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3.10 Hubbard's Medals

One of the most glaring anomalies in the Hubbard/Scientology account of his war years is the question of what medals L. Ron Hubbard was awarded. Since at least 1985 1, the Church of Scientology has distributed a document which purports to be Hubbard's official notice of separation (the form completed on leaving active duty). This form, US Navy form DD214, lists 21 awards, broken down as follows:

Purple Heart with palm


Victory Medal


Letter Commendation 1
Dist. Marksman 1
Unit Citation 1
Rifle, Pistol Exp. 2 (1 each)
European Theater (1 star) 2
American Theater (2 stars) 2
Marine Medal 1
American Defense, British & Dutch Vict Medals 3 (1 each)
Asiatic-Pac. Theater (3 stars) 4
TOTAL   21

The Church of Scientology has also circulated a photograph showing a variety of medals and ribbons (see, which are claimed to be those awarded to Hubbard for his war service. Curiously, Scientology has never detailed exactly for what the decorations were purportedly awarded.

Nor has Scientology been very consistent in its claims. As recently as 1994, it has claimed that Hubbard received 29 awards ("The Church of Scientology: 40th Anniversary", 1994). Hubbard himself claimed 27 medals. In an unsuccessful attempt to obtain from the US Navy the medals to which he believed he was entitled but had not received, he ordered his staff to write to the Navy to request his medals. His claims were detailed in Flag Operations Liaison Memo of May 28, 1974 (the list is considerably different to that circulated by Scientology today):

Navy Commendation Medal with 1 Bronze Star.
Purple Heart.
Naval Reserve Medal.
Organized Marine Corps Reserve Medal.
(British) The 1939-45 War Medal.
(French) Medaille Commemorative Franšaise 1939-45.
(Netherlands) Bronzen Kruis.
Philippine Defence with 3 Silver Stars.
American Defence Service Medal with 1 Bronze Star.
American Campaign Medal with 2 Bronze Stars.
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 2 Bronze Stars.
European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (ETO Medal) with 1
Bronze Star.
WWII Victory Medal.
National Defence Medal.
Armed Forces Reserve Medal.
Navy Expert Rifleman.
Navy Expert Pistol Shot.

In reply, the Navy observed that Hubbard's service record showed that he had only been awarded four decorations - the American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and World War 2 Victory Medal - and sent only those four medals back to the Church of Scientology.

The purported notice of separation distributed by Scientology does not appear in Hubbard's US Navy file. Instead, a quite different document is present. The only known source for the first document is the Church of Scientology. Irrespective of the document's or the Church's merits, this in itself is enough to cast suspicion on its authenticity. The US Navy document at least has an auditable trail - we know where it has been (in the possession of the US Navy), we know who produced it (the Bureau of Naval Personnel) and we know how and when it was obtained (on various occasions through the Freedom of Information Act). The Church of Scientology has released none of these details about its version of the document. Any historian would rightly be suspicious of a document with untraceable origins.

Analysing the document in details reveal numerous points which cast doubt on its authenticity. The most obvious is its tally of medals awarded to Hubbard, which differs greatly from that held in Hubbard's official file. A close examination shows that Hubbard could not possibly have been awarded some of the medals listed. (Entries with a @ next to them denote the medals which Hubbard is officially recorded as having been awarded.)

Full title, the American Defense Service Medal, also represented by a ribbon; awarded to all who served during the pre-WW2 Limited National Emergency (September 8, 1939 - May 26, 1941) or the Unlimited National Emergency, which ran from the Battle of the Atlantic to Pearl Harbor (May 27, 1941 - December 7, 1941). As Hubbard had been commissioned on July 19, 1941, he qualified for and received this medal.

This is probably the American Theatre of Operations medal/ribbon. It was instituted on November 6, 1942 for service between December 7, 1941 and March 2, 1946, on land or aboard certain ships within the American Theatre of Operations, for an aggregate period of one year within the continental United States, or for thirty consecutive or sixty non-consecutive days outside the continental limits but within the American Theatre of Operations. A star was awarded for certain specified operations such as escort duty, anti-submarine actions, etc.

Hubbard served in the continental US for all but a few months of his four-year naval career. As such, he qualified for and was awarded this ribbon. He was not deemed to have qualified for any stars and they do not appear in his Navy file. However, contradictory evidence exists on this point. Hubbard's second-in-command aboard the USS PC-815, Thomas Moulton, testified in 1984:

We were allowed, so I was advised, to wear two battle stars on our American Theater ribbon which I wore as long as I was in the service. I was told that they had been allowed by Washington.
Source: Thomas Moulton testimony, Church of Scientology v. Armstrong, 1984

Who advised Moulton is not known. It is quite possible that Hubbard himself was the source of this information, as he also claimed (but was not awarded) two battle stars.

Awarded to all officers and enlisted men of the US Armed Forces who, between December 7, 1941 and March 2, 1946, served in active duty in the prescribed area or upon certain ships. Hubbard qualified for and received this ribbon.

One of Hubbard's ships, the USS Algol, won two stars in the APAC theatre for April 1-10, 1945 and July 10 - August 3, 1945. Only one star was awarded for each engagement; Hubbard would have had to have been in both battles to have been awarded both stars. However, Hubbard had left the ship on September 28, 1944 and was ineligible for the stars. The US Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual and the relevant Ship's Movement Card shows that his other Pacific vessel, the USS PC-815, took part in no engagements and was awarded no battle stars.

This medal simply does not exist. It does not appear on Hubbard's official file. Furthermore, the British Ministry of Defence has no record of a Lt. L. Ron Hubbard ever having been awarded a British decoration.

