Ron the War Hero by Chris Owen



1941 to 1945 were pivotal years in the history of the United States, when the nation overcame early disastrous defeat in the Second World War to become one of the two great superpowers dominating the postwar world. The same period was also pivotal for a rather less profound development - one of those involved in that conflict was L. Ron Hubbard, formerly a pulp science fiction writer but soon to become the founder and leader of the controversial Church of Scientology. His wartime experiences have long been claimed to have been the catalyst for his development of the mental therapies that would eventually become Scientology.

Strangely, though, the Church of Scientology itself appears to have no clear idea of what Hubbard did in the war. It has printed numerous accounts of Hubbard's life story. All consistently play on the theme of Hubbard's heroism in combat, his disgust with war, and his miraculous recovery from serious war wounds through the use of his own revolutionary mental techniques. The details, however, differ markedly from account to account and frequently contradict each other.

A definitive official biography is said to be currently underway, though one has to wonder when (or even if) it will ever appear; an "LRH Biographical Project" has been underway since the early 1980s without, as yet, any sign of having finished its magnum opus.

Unofficial biographers have been much more forthcoming. In the years since Hubbard's death in January 1986, they have used US Navy records (retrieved through the Freedom of Information Act) to assemble a much less flattering picture of Lt. L. Ron Hubbard - according to them, he was no war hero but an incompetent malingerer who played up his illnesses in order to con the authorities into granting him a more generous pension.

Any examination of Hubbard's war record has to address the key questions: what exactly did he do, where and when? Matters are complicated by the disputed veracity of the crucial piece of evidence, his service record. In addition to merely cataloguing the contents of that record, one also needs to carefully examine its veracity before reaching any firm conclusions.

Asking such questions in the first place is guaranteed to cause controversy, given the regard in which Scientologists hold their spiritual leader. However, a simple attempt to verify the claims that have been made should not be construed as being anti-Scientology or anti-Hubbard, though some of the answers reveal things that the Church of Scientology would doubtless prefer were kept quiet. Writing an accurate account requires impartiality and a willingness to see beyond stereotypes (pro and anti). Unfortunately, this in itself makes many - perhaps most - Scientologists ill-suited to the task. Their reverence of Hubbard's legacy and rejection of any "entheta" (that which is "choppy" or "destructive" about Scientology and/or L. Ron Hubbard) greatly reduces their ability to assesses Hubbard dispassionately. A Scientologist who wrote a "warts-and-all" account of Hubbard's life would soon run foul of the Church of Scientology's sweeping disciplinary codes of "Ethics", risking expulsion. The forthcoming official biography is certain to be an unrestrained hagiography.

History, writes the Irish historian T.W. Moody, is "a continuing, probing, critical seach for truth about the past." 1 The Church of Scientology is, rightly, critical of those who comment on its activities on the basis of conjecture or undocumented statements. It is only right and proper that its own statements about L. Ron Hubbard should be subjected to similar scrutiny. The only agenda prompting the production of this account is the desire to discover the truth about Hubbard's war years - a truth which, it turns out, is more complicated than is usually portrayed either by the Scientologists or their harsher critics.

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