In Part 3, we’ll look at the controversy surrounding Hubbard’s departure and travel back to the United States from Brisbane, Australia, using some of the same previously cited sources from Parts 1 and 2 along with public records, such as those of the Naval Air Transport Service (NATS) and the Pan American Airways archive held by the University of Miami. I want to especially thank Jeffrey Augustine for laying much of the groundwork as to possible avenues for Hubbard’s travel home, specifically in response to Margaret Lake’s assertions as to this timeframe on her Scientology Myths blog. Ms. Lake attempts to demonstrate that much of Hubbard’s narrative about his return home from Australia is essentially true, and we’ll be rigorously challenging her claims as to the veracity of Hubbard’s narrative.
In researching her claims, I have come across empirical evidence that negates much of her argument, specifically the timeline of his return, his having called upon Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox to facilitate his return and his having used a Pan American Clipper for the entire journey to the United States. A major point of contention is where Hubbard was in the 14 days in between his departure from Brisbane on March 9th, and his arrival in San Francisco on March 23rd. I will provide a detailed examination of this timeframe, as well as show how Hubbard used duplicity, in the form of forged official orders, to steal a seat on a Clipper to fly home from Honolulu.
What emerges from my work is a hybrid narrative that like many of Hubbard’s stories, narratives and anecdotes, reflects some truth among the many lies. This particular series of events is important in Hubbard’s mythology. By debunking the veracity of Hubbard’s tale here, we are also debunking the very foundations of Scientology. Like his fanciful narrative of espionage on Java and saving Australia, his homeward-bound odyssey reflects his hubris and predisposition to constantly exceed his authority. More sinisterly, it shows his selfishness and cowardice, as in falsifying orders to return home from Honolulu via air, he undoubtedly bumped a more deserving fellow serviceman, or worse, a military dependent or other, more worthy passenger, as well as avoiding a potentially hazardous journey by ship.
It’s clear from Part 2 in our series that Hubbard’s brief time in Australia was a disaster, and certainly a far cry from both his and Scientology’s narrative of his single handedly saving our Antipodean allies from the ravages of Imperial Japan. If anything, the record demonstrates that he was considered a self-aggrandizing nuisance incapable of executing the few tasks he was given; his response to charges of incompetence reflects what would be a pattern throughout his life, wherein he would never admit fault or would blame others for his own failings, shirking responsibility wherever possible.
The Flying or Floating Home Controversy
As was the case with Hubbard’s story about covert operations in Java, he also spun a several fanciful tales about his return home from Australia. He provides two versions of essentially the same story:
“I was flown in from the South Pacific as the first casualty to be shipped out of the South Pacific war back to the States. The war had been started in Pearl Harbor, and I’d been down in the South Pacific and – a lot of things happened down there. And the outfits down there were pretty well wiped out, as you can remember before the US and Great Britain started to fight and go back in. All right.
Most of the guys that were shipped out of there who had been wounded, were shipped out by slow boat. And I didn’t, I wasn’t that seriously done in. I hooked a ride on the Secretary of the Navy’s plane; produced the right set of orders (I hope nobody ever kept them on file) and got flown home.” Hubbard, L. Ron (1956-02-07). The Game of Life (Exteriorization and Havingness). Los Angeles, CA: Golden Era Productions.
And this version:
“I picked up a telephone, called the Secretary of [the] Navy. See, and I said, “I’m tired of this place. I’d like to leave.” And he said, “Yeah.” I said, “Yeah, I’ve got some important despatches. As a matter of fact, we’ve got enough despatches here to practically sink the Japanese navy if they had to carry them. There’s a lot of traffic and stuff like that, and so forth.” So he sent his plane down and picked me up and flew me home.”
Hubbard, L. Ron (1956-11-08). Definition of Organisation, Part I. Los Angeles, CA: Golden Era Productions.
