L. Ron Hubbard's second and last command was aboard the USS PC-815, a Pacific Ocean subchaser. His career aboard lasted just 80 days; its disastrous conclusion ruined any chance Hubbard might have had of commanding another warship…. The Church of Scientology has long claimed that PC-815 was a "corvette". However, it quite definitely was not. "Corvette" refers specifically to a class of small British warships of between approximately 600-1300 tons…. They were not referred to as "subchasers"; that name was coined and used for a generic type of US anti-submarine vessel. The 38 corvettes lend-leased to or built for the US Navy had a different hull nomenclature, PG- (for Patrol Gunboat) rather than PC- (Patrol Craft, aka subchasers)…. Displacement: PCs - 280 tons. Corvettes - 925 tons. Dimensions: PCs - 170 (wl) 174¾ (oa) x 23 x 7½ ft. Corvettes - 190 (wl) 205/208¼ (oa) x 33 x 14½ ft…. In all, 317 steel-hulled PCs were completed. Unlike corvettes, they were not long-range oceanic vessels but were tasked with escorting ships along the USA's long and vulnerable coastlines. It has to be said that they were not particularly well-suited to this task…. The weak armament of PCs made them fairly ineffective at sinking submarines….
News of Hubbard's big break reached him at the Submarine Chaser Training Center (SCTC) in Miami, Florida, at the start of January 1943.The Chief of Naval Personnel informed Hubbard that he was to be detached to Portland, Oregon, for "duty in connection with the fitting out of the USS PC-815 at the Albina Engine and Machine Works, and for duty as commanding officer of that vessel when placed in commission"….
At 10 a.m. on Tuesday April 20, 1943, the USS PC-815 was commissioned. Hubbard and the rest of the crew signed the logbook to register their reporting aboard for duty. Two days later, as the ship was being tested and readied for sea, the Albina Engine and Machine Works held a photo-opportunity for the Oregon Journal. Moulton and Hubbard were photographed in their sea jackets (below), Hubbard posing with a suitably nautical pipe rather than his usual Kools cigarettes….
The PC-815 remained in Portland until the end of April, outfitting and conducting trials. Her departure was delayed by another week due to damage caused to the propeller during the trials, which necessitated a brief period in dry dock. In the second week of May, the PC-815 got underway down the Columbia River, headed for the naval yard at the Pacific coastal port of Astoria. She arrived around May 17, 1943. There she took aboard a small quantity of ammunition for structural firing tests. The purpose of these was to test the ship's weapons - the guns and depth charge launchers - which, for obvious reasons, could not be done in the river.
On May 18, 1943, the PC-815 left Astoria for Seattle to have radar and Mousetrap depth charge launchers fitted at the Bremerton shipyards. Her journey was interrupted almost immediately when a Navy aircraft crashed offshore and the ship, along with others in the vicinity, was ordered to undertake a search and rescue operation. After a day's searching, the PC-815 received new orders: progress south to San Diego, pick up radar equipment there and undertake a shake-down cruise. But the ship had barely left the search area when, at 3.40 a.m. on May 19, about ten miles off Cape Lookout, her sonar equipment detected a return echo. Hubbard was immediately convinced that it could only mean one thing - the presence of an enemy submarine.