Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

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 378
The 1950 Elections: Tydings Defeated, McCarthy’s Menacing Power Grows 380
The Ground Rules Change: From Suspicion of Disloyalty to "Reasonable Doubts of Loyalty" 380
Kuomintang Propaganda from Taiwan Supplied to United States Senators and Translated by Library of Congress Staff      382
Jack Requests that the Secretary of State Remove His Name from the Promotion List 384
An Intimation of Trouble 384
"Pertinent Excerpts" 385
Loyalty Review Board Hearings Under Ex-Senator Hiram Bingham November 8, 1951 386
Some Further Notes 389
Fired as of the Close of Business. "How Did You Know so Soon?" 392
Outrage and Indignation 394 Practically Bare. No Job, No Retirement, No Pension, Nothing, No Insurance 394 Exhausting Administrative Appeals 395


Some Addenda: Transcripts, Personal Relations, Effects on the Family, Finances 397
The Government Denies that Jack was Fired for Reasons of Loyalty or Security: the Loyalty Review Board s "Forced"      Unanimity 402
Allegations Equal Evidence: Evidence Equals Fact 403
Commitment to Lawyer to Fight Case to the End 405
Job Hunting 407
A Surprise Offer From Clement Wells of Sarco. "We'll Tell You the Difference Between a Steam Trap and a Mouse      Trap." 408
Jack Improves a Multipurpose Thermodynamic Steam Trap 412
Negotiates Contract with Steelworkers Union and Avoids a Strike Against Sarco 416
Denied Lease in Apartment Building Owned by Equitable Insurance 417
First Court Hearing: Judge Curran Finds Firing Legal Under "Unlimited Discretion of the Secretary of State" 419
An Oily and Unctuous McCarthy Charges Jack with Being an Employee of the CIA 420
Jack’s Mother Dies 422
Source of Hurley’s Charges Revealed at John Davies Hearings: From Tai Li via “Mary" Miles 424
Life in New York 425
Jack Buys in to Sarco 429
April, 1956: Failure in the Court of Appeals 431
Appeal to the Supreme Court 432
The Supreme Court Decision: Unanimous in Favor of Jack 433
Preliminary Contact with the State Department on Procedures for Reinstatement: Another Loyalty Clearance Required 436 Leave from State Department to Wind Up Sarco Company Business 438
Salary Level 439
Service vs Dulles as Precedent 440


Reorganizes State Department s System of Moving and Storage 441
Some Hostile Press Reactions to Jack s Reinstatement 443
Odd Angles in the State Department 444
A New Style of Security Hearing 445
Last State Department Assignment: Consul to Liverpool 446
The Liverpool Consulate: A Visa-Issuing Office 448
Anti-American Feelings 450
Acting Supervisory Consul General for the British Isles 450
Dismal Career Prospects 451
Retirement: May 31, 1962 456
Sale of Sarco Stock 457

XIV BERKELEY YEARS, 1962-1977 459

An M.A. in Political Science 459
A Job at the Center for Chinese Studies 463
The Government Settles out of Court on Legal Costs, Pay Arrears, and Retirement, 1963 465
Putting Down Roots 466
Some Right-Wing Flurries about Jack’s Working at the University 468
Ph.D. Thesis Doctor and Occasional Editor 471
A Friendly Meeting with Dean Acheson 472
Amerasia Again: Government Publication of Kubek’s Scurrilous Two-Volume, The Amerasia Papers; A Clue to the      Catastrophe of China, 1970 473
Jack’s Monograph: The Amerasia Papers; Some Problems in the History of U.S.-China Relations, 1971 475
Fulbright Hearings: Davies, Fairbank, and Service Testify: A One-Day Sensation 475
Security Considerations: The Service Recommendation Not the Kiss of Death for Foreign Service Applicants 477
First Signs of a Change in U.S. -China Policy: Jack One of Four Americans Who Would be Welcome in China 478
Back to China with Caroline, 1971 480
Meetings with Chou En-lai 480 Kissinger in Peking: An "Invitation" to San Clemente for Thanksgiving 483
Services Mobbed by the Press in Hong Kong 485
A New Yorker Profile of Jack 488
Generally Low Level of Press and Public Opinion on China 489
Foreign Service Association Luncheon Honors McCarthy Era Victims, January, 1973 490
Consultant on Sino-American Relations and China: Some Fan Mail 493
A Retrospective: Effects on the Family, Finances 497
Formal Retirement from the Center: Collaborates on the Center’s Dictionary of Contemporary Chinese Terms 500
Jack’s War-Time Despatches Published. Lost Chance in China… Edited by Joseph W. Esherick 502
Three Months in China in 1975 506
Jack’s Report Published by the Sacramento Bee 509
Preconceptions and Prejudices about China 510
1976: A Heavy Speaking Schedule and a Heart Attack 513
Coda 514