In deconstructing Hubbard’s journey back stateside, let’s first examine the timeline we can establish from the information currently available. The record shows that on February 11th, 1942 Hubbard is directed by his immediate supervisor, Commander L.D. Causey, the Naval Attaché in Melbourne, to report to the Commanding Officer of the USS Chaumont, for transport back to the United States. However, on March 8th, the war diary of the heavy cruiser USS New Orleans (CA-32) notes Hubbard making a report to her officer of the day regarding “espionage activity”, so he clearly did not depart Brisbane on the Chaumont. We have a memo, dated April 9th, 1942 from Commander P.S. Slawson of the Office of the US Naval Observer in Brisbane, (as a follow-on to a complaint about Lt. Hubbard’s arrears to his tailor), stating that “Information available here indicates that Lieutenant Hubbard returned to the United States via the M.S. Pennant of the American President Lines (APL). This vessel departed Brisbane March 9th for San Francisco.”
Hubbard’s Last Days in Brisbane: Up to His Old Tricks
This memo is important for a couple of things. First, it establishes that Hubbard had a more direct level of supervision than first thought, given that he had a local officer above him in Brisbane. This supervision was in addition to Cdr. Causey in Melbourne, and we now also have proof of an actual physical naval duty station of Australasia Chambers, 406 Queen Street, Brisbane. It’s usually stated that his only documented “duty station” per se was at Camp Ascot under Army Engineer Col. Johnson. This evidence of a direct command structure can lay to rest much of the myth of Hubbard operating completely independent of any authority while in Brisbane; it still does not account for his complete disdain for authority, nor his constant self-aggrandizement. It should be further noted that military units hold a “muster” or roll call every duty day, and if a member is on temporary active duty (TDY) away from a parent unit, they still must account for that member’s whereabouts via the TDY command.
So while Hubbard may have not boarded the Chaumont, his whereabouts were accounted for; it’s most likely a case where he couldn’t be accommodated on the Chaumont, having been superseded by a senior officer or there simply wasn’t enough berthing. Brisbane was not a chaotic combat post; the ability to track Hubbard administratively wouldn’t have been that difficult. Certainly as a naval officer, he would have been readily identifiable as more the exception than the rule, given the huge Army presence in Brisbane at the time; more so, if the Navy could track him down over an overdue tailor’s bill, they could certainly locate him to ensure he had indeed left Brisbane.
Establishing Hubbard’s Departure Timeline
Crucially, had he missed the Chaumont’s sailing without a legitimate reason, he would have been guilty of being Absent Without Leave (AWOL), a serious offense during wartime. Given the animosity he had generated during his stay in Brisbane, there’s no doubt that he would have been charged with this offense and the adjudication noted in his service record. So given this lapse between his original February 16th sailing date on the Chaumont and actual departure on March 9th, he appears to have occupied himself during this time by perhaps creating the fictitious spy ring from Part 2, the existence of which he reports to the officer of the day on the USS New Orleans on March 8th; or maybe it was during this time he hatches his plot to falsify a set of orders for his journey home from Hawaii. We can firmly establish that the first part of his journey, from Brisbane, via Noumea, New Caledonia, was by ship. We can also demonstrate that while he lies about the extent of his use of aviation to get home, as well as the intervention of Frank Knox, he does appear to have flown home via Clipper from Hawaii, though under false pretenses. Let’s first look at each specific claim he makes in his anecdote:
“I was flown in from the South Pacific as the first casualty to be shipped out of the South Pacific war back to the States.”
Both statements are easily disproved. First, there’s no record of Hubbard being any sort of “casualty” so there was no need for any form of evacuation, let alone by a then nonexistent Army or Navy medical airlift. Next, Hubbard didn’t even arrive in a combat theatre until January of 1942, so I’m sure there are a few folks who were wounded on December 7th, 1941 that would take umbrage with him triumphantly calling himself the “first casualty shipped out of the South Pacific war…”
A Lie Begets a Lie Begets another Lie
The origin of this evacuation lie is undoubtedly derived from yet another lie, that he was supposedly wounded by Japanese machine gun fire on Java, a claim previously debunked in Part 2. Next, there’s the crux of the controversy, at least from Margaret Lake’s perspective: how he gets home, wounded or not. She argues that it would have been impossive for Hubbard to have come home via ship in the 14 days between March 9th and the 23, which is partially correct; thus Hubbard only boarded the Pennant for a short cruise from Brisbane to Noumea, and then flew home from there via a Pan American Clipper arranged by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, as alluded to in Hubbard’s following statements:
“I hooked a ride on the Secretary of the Navy’s plane; produced the right set of orders (I hope nobody ever kept them on file) and got flown home.
