aving entered the Second World War as a lieutenant (junior grade) in the United States Navy, L. Ron Hubbard spent the first months of 1942 as Senior Officer Present Ashore in Brisbane, Australia. His duties included counter-intelligence and the organization of relief for beleaguered American forces on Bataan. It was in this latter capacity that he eventually saw action on the island of Java, and only eluded capture through a daring escape on a raft. After fracturing an ankle in subsequent action, he was flown stateside (in the Secretary of the Navys plane no less) as the first American casualty returning from the Pacific Theater. After a short recuperative stint at the New York Cable Censor Office, he took command of an antisubmarine escort vessel with Atlantic convoys. Upon completion of seventy runs against enemy submarines, he received command of a submarine chaser in the Pacific, the sixty-man PC 815. It was aboard this vessel that he then engaged and destroyed two enemy submarines in action he would long regret:
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.
His poetry, written through equally reflective moments, expresses the same: For no nation ever bought glory / with agony, death and burned towns. That much of it is bitter is appropriate, and all the more so when set at counterpoint to rhyme and predictable rhythms. Also included is a slightly later The Atom in grim description of what the next war might bring.