John S. Service Oral History Interview, Chap XII-XIV

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
Oct. 24 | Nov. 4 | Nov. 7 | Nov. 14, 1977
by the University of California Bancroft Library/Berkeley Regional Oral History Office (Rosemary Levenson interviewer)

Chapters XII, XIII, and XIV

[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
October 24, 1977
by the University of California Bancroft Library/Berkeley Regional Oral History Office (Rosemary Levenson interviewer)

Chapters XII through XIV



[Interview 11:October 24, 1977]

Some Addenda:Transcripts, Personal Relations, Effects on the Family, Finances

LEVENSON:Was it normal practice for transcripts of loyalty hearings to be given to the subject of the review?

J. SERVICE:It was at that time, but they changed all this almost immediately.There was a great furor because the State Department published the rationale of the Loyalty Review Board in their decision.

When the Republicans came in, and maybe before that, I think they tightened up everything and stopped giving you transcripts.I'd had the transcript of my hearings before the Loyalty Security Board in the State Department.I also got transcripts of the Loyalty Review Board.

When I had new hearings later on, in 1958, after I came back to the Department, there was no transcript.I think it was to prevent such things as giving them any publicity that they stopped doing it, although, it was a hindrance to the man who was being accused, making it more difficult for him.

LEVENSON:What other circulation if any did it have, to your knowledge?

J. SERVICE:It didn't have any that I know of, but as I mentioned last time, an employee of the Loyalty Review Board was leaking stuff to McCarthy, so that we don't know what further circulation it may have had through means like that.

LEVENSON:Were you personally ostracized at this time?

J. SERVICE: After the firing there were a certain number of people in the State Department, because of their positions, who felt that they had to discontinue contact.But, they were very few.


J. SERVICE:I wasn't pursuing anybody anyway.I had made it a point in New York, for instance, not to look people up.I thought that if they wanted to see me they would look me up.

Then there were some people that I didn't want to see.Jaffe and people that had been associated with Amerasia, some of them made tentative gestures and I indicated, I thought pretty clearly, that I didn't want to maintain any of that relationship.

People like Brooks Atkinson said to me afterward, "Why didn't you look me up?" [chuckling] Well, I thought that it was really up to them to take the initiative, you know.

LEVENSON:Then, you found for me this Saturday Evening Post article by Drew Pearson, "Confessions of an S.O.B.," 1956.How much validity do you think there was in his comment?

"Despite all my precautions I feel that I was responsible for a serious injustice being done to two government servants.One was John Service, a State Department Foreign Service officer, who was fired on the charge of being a poor security risk because he had talked to newspapermen and others. One of those newspaper men, I suspect, was I, for on at least one occasion I went to Service's apartment and talked with him about Patrick J. Hurley with whom he had served. . . Later, I learned that microphones had been planted in Service's apartment."

J. SERVICE:I talked to Pearson a good many times.As I recall that particular incident, at least what I think was that incident, he called me and came around and picked me up.Then we went riding in his car, which I assumed was caution on his part.But, it's true that if our phones were tapped, why, it was known that he called me.

But, he was simply asking about the story that Hurley and [General Robert B.] McClure had almost come to blows at some sort of a gathering in Chungking.He wanted to find out if a story which, he'd already heard had any basis in it or not.



LEVENSON: How did you maintain your spirits through this long ordeal?I don't know how you date it, whether you call it a twelve year ordeal, from '45 to '57, or shorter than that.But the strain
of it must have been overwhelming at times .


J. SERVICE:Well, I don't think it was a strain for most of that period. The tough period was these eighteen months or so, from March, 1950, till after I was established in New York. You might call
it two years, I suppose.

After we were established in New York I had a job.Then the matter just had to rock along through the courts.We were sort of used to living with it, and it wasn't very much on our minds.

I don't know.I think probably the fact that I was steadily engaged, busy, most of the time--There were long periods when there wasn't anything to do, but as I said I managed to try to keep myself occupied one way or another.

It was much more difficult in many ways for Caroline than it was for me.We were separated, in '45 [Japan] and again in 1950. She went on to India and I went to Washington, so that she was isolated and I wasn't very good then or ever at writing letters.So that certainly was difficult for her.

But even when she came back to Washington she very sensibly, I think, kept out of the day to day legal work that we were doing.I think she just decided to leave the details to us, which was a good thing because she and Ed [Rhetts] rubbed on each other a little bit.

Ed's methods of work are more like mine, dilatory but then working very hard to a deadline, doing very little work in the morning but getting progressively more efficient or effective--or at least you think you are--as the day goes on, so that we did a lot of work at night and times like that.

Caroline likes definite and specific answers.She wants to know when is something going to happen, how long it s going to take, what is going to be the likely result, which of course was the sort of answer no one could give.We had no way of knowing when Humelsine was going to act, or what was going to be the next move.So, as I say, it was probably tougher on her than on me.