I picked up a telephone, called the Secretary of [the] Navy. See, and I said, “I’m tired of this place. I’d like to leave.” And he said, “Yeah.” I said, “Yeah, I’ve got some important despatches. As a matter of fact, we’ve got enough despatches here to practically sink the Japanese navy if they had to carry them. There’s a lot of traffic and stuff like that, and so forth.” So he sent his plane down and picked me up and flew me home.”
Let’s first set aside the absurdity that then-Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox would entertain a call from some unknown Lt. (jg) in Brisbane, Australia. We’ll also set aside the absurd notion that rather than encrypting and using secure, reliable fleet radio links, someone has decided to use Hubbard as a courier for potentially war-winning intel. Electrons are always faster than aircraft, so why take the risk of having some flunky schlepp a bunch of Top Secret paperwork across the Pacific? In other communications absurdities, let’s also consider the fact that international long-distance telephone calls were problematic at the time, let alone the fact there was no direct link from Australia to Washington, DC during wartime to do so anyway.
The circuits available were very tightly controlled, so one just didn’t pick-up the phone and call the War Department and ask for the Secretary of the Navy. What’s more, is why didn’t super-spy Hubbard use a secure, expedient naval communications medium, rather than the rather quaint telephone to contact Sec. Knox? So having allegedly having conversed with Sec. Knox, Hubbard somehow convinces him to send a plane to retrieve our young Lt. (jg). This is where it really gets complicated, so let’s first look at the state of the art of long-distance flying in the Pacific in March of 1942.
Clippers Across the Pacific, at Least to Honolulu…
Several good histories of Pan American’s pioneering Pacific operations can be found here and here. Contemporary to Hubbard’s time in Brisbane in March of 1942, it’s important to note that NO Martin M-130 Clippers were operating in the Southwest Pacific; the Honolulu Clipper, a Boeing 314, was the only Clipper flying in that part of the Southwest Pacific, servicing Auckland, Noumea, Canton Island, and Fiji via Honolulu. The Clippers also excelled in VIP transportation across the Atlantic, especially under the stewardship of the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC, now British Airways) where they enjoyed few operational restrictions; the US Army also flew three B-314s as C-98s, returning them to the Navy in 1943. The Navy had made Pan American an operator under military contract on October 7th, 1942, with only 2 Martin M-130s and 5 Boeing 314 clippers available for service on a limited basis. They were shortly thereafter incorporated into the fledgling Naval Air Transport Service (NATS), and naval transport squadron VR-2 (V= Heavy, R= Heavier than air) initiated transoceanic service from Naval Air Station Alameda to Honolulu with a Sikorsky flying boat on May 15, 1942. The Clippers were painted navy blue or olive drab and gutted all of their civilian comforts and then used exclusively on the California-Hawaii route. This photograph shows a B-314 and a Coronado in wartime livery; note the American flag on the nose of the Boeing, as it was still under civilian registry:
Here’s a map of these early pre-NATS routes that be the starting point for its eventual vast network:
Because of their vulnerability to both Japanese air defenses and fickle weather in the Pacific, NATS rarely allowed the M-130s and 314s to fly beyond Hawaii, the exception being the first B-314, NC-18601, the Honolulu Clipper. Crashes would eventually destroy all 3 M-130s by 1945 and would also take their toll on the Boeings in both theatres of operation. As there were only 5 of the larger 314s available, Martin PBM-3R Mariners and Consolidated PB2Y-5R Coronados were the workhorses of the long-distance Pacific logistics routes, with the Coronado capable of a then-impressive 15,000 lbs over 3,000+ miles. Here’s a few contemporary photos of the Clippers and the Martin and Consolidated flying boats. Note the size of the Martin and Consolidated amphibs and Boeings relative to the Martin Clippers:
From the top, Consolidated Coronado, Boeing B-314 Clipper, Martin Mariner, and lastly, a Martin M-130
Frank Knox and Lieutenant who?
