L. Ron and the Sea Org
Ever see a picture of Dave Miscavige and the leadership of the Church of Scientology? Did you wonder why they appeared to be wearing Navy uniforms?
Well ultimately that's because L. Ron Hubbard's father, Harry Hubbard, was a career Naval officer, who had a long, if not remarkably distinguished, career in the Pacific.
When young Ron was growing up and his father was stationed at various Navy bases, the founder of Scientology did have some interesting experiences travelling around the Pacific. He later grossly embellished the tales of those experiences to say he had lived with Buddhist monks in China and Tibet studying Zen and Chinese philosophy, among many other things which weren't true, but his experiences with the Navy affected him for the rest of his life.
His father was a commissioned paymaster, a sort of Naval accountant responsible for payroll management and the like, and eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander, which was as far as he could legally go at the time in his limited duty status. But he was well known and generally respected in the very small Navy of the 1930s, and when WWII broke out, the young L. Ron was able to obtain a regular commission as a deck officer. He then had commands of two small vessels, the "YP-422" and the "PC-815". His later autobiographical accounts claimed he was a great war hero of pitched battles against Japanese submarines, but one of his superior officers described him as "not temperamentally fitted for independent command" and another found that he had mounted a major depth charge attack on a "known magnetic anomaly on the sea bed". Later he attacked Mexico (?!) with gunfire from his small patrol vessel and was relieved of his command. This is not, however, the account of his Navy career you will hear from the Church of Scientology.
After the war, still fascinated with all things Naval, L. Ron developed the habit of wearing Naval-style uniforms just because he liked the look of himself in them, and ultimately created his own Navy - the "Sea Organization" of the Church of Scientology, which allowed him to regularly promote himself and have other people call him "Commodore". The Sea Org is like a leadership cadre for the Church - all the major players came up through its ranks - and it operates much like a paramilitary force. At one time, the Sea Org even had ships, including a small cruise ship and some nice sailing yachts, and L. Ron spent several years in the 1970s cruising the Mediterranean on one or another of his Scientology yachts.
L. Ron Hubbard was a great storyteller, as well as a lifelong pathological liar. Although he did really serve in the Navy, almost all of his claims about his service, like most of his claims about everything else, were completely made up. Likewise the Sea Org is based on Hubbard's fantasies and rich imagination of himself as a great sea captain. I would very much like to see a ship actually operated by Scientologists wearing Navy outfits, however.
PS: I wonder if Tom Cruise has one of those natty outfits, or whether he is considered to be a fighter pilot in the Sea Org because he was in "Top Gun"?
PPS: The more I read about the life and stories of of L. Ron Hubbard, the more he reminds me of Joseph Smith.
PPPS: One more cute photo of "Captain" Miscavige and his crew here.