John S. Service Oral History

Oral History Interview with
John S. Service

Political adviser to the Commander in Chief of American forces in the China-Burma-India Theater, 1943-45; executive officer to the political adviser to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in the Far East, 1945-46; First Secretary of the American Legation, Wellington, New Zealand, 1946-48.

Berkeley, California
March 28 | April 6 | April 28 | May 3 | Sept 12 | Sept 21 | Sept 26 | Oct. 8 | Oct. 10 | Oct. 19 | Oct. 24 | Nov. 4 | Nov. 7 | Nov 14, 1977
by the University of California Bancroft Library/Berkeley Regional Oral History Office (Rosemary Levenson interviewer)

[Contents | Index | Introduction | Interview History | Table of Illustrative Materials]

Chapters I-II | Chapters III-IV | Chapters V-VIII | Chapters IX-XI | Chapters XII-XIV | Appendicies

[Notices and Restrictions | List of Subjects Discussed]

This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview donated to the Harry S. Truman Library. The reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word, although some editing was done.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement between the Regents of the University of California and John S. Service, dated March 7, 1980.

No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library of the University of California. Requests for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Library, and should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user. The legal agreement with John S. Service requires that he be notified of the request and allowed thirty days in which to grant or deny permission.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

John S. Service, "State Department Duty in China, The McCarthy Era, and After, 1933-1977," an oral history conducted 1977-1978 by Rosemary Levenson, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1981.

Opened March, 1980
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri




INTRODUCTION by John K. Fairbank i



Family Background: Protestant Settlers and California Pioneers 1
Roy Service and Grace Boggs, University of California, Class of '02 2
Student Volunteer Movement: "The World for Christ in Our Generation" 4
Background of the YMCA in China: The Principle of Local Chinese 8
Control A Six Month Journey from Shanghai to Chengtu, 1905-1906 11
The Far West of China: A Pioneer Life 13
The "Y" as Window to the West 14
Strains and Hardships in Grace Service’s Life 18
The Service "Hotel": Distinguished Visitors and Occasional Tourists 26
The Family's Growing Love of China 28
Jack’s Early Memories: Western Style in a Chinese Compound 29
Home Studies: The Montessori and Calvert Systems 32
Summers in the Mountains 36
The Winter Harvest: Ice Cream Making in Chengtu 39
A Geographic and Ethnographic Trip into Tibet 40
"War Games" with John Paton Davies in Chengtu 45
Boarding at the Shanghai American School, 1920-1924 46
Twelfth Grade and Graduation from Berkeley High, 1924-1925 51
A Sense of Distance from Younger Brothers 54


Apprentice Architect in Shanghai 56
A Blank Period, A Fairly Quiet Year 58
Some of the Sights of Peking 60
A Long, Solitary Tour Through Asia and Europe 62
Sixteen Hundred Miles by Bicycle Through England 64
From Southampton to Berkeley 66
A Switch from U.C., Berkeley, to Oberlin College 68
Meets Caroline Schulz on the Train 69
Oberlin College: "A Good YMCA Atmosphere, Friendly and Optimistic" 69
Champion Long-Distance Runner: "A Wonderful Feeling of Well-Being" 70
What to Major in? A Switch from Engineering to Economics 71
Finances: Waiting at Tables and Summer Jobs 73
Extracurricular Activities: The Honor Court 75
A Change in Religious Attitude 76
The Spirit of Oberlin: Values of a Liberal Education 77
College Dating 78
A Fifth Year in History of Art 80
Three Significant Families: The Yards, the Davies, and the Arnolds 83
What Career? Why Not the Foreign Service? 84
A Drop-In Student at Berkeley, 1932 85
The Lake Merritt Marathon 87
Foreign Service Examinations, Written and Oral 88
Trainee in the American Oriental Bank, Shanghai 94
Missionary’s Son Becomes a Social Drinker 96