Frank Knox was an incredibly dedicated Secretary of the Navy. A newspaper tycoon before the war, he brought a tireless enthusiasm to his civil service, traveling an impressive 141,000 miles to far-flung naval installations across the world before his death in 1944. He oversaw the largest expansion of US Naval power in history, a result of his visionary “Two-Ocean Navy” strategy. In early 1942, Knox was engaged in a nationwide speaking tour to promote his naval vision. At the time that Hubbard supposedly would have been calling, he was visiting midwestern war plants and making speeches to a variety of civic and government organizations. One wonders where he would have found the time to take a call from an unknown Lieutenant such as Hubbard, much less how Hubbard would have even known where to find him! Then there’s the question of his airplane. We know that Martin Clippers weren’t available in Brisbane at the time in question, even to the Secretary of the Navy. More so, given Japanese air superiority in the region at the time, it’s highly unlikely that had Sec. Knox even been remotely close to Australia, he would have arrived via a heavily armed, fast naval convoy and not by air.
When flying to Pearl Harbor from California, Sec. Knox could have requested a Clipper, most likely a Boeing 314, rather than the slower and relatively obsolete Martin M-130. Chances are though, he would have preferred his own airplane, a VIP version of the Navy’s version of the Douglas C-47, the R-4D-4. It was faster than a Clipper and had the range to reach Hawaii from California; his was fitted with custom amenities befitting his status, including improved navigation, extended range fuel tanks, and state of the art communication capabilities. The R4D could island hop if need be. Sec. Knox could have used any of the other long-range resources available in theatre for flights onward from Pearl Harbor, such as the Martin Mariner or Coronado or later, the 4-engine R-5D long-range transport, which succeeded the R4-D in 1942 and was widely used in the Pacific from 1943 on. Knox’s VIP transport would have resembled this R4D:
Knox and Hubbard; Whoda thought?
So where does the imaginary connection between Hubbard and Knox originate? Intriguingly, Knox crosses paths with Jack Parsons during his AeroJet days just before Hubbard was in the picture; the Navy was interested in the firm’s Jet-Assisted Take-Off (JATO) technology, and given the circumstances, perhaps this is where the seed of Hubbard’s Knox tale germinates. Ms. Lake uses an entry for Hubbard in Knox’s record of incoming correspondence to infer that this somehow proves Hubbard had a knowing relationship with Sec. Knox, going on to say:
“Additionally, a record of personal correspondence between Hubbard and the Secretary of the Navy (Frank Knox) was located in the declassified office correspondence files of Knox in the National Archives.”
This proves nothing other than that at one point Hubbard sent Knox a letter, most likely regarding his problems getting commissioned or some other similar gripe. Such logs are common and are in some cases required by law for senior government officials. An entry here in no way establishes the existence of a personal relationship, especially if there is no record of reply correspondence from Knox. If one allowed a mail log to be proof of a relationship, one could easily conclude that Knox personally corresponded with everyone listed in this rather voluminous compilation! What’s of further interest is that there’s no rank or naval affiliation listed in Hubbard’s entry, just his Explorer’s Club address, which then begs the question, in what capacity was he writing Knox? Knox was an incredibly busy man in early 1942, so given all his obligations, there’s no way Hubbard had any sort of personal relationship with Knox in any capacity, certainly not to the extent where Knox would have arranged expedited air transportation for our hero. Lake stubbornly runs with the friendship narrative, and states that with Knox’s help, Hubbard most likely took the Philippine Clipper stateside, one of the remaining two Martin M-130s then in service.
Both the timeline and the documentation she provides support a claim for Hubbard’s Clipper travel, but only from Honolulu to San Francisco on March 23, 1942. Her contention that Hubbard flew all the way from Brisbane is predicated by the fact that she and other revisionists believe that Hubbard boarded the M.V. Pennant in Brisbane on March 9th, and in convoy along with the USS New Orleans, sailed with her only as far as the next port of call, Noumea in New Caledonia, which was indeed a Clipper stop for the Honolulu Clipper, a Boeing 314. She suggests that Hubbard could have somehow caught a ride on the Philippine Clipper from here back to California, despite the fact that she was only flying between San Francisco and Honolulu at the time. Ms. Lake also does not account for how Hubbard would have arranged a ride on the Philippine Clipper in Noumea, simply stating that given the 14-day window between Hubbard’s departure from Brisbane and his arrival in San Francisco could only have been accommodated by air.
