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