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War in the Atlantic: the USS PC-815

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The Coronados Incident

3.6 The Battle of Cape Lookout

It is specifically claimed that one submarine, presumably Japanese, possibly a mine-layer, was damaged beyond ability to leave the scene and that one submarine, presumably Japanese, possibly a mine-layer, was damaged beyond ability to return to its base.

- L. Ron Hubbard, action report (May 24, 1943)

Anti-submarine warfare and the PC-815

When Hubbard's ship was commissioned in April 1943, she was originally equipped with two depth charge racks and two "K-guns" (see photo of PC-815 at right, taken on April 13, 1943; click on it to see a larger picture). The racks were used to roll depth charges off the ship's stern. The K-guns were guns shaped roughly like a letter K which were used to catapult depth charges some distance away from the sides of the ship. Hubbard's first destination in command of the PC-815 was Seattle, to fit a new depth charge system called Mousetrap. His "submarine battle" took place using the older system, as fitted by the builders.

The PC-815 was also equipped with a sonar system. Hubbard had undergone training on this device at Key West, Florida, immediately prior to taking up duties associated with the PC-815. He had qualified, although he came near the bottom of the class (coming 20th out of 25). The system was housed in a streamlined retractable dome projected beneath the ship's bottom but operative only at moderate speeds - at this time, up to 18 knots - due to water friction. It could work in active and passive modes, echo-ranging with a series of sharp pings or listening for the noise of a submarine's propellers or machinery.

Hubbard used both modes in his action off Cape Lookout but, judging from his report, seems to have relied heavily on the echo-ranging mechanism. This sent out a focused directional beam of sound which was rotated through the water by the operator. An echo would be heard if the beam encountered an object in the water. But a return did not automatically have to mean the presence of a submarine, as unwary or inexperienced soundmen found. Schools of fish, whales, wrecks, coral reefs and even a layer of water of a different temperature (a thermocline) gave back echoes which could only be distinguished from a "live" contact by an expert - and not always reliably, even then. Bizarrely, crustaceans such as snapping shrimps were a frequent cause of false alarms; the US Navy's Anti-Submarine Warface Bulletin had to publish articles on the distribution and habits of such underwater fauna to diminish the number of erroneous contacts. The use of sonar equipment was and remains a fine art, not only for the soundman but for the commander who has to act on often ambiguous returns.

The sonar equipment was connected to a chemical recorder, a device invented by the British to record sonar readings and plot attacks. The recorder was a small metal box with a glass top, underneath which was a constantly moving roll of chemically treated paper. A small stylus moved back and forth across the paper, giving the range element on an underwater target. When an echo was received, a trace was made on the paper by the stylus. From the angle established by a series of these traces, an adjustable plotter bar indicated the rate at which the range was closing, and also gave the correct time to fire depth charges. Hubbard was to make heavy use of this device and subsequently submitted the recordings as corroborative evidence.

Battle Stations!

At 3.40am on May 19, 1942, L. Ron Hubbard's subchaser USS PC-815 unexpectedly detected a return echo on its sonar gear. The ship was only some 10 miles off Cape Lookout in northern Oregon.

Hubbard's subsequent account of the action was set down in a secret Action Report (DOCUMENT A) addressed to the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet. It was couched in distinctly unmilitary language - reading more like one of Hubbard's pulp fiction stories - for which he was later reproved by the Commander Northwest Sea Frontier.

Proceeding southward just inside the steamer track an echo-ranging contact was made by the soundman then on duty . . . The Commanding Officer had the conn and immediately slowed all engines to ahead one third to better echo-ranging conditions, and placed the contact dead ahead, 500 yards away.

The first contact was very good. The target was moving left and away. The bearing was clear. The night was moonlit and the sea was flat calm . . . The USS PC-815 closed in to 360 yards, meanwhile sounding general quarters . . . Contact was regained at 800 yards and was held on the starboard beam while further investigation was made. Screws were present and distinct as before. The bearing was still clear. Smoke signal identification was watched for closely and when none appeared it was concluded the target must not be a friendly submarine. All engines were brought up to speed 15 knots and the target was brought dead ahead . . .