Hubbard and the Philippine Clipper
We’re left to assume that the Philippine Clipper was in port when he arrived on the Pennant, which would have been impossible; more so, she suggests that Hubbard simply wrote his own orders or the like and arranged transportation through to California. There is a grain of truth to her scenario, though it becomes more concrete when Hubbard arrives in Honolulu. In support of Hubbard’s Clipper narrative, she provides a microfiched document, a US immigration record called an “Index to Vessels Arriving in San Francisco, 1882-1957” (see reference 51 further down in the “Lake supporting references section”). In this particular instance, the “vessel” referred to is actually a seaplane, Pan American’s Philippine Clipper. However, while there is a date on the card germane to Hubbard’s journey (his arrival date in San Francisco on March 23, 1942), Ms. Lake completely misinterprets what the card’s information actually reflects:
You’ll remember that Pan American operated only 3 Martin M-130 Clippers. Up until 1948, aircraft in the United States were identified by using first the letter “N” if involved in “foreign air commerce display” and next, by a series of airworthiness identifiers, for example, “C” for a standard airframe, (versus “X” for experimental, etc.). Thus the Martin Pan American Clippers were identified respectively as the Hawaiian Clipper (NC-14714), the Philippine Clipper (NC-14715), and the China Clipper (NC-14716). This registration number was different than the manufacturer’s serial number, which was a three-digit number, for example the Martin serial number for the China Clipper was S/N-558.
With this in mind, let’s now turn to the series of categories across the top of the index card, such as “Arrival Date,” “Number,” and the series of codes for various points of embarkation or the nationality of those arriving, though I cannot find an exact explanation for these abbreviations in the remaining column headers. Ms. Lake correlates the date of Hubbard’s documented arrival date of March 23rd, 1942, as listed next to the “41759” in the “Numbers” column, as meaning Pan American’s Philippine Clipper 41759. She goes on to say that
“Additional research confirmed that this plane was part of the PanAm Clipper fleet that the Secretary of the Navy’s office was using in early 1942 to fly senior officers and the occasional intelligence officer on trans-oceanic trips and missions.”
Putting aside the fact that this number of 41759 has no relationship to any recognized form of identification for a Martin M-130, let’s look at her logic here. Lake supports the statement above, as well as the “Index to Vessels…” exhibit with the following references:
“ “PHILIPPINE CLIPPER” airplane records in “Index to Vessels Arriving in San Francisco, 1882-1957”, Microfilm Publication Number M1437, Record Group 85, National Archives.
 “CHINA CLIPPER” airplane passenger records, 22-Apr-1942, showing US Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz aboard, “Passenger Lists of Airplanes Departing from Honolulu, Hawaii, January 27, 1942-July 1, 1948”, Microfilm Publication Number A3392, Record Group 85, National Archives; also available online at ancestry.com.
 “YANKEE CLIPPER” airplaine (sic) passenger records, 8-Mar-1942, showing US Navy Admiral Thomas Hart aboard, “Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897-1957”, Microfilm Publication Number T715, Record Group 85, National Archives; also available online at ancestry.com.
 “NC-18609” airplane passenger records, 28-Mar-1942, showing intelligence officer Roger D. Wolcott aboard, “Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897-1957”, Microfilm Publication Number T715, Record Group 85, National Archives; also available online at ancestry.com.”
Why does Lake Flub Hubb’s Homecoming?
Let’s take reference #51 first. A careful examination of the 4 “Index to Vessels” cards, numbered 6 through 9, shows that the number she refers to as linking the Philippine Clipper to Hubbard does nothing of the sort. Ironically, she appears to ignore that on card #6, the first in the series, that the Philippine Clipper’s tail number, NC-14714, is listed in the upper right hand corner. It’s a mystery why she would create some spurious linkage using the number 41759, given she has the correct airframe identifier. Using the correct NC number as provided in card #6, she could have shown that the Philippine Clipper did indeed arrive on March 23 by linking the two, though she has no proof Hubbard was aboard; however this listing would appear to support the circumstances of his arrival in San Francisco relative to our 14-day timeline. The data here also does not support his use of Knox’s own airplane, nor a Martin Clipper flight originating in Noumea or anywhere else in the Southwest Pacific.
