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USS PC-815 was a PC-461-class built for the United States Navy during World War II. PC-815 is notable for being the ship commanded by L. Ron Hubbard, who later became the founder of Scientology. However, PC-815 's short career has led to the vessel being dubbed the "jinxed sub-chaser".[1]

Construction Edit

PC-815 was laid down on October 10, 1942 at the Albina Engine and Machinery Works in Portland, Oregon. She was fitted out commencing December 5 and was commissioned on April 20, 1943, with Lieutenant (j.g.) L. Ron Hubbard in command.[2]. A few weeks later she sailed down the Columbia River to Astoria, Oregon, where she arrived on May 17 to take on supplies. On May 18, the PC-815 left Astoria for Bremerton, Washington, where she was to have radar and depth charge launchers fitted. Her journey was interrupted by an air-sea rescue operation, then was resumed with a new destination - San Diego.[2]

The "jinxed sub-chaser" Edit

Claims of submarine contact off Cape Lookout Edit

In the early hours of May 19, the crew of PC-815 detected what Hubbard thought was first one then later two Imperial Japanese Navy submarines approximately Template:Convert/nmi off the shore of Cape Lookout. Both the SONAR operator and Lt. Hubbard himself thought that the echo of an active sonar ping, combined with apparent engine noises heard through the ship's hydrophone indicated contact with a submarine.[3]

Over the next 68 hours, the ship expended 37 depth charges in a "battle" that also involved the US Navy blimps K-39 and K-33, the US Coast Guard patrol boats Bonham and 78302, and the subchasers USS SC-536 and USS SC-537, all summoned to act as reinforcements. PC-815 was finally ordered back to base on May 21.[4]

In his eighteen page after-action report, Hubbard claimed to have "definitely sunk, beyond doubt" one submarine and critically damaged another. However, the subsequent investigation by the Commander NW Sea Frontier, Vice Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, cast a skeptical light on Hubbard's claims. His summary memorandum to Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, stated:

It is noted that the report of PC 815 is not in accordance with "Anti-Submarine Action by Surface Ship" (ASW-1) which should be submitted to Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet.[5]
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.[6]

Fletcher added that "there is a known magnetic deposit in the area in which depth charges were dropped", absolving the responding blimps from any fault as their method of detecting submarines relies on a Magnetic Anomaly Detector. This also implied that Lt. Hubbard and his crew were operating the ship's SONAR equipment incorrectly.[7] After the war, British and American analyses of captured Japanese Navy records confirmed that no Japanese submarines had been lost off the Oregon coast.[8] Hubbard, however, never accepted that he had been mistaken about the "battle." Both he and Tom Moulton, one of his officers, claimed that the official denials of any Japanese submarine presence off the Pacific coast had been motivated by a desire to avoid panic among the U.S. population.[9] Years later, Hubbard told Scientologists:

I dropped the I-76 or the Imperial Japanese Navy Trans-Pacific Submarine down into the mouth of the Columbia River, dead duck. And it went down with a resounding furor. And that was that. I never thought about it again particularly except to get mad at all the admirals I had to make reports to because of this thing, see? This was one out of seventy-nine separate actions that I had to do with. And it had no significance, see?
But the other day I was kind of tired, and my dad suddenly sprung on me the fact that my submarine had been causing a tremendous amount of difficulty in the mouth of the Columbia River. Hadn't thought about this thing for years. Of course, it's all shot to ribbons, this thing. It's got jagged steel sticking out at all ends and angles, and it's a big submarine! It's a -- I don't know, about the size of the first Narwhal that we built. And the fishermen coming in there and fishing are dragging their nets around in that area, and it's just tearing their nets to ribbons -- they've even hired a civilian contractor to try to blow the thing up and get it the devil out of there -- and has evidently been raising bob with postwar fishing here for more years than I'd care to count.[10]

It should be noted, however, that the mouth of the Columbia River is some 75 miles north of Cape Lookout, the area in which Hubbard's naval reports claimed his anti-submarine action took place.