At this point, Hubbard's military terseness slipped completely:

The ship, sleepy and sceptical, had come to their guns swiftly and without error. No one, including the Commanding Officer, could readily credit the existence of an enemy submarine here on the steamer track and all soundmen, now on the bridge, were attempting to argue the echo-ranging equipment and chemical recorder out of such a fantastic idea . . .

At 0450, a target on the surface was spotted and Hubbard gave the order to open fire on it. His crew responded with "astonishing accuracy, bursts and shells converging on the target." It turned out to be no more than a floating log, but Hubbard thought it was good for the morale of the gunners to ensure that the newly-installed guns worked. The USS PC-815 mounted four further attacks on the elusive submarine in the hope of forcing it to the surface, without success. At the end of the sixth attack the ship's supply of depth charges was exhausted. Urgent signals requesting more ammunition at first met with no response.

At 0906, two US Navy blimps, K-39 and K-33, appeared on the scene to help with the search. By noon, Hubbard believed that the submarine was disabled in some way, or at least unable to launch its torpedoes, since the PC-815, lying to in a smooth sea, presented an easy target and had not been attacked. In the early afternoon a second subchaser, the USS SC-536, arrived but was unable to make contact with the target.

Loading a depth-charge launcher aboard the USS PC-548. The scene aboard the USS PC-815 would have been much the same.
(Click on the image for a larger picture)

On the bridge of PC-815, Hubbard led the other ship on an attack run, blowing a whistle to signal when to drop its depth charges. The results were encouraging:

The observation blimps began to sight oil and air bubbles in the vicinity of the last attack, and finally a periscope. This ship also sighted air bubbles . . . At 1606 oil was reported again and this ship saw oil. Great air boils were seen and the sound of blowing tanks was reported by the soundman . . . All guns were now manned with great attention as it was supposed that the sub was trying to surface. Everyone was very calm, gunners joking about who would get in the first shot

The PC-815 now made a startling discovery: there was not just one submarine but two! The second one was discovered some 420 yards away, drawing away at about four knots.

At 1646, a Coast Guard patrol boat brought in further supplies of ammunition. Manoeuvring alongside, twenty-seven depth charges were transferred on to the USS PC-815 and made ready for firing. Not long afterwards, a second Coast Guard patrol boat, the Bonham arrived, followed by another subchaser, the USS SC-537. There was now a total of five ships and two observation blimps involved in the search for the enemy submarines off the coast of Oregon. Not all of the ships seemed to be as keen as the PC-815, however, as Hubbard complained bitterly in his action report:

During the night of the 21st when this vessel was attempting to make a routine sweep and search in the standard sweep formation, neither the SC537 nor the USSCG Bonham showed any understanding whatever and refused by their actions to cooperate. It is later understood that the Bonham had a top speed of 9.2 although she reported her speed to us as 12 and that she was under the supposition that she would blow herself up if she dropped charges. The SC537 had one contact which she reported during the following day and failed to prosecute it. The SC537 left the scene with her racks full of charges although the SC536 and the PC815 had exhausted all theirs. Echo range was never more than about 900 yards in this shallow water and despite orders neither vessel would close in to this with one exception, as noted in the attacks as of the following morning.

The small fleet continued searching throughout the night and into the following day. The attacks continued, but still no there was no sign of either submarine having been damaged or destroyed. Hubbard was not discouraged, even after 34 fruitless hours:

Because we had three times found two sub targets on the previous day, we considered from her failure to surface that she had gone down in 90 fathoms. The other still had batteries well up for it made good speed in subsequent attacks (three to six knots).