Furthermore, we know that the Philippine Clipper flew to Noumea, New Caledonia only during the pre-war years. Since returning to San Francisco from Wake on December 10th, 1941, she had been restricted to servicing San Francisco from Honolulu. According to government immigration archives, the number Ms. Lake references actually indicates the immigration file reference for the specific passenger manifest of the vessel in question on that arrival date. I can find no other explanation for this number’s significance anywhere nor an explanation of the codes to the right of the “Number”. As to other possible explanations for this number, an examination of Pan American’s Pacific Clipper route guides and schedule information for 1941-42 reference no flight numbers, just dates, times and destinations, so there’s no correlation in this regard either. Lastly, none of these numbers correlate to any Martin M-130 airframe, let alone the Philippine Clipper, save for the single NC entry at the top of card #6. The Hawaiian Clipper, NC-14714, had by this time already been lost over the Pacific east of Manila on July 29th, 1938; her sister, the China Clipper would be lost near Port of Spain, Trinidad on January 8th, 1945.
Interestingly, the Philippine Clipper was extensively damaged by Japanese strafing at Wake Island on December 7th, and was able to limp back to Honolulu, and after a brief layover eventually arrived back in San Francisco on December 10th, 1941. While she would continue to fly back and forth to Honolulu from San Francisco, she would never again fly to the Philippines or other Far East destinations. Sadly, she eventually crashed into a mountain top north of San Francisco on January 21st, 1943, marking the end of a significant chapter in aviation history.
References #52, #53, and #54 are also misleading. While Nimitz may have indeed flown on an M-130 (#51), he was flying from Honolulu back to the mainland, and not further on towards a South Pacific destination. An M-130, the China Clipper was no longer used for trans-Pacific flight by this time. Nimitz would have used a Boeing 314 or more than likely, an armed Martin variant to fly to Australia or other destination in the Central Pacific. While the M-130s were part of the Navy fleet, they were not used to “fly senior officers and the occasional intelligence officer on trans-oceanic trips and missions”(#53, #54); they flew exclusively between Honolulu and the West coast. They were also used right after Pearl Harbor in a vital series of flights to evacuate the dependents of VIPs because of concerns of further Japanese attacks.
Significantly, the passenger lists she refers to here in these references are from East coast Clipper flights. The Yankee Clipper, NC-18603, crashed in Lisbon in 1943, and NC-18606, American Clipper, served over the Atlantic throughout the war and was scrapped in 1950; how these lists support her thesis is not readily apparent. As we’ve explained, the China Clipper and her sister served as shuttles to and from the West coast to Honolulu, but certainly not beyond Hawaii; this was strictly the domain of the Martin and Coronado flying boats and the Honolulu Clipper, and later, the huge R5D fleet. She’s essentially comparing apples to oranges here, and is playing loose with the facts when she needn’t.
If Hubbard had come home from Noumea on a Clipper, it would have been on the Honolulu Clipper and it would have been a very circuitous flight, given the Japanese air threat and distances involved. Tellingly, Hubbard supposedly flew the entire way home on the Philippine Clipper, which we know was a Martin M-130. She would have lacked the range to reach Honolulu from New Caledonia, requiring her to follow the original route first surveyed by a Sikorsky S-42 back in 1935, leaving from Auckland and island hopping to Honolulu:
Hubbard makes no mention of Auckland, and the M.V. Pennant doesn’t sail anywhere near Auckland. We can confirm circumstantially that Hubbard did not fly on the Honolulu Clipper, a B-314, and there’s is no way he could have flown home on the Martin M-130 Philippine Clipper either, except for the Honolulu-San Francisco leg, leaving a ship as the only possible way from Noumea to Honolulu. The map below shows the Clipper routes in question; note that in March 1942, the only available route for Hubbard was from Noumea to Canton Island on to Honolulu, with stops in Fiji when required; the B-314 Honolulu Clipper being the only flying boat option available:
Sorta by Air, Mostly by Sea
In partially rubbishing the “return by air” theory, let’s examine the more likely possibility of a ship-borne return for part of the journey. Lake says that it would have been “physically impossible” for Hubbard to have made it to San Francisco from Brisbane in 14 days via ship, which is correct. Glen W. Williford, writing in Racing the Sunrise: Reinforcing America’s Pacific Outposts, 1941-1942, states that a fully-laden M.V. Pennant, with a top speed of 18 knots, was capable of maintaining 16 knots during an unescorted voyage to Manila in October of 1941. According to the USS New Orleans’ war diary, she, the USS Mugford, the SS Pennant and the SS Perida were to rendezvous with convoy ZK7 and then sail to New Caledonia, where they arrived on March 12.