Clerkship in Yunnanfu 98 Duties 99
"Bureaucrats are Made, not Born" 101
Marriage to Caroline Schulz in Haiphong, 1933 105
Yunnanfu Society 106
The Opium Trade 109
Lung Yun, the Local Warlord 113
Assorted Chores 114
The Long March Skirts Kunming 115
The Chiangs Visit Yunnanfu 119
The "Y" Discharges Roy Service: His Final Illness 120
To Peking as Chinese Language Attache 122
A Lotus-Eater’s Paradise 126
An Informal Study Group and Edgar Snow’s Report on His First Trip to Yenan (Paoan) 128
Embassies Insulated from Chinese Political Events 131
Red Star Over China 133
The Marco Polo Incident: Jack in Hospital with Scarlet Fever 134
Edgar Snow Smuggles Teng Ying-ch’ao out of Peking 137
The Foreign Press Corps 138
Passes Second Year Chinese: Shanghai, a Disappointing Posting 140
Comments on the Social and Political Backgrounds of Foreign Service Officers in the 1930s 143
Jack's Estimation of the Chinese Political Scene 144
Consular Duties, Shanghai: Jack of all Trades 146
Press Survey 146
Visa Section, I 147
Political Office: "How to be a Successful Political Reporter" 148
Third Year Language Exams: Stratagems for Study 149
Discovery of Lax Accounting and Lax Security in the Consulate 150
Home Leave, 1938: A Class VIII Officer 152
Visa Section II: The Trap Snapped Shut in Europe 154
Comments on Gauss and His Tight Ship at the Shanghai Consulate 157
Service Transferred Chungking Soonest" 158


Background to Jack’s Appointment to Chungking 159
Night Flight, Hong Kong to Chungking 160
Ambassadorial Styles: Nelson T. Johnson and Clarence E. Gauss 162
Gauss Ceremonial Swearing In 164
First Meeting with Generalissimo and Madame Chiang 166
Only Nine Staff Members in the American Embassy 167
Jack as "Chief of Chancery" or General Handyman 169
Madame Chiang’s Unique American Visa Issued by Jack 170
Embassy Relations with American Army and Navy Intelligence 171
Chungking: A Precipitous City Divided by the Fast-flowing Yangtze River 172
Domestic Arrangements 173
Japanese Bombing Rituals 175
Jack’s Evolution as Political Officer and Communist Specialist 179
New Fourth Army Incident and the Eighth Route Army: Factions Within the Communist Party 180
Japanese and American Negotiations, 1941: The American Embassy in Chungking Was Not Informed 183
Pearl Harbor: Great Chinese Celebrations 186
Jack’s Dash to Rangoon for the Embassy Mercury 186
Rangoon to Chungking Via the Burma Road, January, 1942 188


Building Chinese Contacts 192
Jack’s Travels Begin: Irrigation Works in Szechwan 193
Buildup of U.S. Agencies in Chungking 194
Jack Tapped to Write State Department Report on Psychological Warfare and Morale in China 196
Chungking: A Kuomintang Cocoon 197
Relations with Germans and Italians 198
A Turning Point: Genesis of Jack as Outside Man: Journey to Kansu 199
Growth of Chinese Friendships: Filling a Long Felt Need 200
Values of Missionary Contacts 202
The INDUS CO Network 204
How "Gung Ho" Came Into the Language 205
Chinese Engineers Conference, Lanchow: Jack Drives the Truck to Sining 206
On the Old Silk Road 207
The Only Functioning Chinese Oil Field 208 Fire! 209
Jack Recommends Against Flying in a Refinery 210
Jack’s Message to Chungking Does Not Get Through: Private Code Breaks Down 211
Wendell Willkie’s One-World Trip: Jack Welcomes Him to China 213
Bus Trip to Sian: The Kuomintang’s Permeable Blockade 214
Chinese Interpreters Distort Willkie’s Speeches 216
A Catholic Bishop’s Links with Tai Li and the Secret Police 217
Famine in Honan 218
Food and Lodging on the Road 219
Ordered Home for Consultation 220


Chungking to Miami in Seven Days 222
The First Foreign Service Reporter from Chungking to Washington Since Pearl Harbor 224
Briefs Lauchlin Currie, the White House "Man on China" 224
Currie Urges Service to Help Build "Backfire" to Counter Mme. Chiang's Propaganda Furor 225
Arranges Meeting with Drew Pearson and Other Journalists 226
Currie Requests Letters from the Field, Out of Channels 227
Report on Kuomintang-Communist Situation: Service as Prophet of China’s Civil War 228
Comments on Developing Relations Between the State Department and U.S. Intelligence Agencies 234
A New Feel for the Need for Information from China and a New Engagement In the Influencing of American Policy 234


Posted to One-Man Observation Post in Lanchow 237
Carries Two Hundred Thousand Chinese Dollars for an OSS Caper 237
Truck Breaks Down: Two Days on the Grand Trunk Road Listening to Coolies 239
The Truck Driver Network 241
Reporting in Lanchow: A Heavy Secret Police Atmosphere 241
Assigned to General Joseph Stilwell’s Staff, August, 1943 244
Becomes "Road Expert" 247
A Road Reporting Tour Through Kweichow, Yunnan, and Kwangsi 247
Some Adventures 249
Trips to India and Sian 251
"Doing What Came Naturally": Full Time Political Reporter for G-2 253
A Wide Range of Contacts 254
Informal Liaison with the American Embassy: Files Kept at Army Headquarters 259
Circulation of Reports 260
Classification of Documents 261
Val 264
Chungking Duties 265
Ranked as Colonel 266
The B-29 Bases in Chengtu 267