A report that the submarine had surfaced caused the vessels to begin "flying north," but they turned back after the "submarine" turned out to be a fishing boat. The SC-537 was detached to investigate but, reported Hubbard sourly, "for some time the SC-537 was remote from us and it has not been established why she had difficulty with this ordered patrol". The Bonham was assigned another search area "where she would be out of the way." As for the PC-815, Hubbard ordered his ship to return to the area of the attacks the night before to search. Suddenly, at 0700 on May 21, 1943, he spotted the submarine attempting to surface:

Suddenly a boil of orange colored oil, very thick, came to the surface immediately on our port bow . . . The Commanding Officer came forward on the double and saw a second boil of orange oil rising on the other side of the first. The soundman was loudly reporting that he heard tanks being blown on the port bow.

Every man on the bridge and flying bridge then saw the periscope, moving from right to left, rising up through the first oil boil to a height of about two feet. The barrel and lens of the instrument were unmistakable . . . On the appearance of the periscope, both gunners fired straight into the periscope, range about 50 yards. The periscope vanished in an explosion of 20mm bullets.

A last attack run was executed by the PC-815 and SC-536, exhausting their last depth charges. As the ships continued to search for the elusive submarine, another subchaser, the PC-788, was sighted and cajoled into joining the search, although her captain "protested very strongly against helping, ... requesting continually to be allowed to be secured." Frustratingly for Hubbard, even after the PC-815 and SC-536 had dropped around a hundred depth charges, the sonar contact continued to be present but stationery on the sea bottom. The PC-536's regular commanding officer arrived on the scene and, taking charge from his executive officer, promptly curtailed his ship's involvement in Hubbard's search.

At midnight the PC-815 received orders to return to Astoria naval station, having been in action for some 68 hours. Hubbard noted that they were welcomed "with considerable skepticism. Her records had not been examined, her crew had not been questioned and no qualified report had been made." His ship had expended 37 depth charges and had maintained "contact with submarines" for over 55 hours. Three minor casualties were suffered, probably as a result of tiredness affecting the crew's performance. Hubbard did not mention that he had very nearly suffered a fatality - his executive officer, Thomas Moulton, was nearly shot when the starboard 20mm gun accidentally fired off an entire magazine, without anyone being at the trigger. The gun had been assembled incorrectly by an exhausted gunner and a key part put in backwards. Moulton was on the mast of the PC-815 when the gun went off, firing until its entire ammunition drum was empty, missing him by a few inches and shooting off the ship's radio antennae. He later recalled: "I was making love to the mast and was almost out to the other side. Looking down the barrel, it looked like it was coming right toward me." 1


In concluding his Battle Report, Hubbard was unequivocal about his achievements:

It is specifically claimed that one submarine, presumably Japanese, possibly a mine-layer, was damaged beyond ability to leave the scene and that one submarine, presumably Japanese, possibly a mine layer, was damaged beyond ability to return to its base ...

This vessel wishes no credit for itself. It was built to hunt submarines. Its people were trained to hunt submarines. Although exceeding its orders in originally attacking the first contact, this vessel feels only that it has done the job for which it was intended and stands ready to do that job again.

He was supported by Lt Moulton, who in his own action report (attached to Hubbard's) stated:

From listening to sound gear, with which the Executive Officer has had considerable experience, from surface evidences seen personally, such as boils produced by blowing of tanks, quantities of oil, and the general character of the action itself, the following conclusions are drawn:

(1) During the period from 0300, Tuesday, April 18, 1943, until 2400, Friday, April 21, 1943, the U.S.S. P.C. 815 fought two submarines, presumably Japanese.

(2) That one of them was definitely sunk, beyond doubt.

(3) That the second was damaged beyond repair and may therefore be considered as not capable of returning to Japanese territory.

Despite the scepticism with which Hubbard had been met on arrival at Astoria, his claims were taken seriously. Only three months previously a lone enemy submarine had surfaced about a mile offshore north of Santa Barbera, California, and fired 25 shells at an oil refinery. The incident - the first foreign attack on the continental US since 1814 - had caused great alarm on the US West Coast. Was it possible that Hubbard had intercepted a Japanese attempt to raid Oregon's naval facilities?