They then depart, without the Pennant and the Perrida on March 14th. From here we can deduce that the M.V. Pennant, having left Noumea on or about the 13th, continued on a northeast heading towards Pearl Harbor, and given a speed of 16 knots and a zig-zag course as a precaution against submarines, she would dock at Pearl Harbor on the 21st, leaving two days for Hubbard to arrive in San Francisco on March 23rd. Lake makes all sorts of claims that Hubbard flew from Noumea directly to San Francisco because of his intelligence connections among other reasons; she makes some further questionable or simply erroneous claims in this regard as well. I’ve included the links to her supporting references so the reader can see just how tenuous her case is:
- Hubbard was held in high regard by his Army commanding officer in Australia (see “Combat” section).
- Hubbard was in an area which may have involved him in combat in and/or taken him north of Australia (see “Combat” section).
- Hubbard was injured while in Australia or somewhere in the South Pacific region (see “Injured” section).
- Hubbard was involved with counter-espionage work for the Navy towards the end of his time in Australia (see next section).
- By the time of Hubbard’s departure from Australia, he had been given the more senior position of Naval Observer — a position he turned over to a Navy Commander (see “Combat” section) and several others
Most, if not all of these “compelling reasons” are pretty mundane and certainly don’t reflect any strategic urgency for Hubbard’s expeditious return to San Francisco. If anything, they serve to reinforce the implausible nature of the entire scenario, as no legitimate command would have authorized the use of such a significant resource for an undistinguished personage such as Hubbard.
Hubbard and the M.V. Pennant’s Manifest Question
We know from the notation in Hubbard’s medical file that Hubbard stated his catarrhal fever “came on” four days before his arrival In San Francisco from Honolulu. If for argument’s sake, he had flown to Honolulu from New Caledonia, why did he not seek treatment at a navy medical facility in Pearl Harbor? Had he been ashore for more than 24 hours, he would have needed to report to the transportation officer as being “in transit” to avoid being AWOL; if he’d had a significant lay-over as a result of the time saved having flown, there would have been an entry in his records reflecting this. The impossibility of squaring the Clipper fable continues, in that having arrived in Honolulu via “a Clipper,” we have no record of Hubbard billeting ashore in between legs, certainly not as a guest of Frank Knox; Ms. Lake also implies that Hubbard had to have flown as he does not appear on the M.V. Pennant’s passenger manifest, though this was not uncommon during the war, and does nothing to further her Noumea to Honolulu flight thesis.
A survey of several leading genealogy sites illustrates that there were a variety of omissions or mistakes made among the various methods used in accounting for personnel during WWII, as indicated by this researcher:
“Perhaps our men were busy fighting a war and some of the field notes became a bit cryptic while warding off attacks; records did not always clearly state every man’s move during engagement. Veteran’s service personnel files and separation reports do not yield a list of the various companies served while stationed in during war-time. Even Morning reports were inconclusive with movements, transfers, and temporary assignments For example, I have one report that states “9 total limited asgmt pers asgd &atchd unasgd this orgn this date.” Translation: 9 soldiers were unassigned from our organization and assigned to another. It’s possible those writing the reports had the same questions I had: “Which 9 men?” And, “to what other organization were they attached to?” This exact same note was on a Morning Report dated 3 Mar, 5 March and 25 March 1945 for the 394th, Co D. I can assumed these 9 men were classified as “replacements” Or was there so much movement, that names of the detached were less important than those responsible to the 394th Co. D “that day?” Maybe it was through these cryptic notes that the final number of men reporting to a troop were accounted for and tracked. (Note: rosters and muster rolls for 1944 to 1946 are not available; however, you may find a few tucked away in the Morning Reports.)
According to National Archives correspondence, original ship records were intentionally destroyed in 1951. NARA as quoted on website World War II Ships: According to our records, in 1951 the Department of the Army destroyed all passenger lists, manifests, logs of vessels and troop movement files of the United States Army Transports for World War II.”
