I was in the hospital up at Oak Knoll, and early that year they told me the war was over. I played the “Dead March” of Saul to myself and said, “Well, you’re really in bad shape, boy.” They argued with me. I didn’t think I was in bad shape but they wouldn’t pass me on an overseas physical. It was the last year of the war; I was feeling horrible about it. They were very dramatic about it, too. I went to see the commander at the base that sent me up to the hospital and argued with him about it, and he said, “Young man, you may not realize this but we are saving your life.” So I went to the hospital.
I was MEST for a long time. I didn’t feel like I could exert any control over the environment. After all, I was in the navy and that was bad enough, but I had gotten out to a point where I wasn’t even in the navy–I was under treatment in the navy. I was feeling pretty bad.
About July, I went down to Hollywood to see a friend of mine. I was living in a hotel there for a few days, and a ruckus started right out in front of the hotel. I was going downstairs and the clerk said, “Do something about that. I’ve already called the shore patrol.” I went out and saw three bluejackets; they were standing there in the street arguing and being very profane. So I just stepped over–this was the first time I had ever said anything to an enlisted man ashore–and I said, “The shore patrol has been called, and if you boys are very smart you will get out of here quick.”
I started to pass them and go on down the street, and one of them grabbed me by the arm and started poking me with his finger. Then one of them picked up a beer bottle, the other one swung me around with my back to the one with the beer bottle and the guy swung the beer bottle, aiming at my head.
One of the things that I had been doing in trying to rehabilitate myself was carrying on with judo. I had gotten training in judo in 1941 before I went into the service, but up at the hospital it was just regular exercise. The judo instructor and I had had quite a bit of fun.
It was very instinctive to duck underneath this beer bottle as it was coming down, and that made the fellow with the beer bottle come over to the side with his wrist in reach, so what I did was break his arm automatically and throw him over his head into the man who was holding me. That guy went into a bumper and cut his face open and the fellow with the bottle went into him with a broken arm. The beer bottle fell on the pavement, and the third guy got up off the running board of the car where he had been sitting and came at me, so I just caught up the beer bottle and shoved it in his face.
They made me go before a court martial, and it was very funny but the court martial, looking at these three men and the fact that I had been in Oak Knoll hospital, wouldn’t believe me. They were sure that four or five other officers and myself had caught these men one by one and beaten them up, and that this was a cooked story. I almost got in a lot of trouble with this one.
But the old chief petty officer down at the police station, after the shore patrol came and picked these boys up, was saying, “Sir, you were very, very lucky that the shore patrol arrived when it did. You shouldn’t ever have tackled that. Now, we’ve got a report over here that you were fighting with three sailors on the street. You mustn’t do that, because there have been three sailors around town here and they put two officers–a marine officer and a naval officer–in the hospital. The marine officer is not expected to live. You shouldn’t have done something like this….”
The door opened and the shore patrol began to help these guys through the police station to put them in the jail overnight till they could get them to a naval hospital. There was blood all over the place! The chief took one look, and he looked at me, and he looked at his first class petty officer who had gone out with that shore patrol and asked, “Did he do that to them?”
“Yes. Darnedest thing you ever saw!”
The chief looked at me and he said, “My God!” All of a sudden I was sixteen feet tall. Actually, I was well from that minute!
Those three men were drunk. Anybody who had had any training in judo would have wiggled out of it one way or the other. It just happened that a sharp-fendered automobile was there to mess them up.
I am not trying to tell you what a great warrior I am, but that what that did for my morale was fantastic. I don’t think I would be alive today if I hadn’t handled those three men.
I did a flock of animal experiments a little bit later that year. Up at the hospital we had a dog that was sort of cowardly. I got hold of this dog and I thought, “If it can do this for you I’ll bet it might do something for the dog, too. He is evidently a psychopathic case; probably under psychiatric care up here.” I would invite the dog to play with a stick with me and just shake it a little bit. Of course, this dog was so psycho that if you just shook the stick a little bit he would cringe. But I got him to the point where he would come up to take hold of the stick and then I would drop it and flinch. I finally got the dog to a point where he would bite at my shoe laces a little bit, and when he did that I would ki-yi like a dog, “Yeow-yeow! Don’t do that!” and so forth–act scared of him. I kept giving the dog this kind of reaction on almost anything he would do.
The dog started to walk a little bit tougher and a little bit tougher and a little bit straighter, and his eye got brighter and brighter and brighter. The first thing I knew, he went down the street and bit a marine sergeant! There was ample and adequate proof of this business of trying to rehabilitate an individual’s control of his environment.
You can definitely take a leaf from that book. If you are trying to fix up some individual–process him–you had better find out when and where this individual got convinced that he was MEST, where he had to be so afraid of his environment that he couldn’t fight it anymore. You will find some interesting stuff. Actually, there is data in that which could be applied to psychotics, very definitely.1
- Hubbard, L. R. (1951, 23 July). Basic Processing. Professional Course, (5107C23). Lecture conducted from Wichita, Kansas. ↩