The Commander Northwest Sea Frontier, Vice Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher (right), took charge of the investigation. He ordered Hubbard to report to him for an interview and examined the hundred-page-plus Battle Report which Hubbard submitted. The Commanding Officers of the SC-536 and -537, CGCs Bonham and 78302, and blimps K-33 and K-39 were also ordered to report; Lieutenant Commander E. J. Sullivan U.S.N., Commander Airship Squadron 33, submitted an oral report after having visited the area during the search on one of the blimps.

In a secret memorandum (DOCUMENT B) addressed to the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, dated 8 June 1943, Fletcher stated:

An analysis of all reports convinces me that there was no submarine in the area. Lieutenant Commander Sullivan states that he was unable to obtain any evidence of a submarine except one bubble of air which is unexplained except by turbulence of water due to a depth charge explosion. The Commanding Officers of all ships except the PC-815 state they had no evidence of a submarine and do not think a submarine was in the area.

Fletcher added that there was "a known magnetic deposit in the area in which depth charges were dropped". The implication was obvious: the PC-815 had fought a two-day battle with a magnetic deposit.

Hubbard never accepted this. He claimed (but was not awarded) two battle stars for his American Campaign Medal and, to this day, the Church of Scientology claims that he sunk up to two enemy submarines. After the battle, Hubbard wrote melodramatically:

I, as a sailor, have sinned with the rest it is true. On the bottom of the North Pacific there probably lie two 2,000 ton Japanese submarines, worth perchance a score of million dollars to the enemy before my depth charges sunk them. Perhaps not less than three hundred enemy lives struggled wetly out to Soldier Heaven. But it is better not to dwell upon these things. They should be dedicated to DUTY and recorded in files which are seldom opened. But the small voice cries (that inevitable small voice) and wonders if among them any could paint or appreciate the india ink sketches of a bamboo tree wherein the strokes must go as the tree must grow. 2

Were the submarines ever there?

The crew of the PC-815, Hubbard and (on his behalf) the Church of Scientology consistently claimed that two submarines were present and both were sunk or fatally damaged. The US Navy has been equally consistent in denying that. Which is correct?

The evidence in favour of Hubbard's claim is as follows:

The evidence against:


Hubbard's testimony speaks for itself. The tape from the PC-815's attack recorder was evaluated by experts but was judged not to have indicated the presence of any submarines.

Against: the other ships

The evidence against is much more compelling. As Admiral Fletcher said in his report, Hubbard was the only commanding officer of the seven involved who believed that a submarine was present. Hubbard's own report, ironically, supports this - note his repeated comments, quoted earlier, about the reluctance or outright refusal of cooperation by the other vessels. Presumably they were disgruntled at joining what they felt to be a wild goose chase. Hubbard did not attempt to explain their behaviour but implied that it was due to "inexperience or unwillingness", commenting that he had been handicapped by a lack of outside officers trained in anti-submarine warfare and claiming that the blimps had "showed a deep blank on the usual knowledge of ASW one might expect of them." One can only guess at what Admiral Fletcher thought of this, considering that it came from an officer who had never served on a subchaser before and whose only experience of anti-submarine warfare was a shore-based course in Florida.

The physical evidence

A major point against Hubbard's case is the total lack of physical evidence collected. The British writer Nicholas Monsarrat, who served aboard three Royal Navy corvettes during the war and rose to command his own, described what he saw at the moment his first vessel sank a submerged German U-boat:

One more run, one more series of thunderous cracks - and then the sea, spouting and boiling, threw up what we were waiting for: oil in a spreading stain, bits of wreckage, woodwork, clothing, scraps of humanity . . . . Contact failed after that, and though we waited till dusk, nothing else worth collecting made its appearance. We had enough, in any case.
(Source: Nicholas Monsarrat, H.M. Corvette, 1941)

Anti-submarine vessels were required to collect and return such debris to shore for confirmation of a kill. It was rumoured that German U-boats kept a torpedo tube filled with debris to eject as a way of fooling its hunters. For this reason, human body parts tended to be regarded as clinching evidence; aboard British ships they were often collected from the water, put in a bucket and stored in the ship's refrigerator for later analysis.