Unauthorized shelling of Coronado Islands and failure to follow orders Edit

A month later, the PC-815 traveled to San Diego, which was to become her home port. She arrived there on June 2, and at the end of June was ordered to sea to join an anti-submarine training exercise.[2] The exercise, held on June 28, ended early and Hubbard took the opportunity to order an impromptu gunnery exercise while anchored just off the Mexican territory of South Coronado Island to the south-west of San Diego. The Mexican government sent an official protest to the US Government, as no gunnery operations had been scheduled.

Uss pc-815 2

Another view of Template:Nowrap on trials

On June 30 a Board of Investigation was convened concerning PC-815 which concluded that Hubbard had disregarded orders, both by conducting gunnery practice and by anchoring in Mexican territorial waters without proper authority. His orders stated that the PC-815 was supposed to return after completing that day's training. Hubbard argued that his crew was inexperienced, it was foggy, and he was tired so he did not return to port as ordered. A month earlier in his after action report concerning the recent fiasco off Cape Lookout, he had described the same men as "experienced" and "highly skilled". Vice Admiral Fletcher, who both chaired the board and read the prior after action report, rated Hubbard "below average" and noted: "Consider this officer lacking in the essential qualities of judgement, leadership and cooperation. He acts without forethought as to probable results. He is believed to have been sincere in his efforts to make his ship efficient and ready. Not considered qualified for command or promotion at this time. Recommend duty on a large vessel where he can be properly supervised". Hubbard was relieved of command effective July 7, 1943.[11]

Collision with USS Laffey Edit

After Hubbard was replaced, PC-815 remained in San Diego as a shore patrol vessel but appears to have been mostly inactive during this period. According to her Movement Card she took part in the occasional offshore patrol, training exercises and escorting submarines in and out of the harbor. She was restored to active duty on September 2, 1945 but at 06:47 on September 11, the ship collided with the destroyer Template:USS in dense fog off San Diego. The collision started a fire on board PC-815, which sank within five minutes. One man from PC-815 was recorded as missing, presumed drowned. The Laffey suffered significant damage, with the fire from PC-815 spreading into one of the destroyer's compartments.[1]

Navy divers demolished the wreck in early November 1945 due to the navigation hazard that it posed to a busy shipping channel. It is reported to be lying at Template:Coord/display/inline in Template:Convert/ft of water and is said to be diveable.[12]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 "PC-815: The JINXED SUB-CHASER!", Sables, Robert P., in Sea Classics, January 2006.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 USS PC-815 logbook, National Archives & Records Administration, College Park, MD.
  3. "Proceeding southward just inside the steamer track an echo ranging contact was made by soundman then on duty, <NAME REDACTED>, Soundman third class. 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." and "Screw noises, fluttering and without pulsation, were distinct on the bearing and quite different from the pulsations of our screws." Page 1 of Hubbard's report Image: Page one of Lt. Hubbard's report
  4. Hubbard, ANTI-SUBMARINE ACTION BY SURFACE SHIP, REPORT OF, 24 May 1943.
  5. Example of form ASW-1 filled by another subchaser of the PC-461 class where a submarine was actually sunk and the report submitted properly
  6. "Battle Report - Submission of.", A16-3(3)/PC815, Vice Adm. Frank Jack Fletcher, Commander NW Sea Frontier, 8 June 1943; Image of document
  7. "At 0906 (see radio log) two U.S.N. anti-submarine blimps appeared, K-39 and K-33. While we held contact they investigated and announced to us that they had a magnetic contact where we were holding a sound contact." Page 4 of Hubbard's report
  8. HM Admiralty, German, Italian and Japanese U-Boat Casualties during the War: Particulars of Destruction, Cmd. 6843 (June 1946); US Department of the Navy, Japanese Naval and Merchant Shipping Losses during World War II by All Causes (February 1947)
  9. Streeter, Michael (2008). Behind Closed Doors, New Holland Publishers, ISBN 978-1-84537-937-7, p. 208
  10. Hubbard, "Auditing Techniques - Games Conditions", lecture of 1 February 1957
  11. Miller, p. 106
  12. "USS PC-815", San Diego Divebums. Accessed 3-3-2007

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