APPENDIX I Chronology of events, April 18, 1941 to March 30, 1950, submitted by Charles Edward Rhetts, attorney for John S. Service to the State Department Loyalty Investigation

APPENDIX II Clearances of John S. Service. Notes for Charles Edward Rhetts. Includes judicial, legislative, and administrative, n.d.

APPENDIX III Loyalty Security Board. Notice of hearing and list of charges against Mr. John Stewart Service, March 24, 1950

APPENDIX IV Letter from John S. Service to John Carter Vincent, May 16, 1951

APPENDIX V "Washington Report" Fulton Lewis Jr. February 13, 1951

APPENDIX VI "...pertinent excerpts..." by John S. Service. Foreign Service Journal, October 1951

APPENDIX VII Letter from ex-Senator Hiram Bingham, Chairman, Loyalty Review Board, to Mr. John S. Service. October 11, 1951

APPENDIX VIII "Interview with Hiram Bingham: Chairman, Loyalty Review Board. CATCHING THE DISLOYAL” U.S. News and World Report, November 23, 1951, pp. 22-27 542



The Chinese revolution was bound to revolutionize American China policy. United States foreign service officers who announced this obvious truth were treated as revolutionaries. It was a classic case of punishing the bearers of bad news.

John S. Service was the officer closest to the Chinese scene, who saw most clearly the trends among the Chinese people and did the best reporting on them. Being the best reporter made him the worst offender in the eyes of those who could not see the revolution but feared "communism" as our ideological enemy.

What emerges most clearly from Service s oral history is his lack of concern about ideology. His activist nature was cast in a mould of practical, humanist virtues. He was like his father, Roy Service, who as a secular missionary built up the work of the Young Men’s Christian Association in Szechwan province. From his earliest years Jack Service had before him the example of a father and mother who kept busy serving their Chinese community. Supporting reform was part of their calling but the human needs of the moment, helping individuals, took precedence over the more abstract goals of Christianity, to say nothing of revolution. China to them, as to their eldest son, consisted of people with problems. Their faith was in gradual change for the better, progress, not in any scheme or panacea.

A second notable aspect of Jack Service’s life was its absorption with China. He grew up there and his year at the Berkeley high school, his college days at Oberlin, and his later assignments in Washington, New Zealand and Liverpool, like his business career in New York City, were all overlays of his original experience in Szechwan. Becoming a track star, holder of the mile and half-mile records at Oberlin, was merely an addendum to his learning to hike twenty miles a day with his father in the mountains west of Chengtu. Grit and stamina were part of his natural style.

Of course, as he points out repeatedly, an American boy in west China did not live like a Chinese or with Chinese. He had no Chinese playmates. He enjoyed the special status of being a foreigner who was by treaty law a privileged character. Belonging to the foreign echelon of the Chinese upper class no doubt contributed to his high standard of conduct. Like an Englishman in colonial India, he was on his mettle to be a superior person. Courage, pertinacity, reliability were expected of such people. Added to this, the YMCA was a fellowship built on Christian principles of international brotherhood and uplift. The result made Jack Service a natural leader of any group he was in but a leader who won his spurs by achievement. He was a genuine democrat and fond of his peers as of people generally but he was also committed to being the top performer among them.


Another trait from childhood was the pioneer spirit of the American missionary in China who had to handle problems of clean housing and water supply, medication of ailments, education of children in the boondocks, diplomacy with officials, warlords and bandits and in general maintain a life in two cultures. This called for resourcefulness, innovation and above all, initiative.