Hubbard was certainly aware of the need to collect such evidence. He reported having seen an oil slick on the night of the May 20-21 but found that it was "too thin for samples". On several subsequent occasions he reported having seen large quantities of oil - "a ball of orange colored oil, very thick". Why did he not collect any, having earlier highlighted the density needed for samples? He also referred to having tried, on the morning of May 21, to take aboard "a strange object, a small round ball laced with a line netting, which was floating here". He evidently felt that it was a submarine's emergency buoy (used to mark the position of a submarine in distress so that surface vessels could come to the rescue), and he refers to it a few lines later as a "marker". (It was probably a fisherman's float). What happened to it?

All of the other commanding officers stated that they "had no evidence of a submarine". This would seem to rule out any of the other vessels having spotted oil on the surface, which could only have come from a damaged vessel underwater. This immediately undermines one of Hubbard's key pieces of evidence. Without having returned any samples, he was unable to physically substantiate his eyewitness reports.

Instrumental evidence

The instrumental evidence provides another telling point. Although we do not have the full picture - the reports from the other commanding officers have not yet come to light - some information is provided in Hubbard's own report. He commented on several occasions that the other ships had only been able to acquire a "poor" contact or none at all, though he laid the blame for this on faulty instrumentation or poor tactics by the commanding officers. The strongest instrumental evidence he cited, other than that from his own ship, was not sonar at all, but was produced by the magnetic anomaly detectors (MAD) aboard the Navy blimps. MAD was not a very accurate or effective system, sensitive only to a few hundred yards, and some regarded the airships as worse than useless in anti-submarine work. But Hubbard acknowledged his dependence on it:

No attack was made, after the arrival of the blimps, without verification of sound contact by magnetic or magnetic contact by sound. Because her sound gear was not working properly (which fact she reported to us several times) the SC536 stood by for us to verify. This teamwork, the blimp’s smoke flares, and the use of echo ranging gear saved us many times from losing contact.

The blimps' commanders themselves did not believe that there was a submarine present, as Admiral Fletcher's report shows.  They evidently did pick up something, which the Admiral explained as a "known magnetic deposit". It may also be significant that Admiral Fletcher did not comment on Hubbard's claim that "inoperative sound gear" had prevented the other vessels from detecting his submarines.

Intelligence evidence

Ironically, Hubbard's former colleagues in US Naval Intelligence also provided evidence against his claims. The submarine arm of the Imperial Japanese Navy was the "dog that did not bark" in the Pacific war. Japanese submarines could have played a major role in interdicting the United States' long supply lines across the Pacific. Although the submarines themselves were technically inferior to those of the US, the Japanese had arguably the best torpedoes in the world, numerous submarines, well-trained crews and sufficient range to sail as far as Germany (the only Japanese-German military liaison during the war was, in fact, in submarines). But this potential was thrown away by the Japanese High Command, who stuck rigidly to the view that submarines should be used as an adjunct of the surface fleet, rather than as a separate striking force. Even the startling early successes of the German U-boats did not shake them from this view.

This said, some remarkable feats had been achieved early in the war. As already mentioned, in February 1942 a Japanese submarine had surfaced off Santa Barbera, California and shelled an oil refinery as well as sinking two merchant ships. In March, Japanese flying boats refuelled en route by submarines bombed Pearl Harbor for the second (and last) time in the war. In August, an aircraft carried inside a Japanese submarine was transported to Cape Blanco, Oregon. It was reassembled and twice flown inland some 50 miles to drop incendiary bombs over the Oregon forests - the first air attacks ever made against the continental United States. The same submarine also sank two freighters and a Soviet submarine which was heading for the Panama Canal (which the paranoid Soviets blamed on a sneak attack by an American submarine). Although these attacks were pinpricks, they certainly threw a scare into the US Navy and help to explain why Hubbard's claims were initially taken seriously by his superiors.

