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John S. Service Oral History Interview, Chap V-VIII

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
Sept 12 | Sept 21 | Sept 26 |Oct. 8, 1977
by the University of California Bancroft Library/Berkeley Regional Oral History Office (Rosemary Levenson interviewer)

Chapters V, VI, VII, and VIII

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional John S. Service Chapters]

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

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional John S. Service Chapters]

Oral History Interview with
John S. Service

Berkeley, California
September 12, 1977
by the University of California Bancroft Library/Berkeley Regional Oral History Office (Rosemary Levenson interviewer)

Chapters V through VIII




Building Chinese Contacts

LEVENSON: You told me that when you first arrived in Chungking, Drumright introduced you to his contacts. How did you go about building on these Communist contacts and making a variety of Chinese friends? I was surprised to read that you belonged to Rotary in Chungking and founded a Masonic group there.(Kahn, op. cit., p. 68.)

J. SERVICE: I didn't actually found it. No, that's a misnomer. There was quite an active Masonic group in China, almost all Western trained, educated in America primarily, businessmen, government people, and so on, who apparently liked the whole idea very much. It fitted in with their whole idea of clique, group, faction, secret societies and so on, but it was Western you see.

My father had been a Mason in Shanghai in a lodge where he was one of the very few foreigners. I eventually joined another Masonic network. All Masonic lodges are under a particular Grand Lodge. The lodge my father belonged to was under the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts for some strange reason. Some Americans who were Masons in China long, long ago--decades back in the last century--wanted to start a lodge and they found they could affiliate with the Grand Lodge of the state of Massachusetts.

But later on most of these Chinese who started lodges affiliated with the Grand Lodge of the Philippines which was of course mostly American started.


J. SERVICE: You can't start a new lodge unless you get a charter. By the time of Pearl Harbor the Philippine Grand Lodge was closed up. This was one of the first things the Japanese did. So, there was no way for the Masons in Chungking to start a new lodge. They couldn't get a charter since the Grand Lodge was out of business.

So we had an informal group of Masons, who were Masons from various lodges in Shanghai, who met occasionally in Chungking. It was something that for a while was sort of fun. Later on I got too busy and drifted away from it.

Rotary was again mostly all Chinese. There were very few foreign businessmen in there. But it was a way of getting to know a lot of people.

I knew already or got to know the foreign newspaper people. There were some Chinese newspaper people that dealt with the foreigners a good deal, administrative information people. The Reuters man was Chinese. Of course, there were all the missionaries. A lot of them had known my parents. My parents lived in Chungking until 24.

Jack's Travels Begin: Irrigation Works in Szechwan

J. SERVICE: One thing leads to another, but I think it was through one of these missionary contacts that I got invited on a trip in the spring of 1942. The provincial government people were very much put in the shade by the national government people. When the national government moved into Szechwan, the Szechwan provincial people had to take a back seat.

There was a very active provincial commissioner of construction or public works man-- the Chinese always used reconstruction, but the Chinese phrase really means construction. His department had built several dams and irrigation works in central Szechwan, to try to improve production. Some of these were being opened up. He wanted to get a little bit of notice, a little bit of publicity, a little face.

But also we had some relief funds that we were distributing, not large. We had allotted funds for rebuilding after some of the bombings in Chungking, things like that. Actually one of the fine stairways going up to the city from the river bank had been built with these relief funds.


J. SERVICE: I think that this provincial commissioner of reconstruction may have had some idea of getting into American funds, making contact with an American dispenser of funds. An embassy person along would add luster to the group he was planning.

He was a very good friend of an old missionary named Rape, R-a-p-e. One of his sons went to college in the States, and he changed the name to Rappe, R-a-p-p-e. But I think he went to Rappe and asked Rappe if he knew any American in the embassy that would like to join the visit to these irrigation works. Gauss agreed, the embassy agreed, so I tootled off for about a ten day trip. They had a special bus. There were several newspaper people and assorted worthies. Rappe was along and I was there from the embassy.

There was a very pleasant correspondent from the Chinese Central News Agency, official government news agency. He and I became extremely close friends. There were a couple of other newspaper correspondents along too. It was a very genial and sort of a jolly trip. Rappe was a person who had a lot of fun and good humor in him and spoke perfect Szechwanese, absolutely Szechwanese. Most of our party were not Szechwanese, because most of the government people were from down river. The Central newsman was from Manchuria actually.

Buildup of U.S. Agencies in Chungking
[Interview 6: September 21, 1977]

J. SERVICE: During this period [1942] there was a buildup in Chungking of new U.S. agencies. Also, there was a parallel buildup in Washington of research organizations, research analysis intelligence, that just hadn't existed before. The State Department set up some sort of a research unit which I don't think they'd had before.

Very early an office was set up called COI--coordinator of information. Then the Army and the Navy--and OSS--set up their R&A branches. They were beginning to ask for information.

Eventually it got very confused because people in China felt they were too busy to be spending all their time sending in information. They were busy with current affairs. Eventually Washington created a "Joint Intelligence Collection Agency" which sent representatives to China to try to make sure that they got stuff.


J. SERVICE: In Washington there was competition for information and some people did not want to share their information with other people. But we'll hear more of this later on.

The coordinator of information was a predecessor of OSS. Their mandate was to collect publications and documents. It was under General [William J.] Donovan. The first man they sent out was a man named David Rowe, R-o-w-e. The coordinator of information was set up, like a lot of these very early agencies, directly under the White House. They didn't know quite where to put it in Washington. So, it was directly under the White House.

Rowe came out and got cards printed up in Chinese that he was the China representative of the pai kung, the "White House." This finished him as far as the American embassy, American ambassador, was concerned, because it appeared that he outranked the ambassador, you see! [laughter] David Rowe didn't last very long.

A similar development was American relief. There had been some American relief work before Pearl Harbor, not on a very large scale. But soon after Pearl Harbor and the war started, United China Relief, which had [Henry] Luce as one of its very important angels, started up.

One day in the embassy there I remember we had a visitor, a short, round fellow, quite cheerful, bustling, busy little type of fellow from New York named Albert Kohlberg.


J. SERVICE: He was working for something called the American Bureau for Medical Aid to China, which was trying to get supplies for the China Red Cross. He had come to China to see what was happening to supplies they we