Hubbard’s absence from the Pennant’s manifest is a red herring. The fact that we have the memo from the Naval Observer in Brisbane stating he has information of Hubbard’s having boarded the Pennant is sufficient. He most likely cabled Washington for clarification as to Hubbard’s status, rather than attempting to contact the Pennant. The Bureau of Navigation was the final authority on a person’s whereabouts and in 1942, was redesignated as the Bureau of Personnel, given that it had been tasked with personnel management since 1889. The Brisbane memo is addressed to the Bureau of Navigation with the knowledge that they would be able to locate Lt. (jg) Hubbard to settle his debt, and again, also provides administrative proof of Hubbard being aboard the Pennant from Brisbane.
The “By Sea” Timeline and Hubbard’s Phony Travel Orders
The sailing distance from Noumea to Honolulu at 16 knots would have taken the Pennant 8 days, 19 hours to transit; having left Noumea on either March 12th or 13th, this would have her docking in Honolulu on the 20th or a day later. This would give Hubbard plenty of time to organize a Clipper trip home using his falsified orders. We’ve reference the following paragraph earlier in our discussion, but it’s worth reiterating the criminal behavior he alludes to here:
“Most of the guys that were shipped out of there who had been wounded, were shipped out by slow boat. And I didn’t, I wasn’t that seriously done in. I hooked a ride on the Secretary of Navy’s plane; produced the right set of orders (I hope nobody ever kept them on file) and got flown home. And when I got home, they turned me in to the hospital.” — Hubbard, L. Ron (1956-02-07). The Game of Life (Exteriorization and Havingness). Los Angeles, CA: Golden Era Productions.
Hubbard had the means, motive, and opportunity to create false travel orders while in Brisbane. He was working within a significant headquarters and administrative complex, and could have easily stolen hard copies of the necessary forms, endorsements, and travel vouchers needed to create his fraudulent documents and “produce the right set of orders.” He’s cagey here, in that the way he phrases this, he’s trying to give the impression that he had somehow legitimately obtained passage, yet he turns right around and says he hopes “no one kept them on file.” Such is the typical Hubbard “humbrag”.
In “producing” the right orders, Hubbard would have had access to the necessary stamps and official stationary that would have legitimized his travel credentials; it’s easy to visualize him creeping into the admin area after hours, and furtively searching for all sorts of “official” stamps and whatnot. Given his role as naval observer and intelligence officer, Hubbard would have been exposed to a variety of different order formats, and understood their degree of sensitivity/clout and their respective hierarchy; from this insider knowledge, he would have known how to give his fakes the right official ‘look and feel”. Couple this with his bluster and sense of entitlement, and it becomes readily apparent that once in Honolulu, he was perfectly capable of manipulating his way into a scarce seat on the Philippine Clipper.
The whole sorry saga reflects Hubbard’s megalomania, dishonesty, hubris and cowardice. Ms. Lake demonstrates flashes of brilliance in her research and document acquisition, yet she and her fellow Hubbard and Scientology apologists all completely overlook just how appalling Hubbard’s actions were in getting home from Honolulu. The was a legitimate fear of further Japanese attacks, even invasion, and it was imperative that the families of civilian and military VIPs were expeditiously evacuated to prevent being held hostage by the Japanese. Hubbard completely ignores this reality, thinking only of himself and that he was above the common sailor, thus a transport ship home was for the unworthy. To me, it demonstrates his cowardice in not wanting to face a sea journey through Japanese submarine infested waters, as well as an abject disdain for the seriousness of the situation.
While falsifying orders is a serious crime, cowardice in the face of the enemy is perhaps the ultimate betrayal of the warrior ethos. It’s clear Hubbard was no hero, nor great covert operator, though at the beginning of this series, I gave him credit for having honorably served. Having now dug into his criminal behavior while an officer, and more so, his betrayal of those dependents and other citizens he swore to protect, his behavior up to this point is simply disgusting. It would be one thing to fake orders home after serving in combat and then taking the normal route home. Hubbard lies about being wounded, lies about being important enough to obtain expedited travel home, and worst of all, in perpetrating his his fraud, he most assuredly was responsible for stealing a seat on this flight from some dependent, VIP or other person more vital to the war effort than he, all for vanity’s sake. In Part 4, we’ll continue our deconstruction of Hubbard’s WWII claims, starting with his arrival at the US Naval Hospital at Mare Island, Vallejo, CA on March 23rd, 1942.