Had the Japanese made a concerted effort, they might have achieved some significant results (especially early on when the US had few anti-submarine vessels). But it was not to be. They had a strategic problem which the Germans never faced: resupplying isolated island garrisons blockaded by Allied naval forces. In late 1942, submarines were pressed into service to carry food and ammunition to island bases and evacuate the sick and wounded. For Japanese submariners, fighting men who regarded themselves as the élite of the Japanese Navy, it was seen as a distasteful and dishonorable duty. By 1943, the submarine force was so preoccupied with supply runs that few boats were left for offensive operations. By the end of 1943 the Japanese offensive presence had shrunk so much that single ships were able to sail across the Pacific unescorted; in the Atlantic, that would have been suicide until near the end of the war. The United States was well aware of all of this, as it had repeatedly broken the Japanese Navy's signals code.

This combination of factors evidently was enough to persuade Admiral Fletcher that there had, in fact, been no submarines. In truth, it is difficult to see how he could have done anything other than to reject Hubbard's claims, confronted as he was with a report which was not only unsubstantiated physically but was flatly contradicted by six of the seven commanders on the scene. Hubbard's request that he be allowed to search the area for the supposed wrecks was refused.

Evidence from the Japanese

There it rested until the end of the war. The evidence gathered thus far indicated that there probably was no submarine in the area, but the Navy could not be sure that this was definitely the case until after the defeat of the Axis. In January 1943, the United States Army and Navy had set up a Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee (JANAC) to catalogue enemy Naval and merchant shipping losses during the war. The Air Force was part of the Army at the time, although it did have its own representative on JANAC. Using PoW reports, intelligence sources and bombing reports it put together a comprehensive index of enemy war losses. After the defeat of Japan, the US Navy and British Admiralty jointly conducted a major survey of the Japanese Navy.

Both eventually produced reports on enemy losses, the Admiralty in June 1946 and the Navy Department in February 1947. 3 The two reports overlapped considerably but each published different levels of detail. Both reports identify the vessels sunk and the date. The British report gives the identity of the ship(s) or aircraft responsible for the sinking, but only a vague location. The American report gives a precise latitude/longitute location but only a general category of sinking agent (e.g. "ship", "aircraft", etc.) By cross-referencing the two, it is possible to identify who sank which submarines, with exact details of where and when.

In Hubbard's case, no vessel is recorded by either the British or American naval authorities as having been sunk off the West Coast of the United States at any time during the war. Almost every Japanese submarine was accounted for. Of the 130 Japanese submarines destroyed during World War II, the cause of destruction of only five was never determined, and of those, the location of only one remained unknown. 4 The files of the Imperial Japanese Navy also revealed that no submarines had been present off Oregon and only one submarine had lost in the whole of May 1943 - the RO.137, sunk by the USS SC-669 in the New Hebrides.

Indeed, there was no good reason why any Japanese submarines would have been in the Oregon area at the time. The US coast was near to the limits of their range and would have necessitated a long and extremely hazardous journey. When Hubbard fought his "battle" in May 1943, the Japanese Navy's main attention was on the battle for the Aleutians. Occupied by Japanese forces at the start of the war, the Aleutian islands of Attu and Kiska - administratively part of Alaska - were the only part of the United States to be have been occupied by the enemy. The Japanese submarine force was ordered to perform mogura or supply operations. It was a costly task, with three Japanese submarines destroyed in only two weeks. Ironically, one of these losses, the I.9, achieved the dubious distinction of being the only confirmed Japanese casualty of a PC-class subchaser - the PC-487, on June 6, 1943. One can imagine Hubbard's chagrin at hearing this news only a week after the conclusion of his own non-battle.

The wrecks

A final piece of evidence is perhaps the most direct of all. If one, or possibly two, Japanese submarines, were sunk by Hubbard, where are they? Presumably still on the sea bed. However, no wrecked Japanese submarines have been reported off the US West Coast. People have certainly looked for them - including the Church of Scientology, which is reported to have mounted a costly expedition in the early 1980s. But nobody has ever found them. Hubbard's submarines, in fact, seem remarkably elusive. Certainly nobody has been able to identify which they were or where they presently lie.