Permission Granted for an American Military Mission to Communist Headquarters 269
Impressions of Yenan: Confidence, Friendliness, and Efficiency 271
Chungking-Yenan Contrasts 274
A Diversion: Tai Li’s Bunch of Ringers 275
High Levels of Information and Conversation in Yenan 276
Dances, Fun, and Games in Yenan 279
Evaluation of the Dixie Mission Team 284
American Journalists and Other Foreigners in Yenan 285
Daily Life: No Inflation Woes 287
Prisoners of War 290
Stilwell Recalled 291
Service Sent to Washington 292
Kuomintang Reaction: Stilwell’s Advisers Blamed for Red Publicity 294
Political Reporting, Intelligence, and Policy Formation: A Summation 295


Washington, Home Leave, and a Surprise Reassignment to Chungking 299
Hurley and Wedemeyer Replace Gauss and Stilwell 302
Political Adviser to Wedemeyer: Meeting with Chou En-lai 303
"The Situation in China": A Joint Despatch from the Embassy's Political Officers, February 28, 1945 306
Return Trip to Yenan 307
"Mao Tse-tung Proposes to Come to Washington."? 308
The Communist Plan to Take Over Manchuria: Service’s Despatch Lost 309
Service Recalled to Washington, April, 1945 310
Assigned to Committee to Draft New Foreign Service Legislation 311
Feels Exploited by Jaffe, Roth, and Gayn 312
"We're FBI. You're Under Arrest." 313
Jail. Charged Under the Espionage Act 315
No Help from the State Department 317
Choice of a Lawyer: No Common Cause with the Other Defendants 318
Links Between the FBI, "Mary" Miles, and Tai Li: An Early Collaboration to Prepare Jack As Scapegoat for America’s
     "Loss of China" 320
State Department Security Entirely in FBI Hands 323
China Policy: State Department in Ignorance of the Yalta Agreement for Four Months 325
Jack Cleared Unanimously by Grand Jury on Amerasia Charges 326
The Family’s Reaction 328 Pro Forma Probation and a Posting to Japan 329
Washington Post Editorial: Accused with Maximum Publicity; Cleared with No Publicity 330
While Out on Bail, Served as Expert Consultant to the Pentagon on Report on the Chinese Communists 332
"Find the Bodies" for the Tokyo Office 333


MacArthur’s Japan: Separate Communications Means Separate Accommodations: Mitsui Bank Building, the Directors      Suites 335
Max Bishop, Volunteer Aide to the FBI, Photographs Jack’s Memos to Atcheson 337
Hurley Resigns, Blasting Service and Atcheson: The Press Interrupt a Foreign Service Celebration 338
A Siege in Hospital: Infectious Hepatitis 339
Some Contributions of the Political Advisers Office 340
New Zealand, 1946-1948: An Idyllic Interlude 342
A Busy Office: Trade, ANZUS, the Trust Territories 343
Washington: Promotion to Class II, and Appointment to Foreign Service Selection Board, 1948 345
Questions of Security and "Raping the State Department Files" 348
The Scripps-Howard Press Blasts Service’s Appointment to Selection Board 349
An Invisible Job: Special Assistant to the Chief of Foreign Service Personnel 350
Changing Character of the Foreign Service: Some Difficulties for the New People 352
The China White Paper: A State Department Boomerang 353
Gauss Predicts Danger for Foreign Service Officers Identified as Despatch Writers 355
A Friendly Chat with Senator Knowland 357
Posting to India 358


McCarthy Opens Campaign Against "Communists in the State Department" Names John Stewart Service 360
Frantic Press Conferences. "I Welcome This Chance to Have an Investigation. I Have Nothing to Hide" 362
The Department Turns Out in Force to Meet Jack’s Plane 362
"You've Got to Have a Lawyer" 363
Lauchlin Currie Refuses to Testify 365
Two Board Levels: The State Department s Loyalty Security Board Under the Civil Service Commission’s Loyalty Review      Board 366
Letter of Charges: On Salary, with Office Space, and a Stenographer 367
State Department Loyalty Security Board Hearings 369
FBI Interviewing Methods 370
The Tydings Committee 371
Photographed with McCarthy: "Oh, Hello John!" 372
Too Cool and Calm? 373
Living from Pillar to Post 376
Works Informally for Legal Adviser s Office: A Massive Indexing Project 377
Impossible to Locate all Jack’s China Despatches