While Jack Service’s early life no doubt inculcated these exceptional qualities, it is still true that sociology, though it tries, cannot entirely account for personality. What comes through in this volume is Jack Service's sheer ability to deal with people and things and get results. His rise in the business world of the SARCO steam trap company (1952-1958 between his dismissal and reinstatement in the foreign service) is almost a laboratory experiment to test out whether a man so able at official administrative and diplomatic tasks really has what it takes to compete in business. It is an extraordinary story, underplayed as Jack recounts it, an almost romantic tale of adventure and success, except that the reader soon realizes some of the problems overcome: how does a newcomer helicoptered to the top level of a long-established firm make his way among jealous older employees? How does he master the steam-trap technology and see that the several scientific variables that make a steam trap work can be more efficiently put together? How does he know his legal position and with a lawyer defend his interest? The answer is simple: Jack Service’s acute intelligence and personal drive made him truly omnicompetent.

That an officer of such ability and China background should be reporting the decline "of the Kuomintang (KMT) regime and then the rise of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as its rival for power was America’s good fortune. The message came across loud and clear for China hands like Gauss, Stilwell and Marshall. (General Marshall had had a tour of duty with the Fifteenth Infantry in Tientsin). The obvious validity of Service’s reporting in the crucial early-forties (1942 to 1945) was undoubtedly a factor in the State Department decision to mediate between KMT and CCP in the hope of heading off civil war in China.

Many observers reported as time went on. But Service was the official first on the scene and closest to it, in reporting both the KMT decline and the CCP potentialities. This helped General Marshall’s decision in 1947 to abstain from intervening to try and save Chiang Kai-shek. This abstention, after Ambassador Hurley’s folly in 1945 in committing the United States to Chiang, was a major achievement in American policy making.

It is hard for us now to realize the inertial momentum of the American support of the Nanking government that had developed during the 1930s. To call the American position in China the fruit of Anglo-American imperialism under the unequal treaties is an easy dictum to utter, like all attaching of tags to characterize historical epochs. The difficulty in viewing the American record in China lies in its ambivalence. So much of the American activity in China during the imperialist era was not only well- intentioned but downright helpful! Extraterritoriality, which kept Americans


under the legal jurisdiction of their own consuls in China, began as a practical necessity when the Western intruders came in force and demanded that China’s empire join the outside world as a nation among nations. The unequal treaty system was a mediating device that lasted a full century (1842-1943) until China, after five foreign wars and two revolutions, did indeed become a nation.

American and other merchants and missionaries helped this process of drastic change. After our recognition of the Nationalist government of the KMT at Nanking in 1928, many felt that modern China had reached modernity (i.e., was following our example). To such people, it was a severe blow to find twenty years later that China's evolution was moving on from "nationalism" to "communism."

The fact was that the Chinese common people were still to be brought into political life. Where the KMT after 1928 had given up its mass organizations and settled in as a new bureaucratic elite, the CCP in the 1940s learned how to mobilize popular support more thoroughly than ever before. This was the fact that Jack Service reported, which so many of his countrymen could not accept.

Americans in China had become part of the old order that was on the way out. History had given them their heyday in China for half a century after 1898. Now it was over. The Rockefeller -supported Peking Union Medical College, the Boxer Indemnity Fund fellowships bringing Chinese talent to the USA, the widespread panoply of missionary hospitals, schools and colleges, the Sino-foreign collaboration in distributing kerosene and tobacco, our score of consulates to oversee our treaty rights, all were headed for the dustbin of history. It was not a palatable message to convey.

The American establishment in China, part of the foreign establishment generally, was a society in itself, with its racecourses and churches for Saturday and Sunday, its summer vacation resorts in the mountains or at the seashore, a foreign-officered Customs service supervising foreign trade, foreign gunboats at the ports and on the Yangtze, and all the exoticism and squalor of China at hand to provide servants, offer a market or a constituency, and be guarded against. Several generations of Americans had enjoyed their experience of China, as Jack Service did too. But now the revolution wanted to wipe it all out and create a new China without foreign privilege. Thousands of Americans who had lived and worked in China, and millions back home who had supported or enjoyed their ventures at second hand, felt a prospect of loss and opposed it as evil. History could not easily be turned around.