The conspiracy explanation

At the 1984 trial of Hubbard's former biographical researcher, Gerry Armstrong, Thomas Moulton provided an alternative explanation of the US Navy's non-recognition of Hubbard's "achievement".

Q: Now, you had mentioned earlier that there was some aspect of the political climate which I believe influenced Admiral Fletcher's conclusion; what was that?

A: Well, I am sure that - without that it would have been - at about that time either just before this action or just after, I think it was just after. you had the shelling of a refinery here somewhere in the Los Angeles area, I believe just up the coast. It was written up in Reader's Digest a couple of months ago, three months ago.

At that time it caused quite a local panic, so I am told, and the press so indicated, and everybody on the West Coast apparently started a bunch of rumors, became quite upset about it.

I know that the commanders of the various areas received a lot of inquiries from shoreside people. It wasn't a panic, but it was getting into that stage.

It got so bad that I remember in Oregon that the papers there, there ware several articles. I saw one of them asking people to keep quiet, not start rumors and so forth, and I am quite sure that this was well known to all the commanders up and down the coast, and it was to their advantage. at least publicly, not to admit that there were submarines in the area and, of course, once Admiral Fletcher had sent this message to Admiral King, knowing how the Navy works, I am sure he wouldn't back down from it.
(Source: Moulton testimony, Church of Scientology v. Armstrong, 21 May 1984) (DOCUMENT C)

This has been accepted and reiterated by the Church of Scientology in recent years. In a 1998 briefing document distributed to its members, it explained that

[Vice Admiral] Fletcher had recently lost two fully loaded carriers at the Battle of Midway and had assured his superiors that the waters within his command were submarine-free. He could not afford an incident such as an encounter with Japanese submarines as it would have sounded the death-knell to his hopes of regaining a decisive command. Consequently Fletcher tried to bury the whole affair. Nevertheless, the crew members all received combat honors after the war.
(Source: "Correction of False Reports in 'Scientology Unmasked', Boston Sunday Herald March 1, 1998")

This highly speculative explanation does not stand up to scrutiny, however: it is hard to see how either Scientology or Moulton could have had any knowledge of the Admiral's private motives, and no documentary evidence has ever been presented to support this theory. It is also counterfactual, in that Fletcher was a member of a distinguished Naval family - military aristocracy, one might say - and was officially regarded by the US Navy as having distinguished himself at the battles of Midway and Wake Islands. 5 Consequently he would have had no need to salvage a damaged career. Scientology is also incorrect in saying that the crew of the PC-815 received honors for their involvement in the "battle." Hubbard definitely did not and the Navy and Marine Corps Medals and Awards Manual does not record the PC-815 as having received any engagement stars. Hubbard did manage to give the crew one reward, though: after they returned to Astoria on May 22, they took aboard a rare consignment of ice cream. It was not much, but it was better than nothing.


1 Moulton testimony, Church of Scientology v. Armstrong, 21 May 1984

2 Hubbard, of unknown date - see Ron The Poet/Lyricist (1997),

3 German, Italian and Japanese U-Boat Casualties during the War: Particulars of Destruction, Cmd. 6843 (June 1946); Japanese Naval and Merchant Shipping Losses during World War II by All Causes (February 1947)

4 This was the RO.35, lost sometime during June 1942. Its cause of sinking was described as an "operational accident" but where and when this happened was not determined by the Allies in their contemporary reports. According to Lt Cdr Shizuo Fukui of the Imperial Japanese Navy, the RO.35 was sunk in October 1943 in the Solomon Islands.

5 See the US Navy's history of its activities in World War II, "History of United States Naval Operations in World War 2" by Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison, 1949.


A. Hubbard's report on the "battle" of Cape Lookout

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B. Conclusions of Vice Admiral Fletcher, 8 June 1943

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C. Testimony of Thomas S. Moulton, Church of Scientology v. Armstrong, 21 May 1984

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< Chapter 3.5
War in the Atlantic: the USS PC-815

Chapter 3.7 >
The Coronados Incident