understand the rules. You can whip anyone now and have no physical fear of hand to hand fighting. They who fought you before were knaves and fools. You would be merciless to them now. Nothing can stand up to your fighting now. You are strong and wonderful in combat. You never know fear or defeat. You refrain from fighting because you are too powerful.

So if Hubbard was content to acknowledge in the 1950s that he ended his war service with only mild ailments, why did he switch in the mid-1960s to making extravagant claims about severe injuries? The most likely explanation is that it was a marketing move.

At the time, Scientology’s claims were being systematically dismantled by the Anderson Inquiry in Australia, and Hubbard was gearing up to launch the next big thing in Scientology – the Operating Thetan levels. From Hubbard’s point of view, making big claims about Scientology’s miraculous effects on his own health would have been a good way of motivating his followers and getting them to buy into the premise of the OT levels.

It would have been a low risk for him: his service records were sealed during his lifetime and there was little danger that his false claims would be exposed. But when he died in 1986, researchers were able to show conclusively that his claims of war wounds were completely untrue. As former Church of Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis accurately put it: “the injuries that he handled by the use of Dianetics procedures were never handled, because they were injuries that never existed; therefore, Dianetics is based on a lie; therefore, Scientology is based on a lie.”

— Chris Owen


Source Code

“How about the big boy who becomes the big boy, and he’s been a local boy in some town, and all of a sudden he becomes a big boy. And he’s highly powerful on Wall Street. And he never again speaks to any of his friends in the old home town. Jesus, those people resent that. That is so much the matter of the thing that I can tell you personally that it’s almost impossible to speak to them. That is to say, if you’ve been in an area where you’ve been very well known and you suddenly become, oh, you might say, become a celebrity or something like that, these people won’t believe that you want to talk to them, you see? They’re so used to having the formula violated. You get the idea?” — L. Ron Hubbard, May 25, 1965



Overheard in the FreeZone

“With Scientology one has a shot at regaining the ability to create or un-create, by one’s own abilities, either one, or any of the myriad and infinite variations of motion of particles across a distance, given and received in the game of communication.”


Random Howdy

“There is plenty room around here for the J&D’s as well as the ‘Herberts’ and if people cross way over the line they usually get their asses straightened out by both sides.”


Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

Criminal prosecutions:
Jay Spina: Sentencing was set for April 3 in White Plains
Hanan and Rizza Islam and other family members: Trial set for October 7 in Los Angeles

Civil litigation:
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Waiting for an appellate decision from the Eleventh Circuit
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Hearing on motion for reconsideration set for August 11
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: July 8 (plaintiff attorneys pro hac vice), August 31-Sept 1 (CSI/RTC demurrer against Riales, Masterson demurrer), Oct 7-19 (motions to compel arbitration)
Jane Doe v. Scientology (in Miami): Jane Doe dismissed the lawsuit on May 15 after the Clearwater Police dropped their criminal investigation of her allegations.
Matt and Kathy Feschbach bankruptcy appeal: Oral arguments were heard on March 11 in Jacksonville
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Amended complaint filed.


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

[Alanna Masterson, Terry Jastrow, and Marisol Nichols]

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] Behind enemy li(n)es: Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s secret mission that never was
[TWO years ago] Erika Christensen shows off her new Scientology trophy for donating half a million bucks
[THREE years ago] Our photographer goes back for more Scientology ‘body routing’ on the streets of LA
[FOUR years ago] As Scientology prepares for Saturday’s grand opening, its controversial sign goes up
[FIVE years ago] On Memorial Day, some new revelations from L. Ron Hubbard’s military record
[SIX years ago] Scientology Sunday Funnies: Save the date for Maiden Voyage!
[SEVEN years ago] TMZ The Latest To Mix Up Tiziano Lugli for Tom Cruise
[EIGHT years ago] VIDEO: Dianetics Day 2012! See People Who Can’t Wait to Go “Clear”!


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,948 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,452 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,972 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 992 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 883 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,190 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,058 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,832 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,606 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,952 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,518 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,437 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,605 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,186 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,447 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,485 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,198 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,723 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,253 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,813 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,953 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,273 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,128 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,248 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,603 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,906 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,012 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,414 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,286 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,869 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,364 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,618 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,727 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 25, 2020 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, 1995-2019 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2019), 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, 14 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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