Presumably "Distinguished Marksman" (right). There is no record of Hubbard having been awarded this medal, although it is clearly visible in the Church of Scientology's photograph.

Like its supposed British counterpart, this medal simply does not exist. It does not appear on Hubbard's official file.

Probably the European-Africa-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal. Hubbard's service record shows that he did not serve in Europe, Africa or the Middle East (in fact, he never even left US coastal waters in the Atlantic). What the "later" is supposed to mean is unclear.

Quite what these refer to is unclear. "Letter of Commendation" may refer to the Navy Unit Commendation, established by the Secretary of the Navy in December 1944 and awarded to any ship, aircraft, detachment, or other unit of the US Navy or Marine Corps which, subsequent to December 6, 1941, distinguished itself by outstanding heroism in action against the enemy. Even more outstanding heroism was recognised by the Presidential Unit Citation, established in February 1942 and awarded for extraordinary heroism in the face of the enemy. This may be the "Unit Citation" listed on the document.

No record exists of these having been awarded to any unit of which Hubbard was a part; there are no mentions of any such awards on Hubbard's own conduct reports. Neither Scientology nor Hubbard have detailed to which unit and for what the award was bestowed.

There are several possibilities for this, but the most likely is that it represents the Navy and Marine Corps Medal (also represented as a ribbon). This was instituted on August 7, 1942 for personnel of the US Navy and Marine Corps who, since December 6, 1941, had distinguished themselves by heroism not involving actual combat with the enemy. There is no record of Hubbard having been awarded this medal nor, in fact, having committed any act of wartime heroism whatsoever.

The modern Purple Heart is of surprisingly recent origins, considering its revered status. Originally a short-lived Revolutionary War decoration, it was revived in 1932 for the US Army. It was not until September 19, 1942 that it was extended to the Navy and Marine Corps. Its eligibility was also changed, so that now it was (and still is) awarded exclusively to those killed or wounded as a result of enemy action (including frostbite). The palm, rather than a second Purple Heart, is usually awarded for further combat-related injuries.

Hubbard could not have received this medal for wounds received before September 1942 - this is more than six months after he was supposedly evacuated from the Pacific as the first returned US Navy casualty from the South Pacific. The only combat action recorded in Hubbard's US Navy file was his "battle" against two supposed Japanese submarines off Oregon. Neither he nor his crew sustained any injuries.

This presumably refers to the Navy Expert Pistol Shot and Navy Expert Rifleman medals. Both are awarded on attainment of rigidly prescribed marksmanship standards established in the Navy Landing Party Manual. Hubbard's filed DD214 indicates that he was awarded these medals though, curiously, they are omitted from the current official version of his service record (see 3.1 - The Navy's View; other than this, the two match).

Awarded to all members of the US Armed Forces who served on active duty at any time between December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1946. Also awarded to members of the Philippine Armed Forces. Hubbard clearly qualified for, and was duly awarded, this medal.

The record also shows a number of other strange anomalies:

The USS Howland does not appear to have existed; the United States Naval Vessel Register has no record of the vessel. Hubbard's record discloses no association with any vessel by that name.

The USS Mist was a motor launch converted during World War I into a guard boat. She was returned to her owner in February 1919, when Hubbard was only seven years old. She did not serve in World War II. However, Hubbard's first command, the USS YP-422, was a converted trawler formerly named Mist. She did not carry her civilian name into military life and was given only a hull number.

No officer of this name is listed in the 1944 Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Naval Reserve.

In fact, Hubbard dropped out of George Washington University in 1932 after two years of a three-year course. This fact is recorded on Hubbard's Navy personnel file.

Hubbard never gained an academic qualification due to having dropped out of his Civil Engineering course at George Washington University. The US Navy was well aware of this - it obtained a copy of his college grades when he joined the US Navy in July 1941, and explicitly concluded that he was "deficient in academic educational background." In the early days of Scientology, however, Hubbard liked to add the letters "C.E." to his name on Scientology publications.

These inconsistencies - especially the signature of a non-existent officer - make the authenticity of the document very doubtful. By contrast, the copy contained in Hubbard's official file does not include any undocumented or otherwise inexplicable entries. Also, although admittedly a superficial point, the official copy is much more obviously aged than the nearly pristine document circulated by the Church of Scientology.

The most likely explanation for the inconsistencies is that the document is a clumsy forgery - conceivably cooked up by Scientology officials but more likely concocted by Hubbard himself, to support his claims to have been a highly-decorated war hero. It may be significant that the document was apparently not sent to the US Navy to support Hubbard's 1974 request for his medals. It is possible that the document was forged to rebut, for the benefit of his followers, the US Navy's assertion that the four medals which Hubbard received were the only decorations which he had earned. According to Gerry Armstrong, formerly custodian of Hubbard's personal papers, Hubbard had in his possession a number of blank US Navy forms. If this is true then it considerably increases the likelihood that the forgery was Hubbard's own work.

As for the 21 decorations shown in the photograph circulated by Scientology, their origin is a mystery. Hubbard evidently did not have them in 1974, as his request to the US Navy indicates; the US Navy only sent him four; so where did the other seventeen come from? The most probable answer - tawdry though it is - is that Hubbard, or his agents, bought them or had them donated by Scientologist war veterans, and then claimed falsely that they were his. These claims are still being made by the Church of Scientology.


1 The first clear reference to this document that I have been able to find has been in correspondence from Col. L. Fletcher Prouty to the CBS 60 Minutes programme, dated November 6, 1985.


A. L. Ron Hubbard notice of separation (US Navy version)

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B. L. Ron Hubbard notice of separation (Scientology version, with explanatory note)

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