It was hard to know how much the children were affected.I don't know whether Caroline mentioned or, not, but the day after the firing we told them they didn't have to go to school if they wanted to stay home.But they went to school and apparently had no problems.At least they said no problems.

Ginny finished second in her class and got an award.We were in northwest Washington, with a lot of other government people.I think many of them were sympathetic.A lot of them were fairly sophisticated by this time on this sort of thing.


J. SERVICE: After we got to New York, as I say, things were much less tense.We actually lived a fairly normal life.

LEVENSON:What about your mother?

J. SERVICE:She lost some friendships.Some China people, particularly missionaries, tended to stick to the Kuomintang and consider me to be of the devil.With those friends, Mother just broke offrelations.But she had a good many staunch people that stuck by her.

I went out to see her in October 1950, just after the hearings were all over.My brother, Dick, was in Moscow, and his wife was living in Washington.He got a vacation from Moscow and came out to Germany, I think, and Helen went over and spent some time in Germany, a couple of weeks or something.

Helen let me use her car, and I drove across the continent, saw my mother, and we had a very fine visit for a few days in Claremont.

Then I got word that Helen unexpectedly had returned to Washington which meant that she wanted her car.So I drove from Claremont, California to Washington D.C. in three days.

LEVENSON:Before freeways.

J. SERVICE:[laughter]Here's a card, for instance, to Caroline's parents.This was early '51.* They were worried.I think that they were far more worried than my mother because my mother just assumed, as I did, that everything was going to come out all right.

Caroline's father was a somewhat nervous man.I'm just telling him there, and this is indicative I think of my attitude, "Don't worry, don't worry.We're going to come out all right," which was what I, at least, firmly believed.

Even when I was fired I don't think that I thought of it as a shock.I hadn't expected it.I don't think that I was as concerned about a job as perhaps Caroline was, simply because I've got enough arrogance or conceit to be sure that I could get a job.

I'd done all kinds of work really in the Foreign Service, and it just seemed to me unthinkable that I wouldn't find something to do.It didn't turn out to be that easy, but at least I wasn't panic-stricken or paralyzed with the idea that we would starve or not be able to find something to do. (See Page 400a)


Dear Mother and Father:

Feb. 9, 1951

Nothing to worry about! Caroline and children are all well and I am hearing regularly.Last letter was Feb. 1 which I received yesterday... am mailing it to you.I suppose she must be busy if she has not been able to write.No news here.Can't tell yet what will be the effect of the Remington conviction but it will certainly be used by the GOPs to discredit the Loyalty Boards, the loyalty program and the whole administration.There is nothing we can do but wait . . . calmly and
patiently.... there is nothing to fear. Don't worry and fret.

Much love to all


LEVENSON:You mentioned your brother, Dick, in the Foreign Service.Was his career affected by your troubles, and if not, how did he escape in the climate of those times?

J. SERVICE:I think as far as the State Department was concerned--after all, the State Department was never really out to get me, though a few at the top like Humelsine wanted to shield Acheson. But the working State Department understood my situation and had approved my views.

You can't measure it, and it may not be appreciable at all, but Dick certainly didn't suffer and it may even have helped him a little bit in sort of a reverse way.I mean that people wanted to demonstrate that they had no prejudice, the same way my son, Bob, has done well.I think the State Department tried to lean backward to show that there was no prejudice.

Dick had the advantage of not being under Hurley in Chungking, not having to confront Hurley or be in a row with Hurley.He did not sign the telegram of February 28 because he was off in Kweilin where he was under another man, Ringwalt.He didn't have as much chance for independent reporting as I did, and generally he just was able to keep out of the line of fire.

Now, I'm not sure that if Dick had been doing a lot of independent reporting whether he would have been as outspoken in his expression of views as I was.He just isn't quite the same kind of person.He's more of a diplomat.

Dick actually went up to class I very rapidly.That's why he was forced to retire, because they got so many people in class I they finally had to put in this rule setting a time limit of twelve years in class I.

He was a very good administrative officer, a good person dealing with people, excellent.I don't think that his strong point particularly was political reporting, although he did some.

[pause] We were saying something about the tenor of the times.Here's a letter from me to my mother in late, November 23, 1952.I'm describing John Davies's going through Washington.He'd just been having some preliminary hearings.He also went through this whole process several times.

I had started to take him to the airport.Then, because of bad weather the airplane did not take off. We lived not too far from Kennedy, which was then called Idlewild Airport.John started to come back home with me but then decided he'd better not, as




Jack Moffitt
Fred Niblo, Jr.
Hedda Hopper
Adolph Menjou
J. McGuinness

(Photo caption)
Patriotic Americans who were leaders in the fight against Communism in Hollywood. They paid a price for their loyalty, only to find that now it is "popular" to