As one follows Jack Service's career through thick and thin it becomes evident that the same qualities that made him the preeminent bearer of bad tidings also equipped him to survive the attack on him that the bad tidings evoked. Looking back on it he professes to be content, and well he may. He


has had two careers, one as a brilliant performer at the varied tasks of foreign service, obviously headed for class one and high position, the second career as an officer unjustly condemned and cast out in disgrace who step by step made a living and fought his way back to reinstatement and vindication -- a second success story piled on top the first. This is a record that will stand for a long time.

Jack Service would be the first to agree that no records are made without pain. Perhaps he and his wife and supporter Caroline would also agree that it is even more painful to be the chief supporter of a record breaker than to be the protagonist himself. Nevertheless, they survived intact and their story is a triumph.

John K. Fairbank
Francis Lee Higginson,
Professor of History, Emeritus

June 1981
Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts



Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 was a major turning point in Chinese-American relations. The hostility of American public opinion to the Chinese Communist regime had been extended to American Foreign Service officers and other "China Hands" who predicted, in the 1940s, that Mao Tse-tung would defeat Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist regime. In April, 1972, The New Yorker published a long profile on John S. Service by E.J. Kahn, Jr., entitled, "Foresight, Nightmare, and Hindsight." This article, publication timed to precede the Nixon visit, was the opening trickle in what has become a flood of information on Chinese-American relations over the last forty years. As in the 1940s and the McCarthy period, Jack Service was once again headline news. But this time the journalists came not to accuse and blame but to praise. And, two Asian wars later, to regret America’s lost chances for a foreign policy that would have included China instead of isolating her. This was what John S. Service and his colleagues had recommended during World War II, based on their observations as American Foreign Service political officers in wartime China.

It seemed appropriate that Jack Service should be given the opportunity to speak in his own voice, in an informal and extended fashion, about his years of experience in China and much more. Also, that his wife, Caroline Schulz Service, whose memoirs form volume two of the Service Oral History, should give her perspective. Both Jack and Caroline were hesitant. It is fortunate that they agreed, and now, five years from the inception of this project, both of them are glad that their own viewpoints are plainly stated.


Paul Casamajor of the University of California’s Forestry Department proposed that the Regional Oral History Office of The Bancroft Library record Jack Service’s memoirs. Mr. Casamajor had been a student colleague of Jack’s forester brother, Bob, and had just read E.J. Kahn s book, The China Hands. Professors Chalmers A. Johnson and Frederic E. Wakeman, Jr., faculty advisers to this office’s China Series, enthusiastically endorsed the project. The Center for Chinese Studies gave a small seed grant, and a letter to the Oberlin College Alumni Magazine of July, 1976, brought additional donations from the Oberlin "family," Jack and Caroline’s alma mater. Major funding was provided by Rockefeller Foundation grants. Assistance is gratefully acknowledged from the Frank Schwabacher Fund of The Bancroft Library for photographic illustrations.


The Interviews

The interviewer and her late husband, Joseph R. Levenson, professor of Chinese history at the University of California, Berkeley, had known the Services since 1962 when Jack and Caroline returned to Berkeley. In fact, Jack had turned up as a student in Joe’s classes, somewhat to the chagrin of a professor teaching Chinese history who yet had never been to China. The warm friendship with which we started these memoirs deepened and widened as Caroline’s and Jack’s lives were explored in depth; the interviewer learned much about grace and courage under pressure.

Caroline was interviewed first as Jack was recovering from a heart attack at home, and he became somewhat familiar with the process of oral history as conducted by this office. However, he did not read any part of his wife’s memoir until his own was completed. We had a preliminary luncheon meeting to discuss strategies, and settled on a chronological, narrative format. Jack was assured that the interview transcripts would be appropriately edited so that additional material could be inserted, dates checked, and other details smoothed out.

Agendas were prepared and submitted to Jack before each interview or group of interviews. He made revisions, the most embarrassing of which was Chungking. "Chunking," said Jack, "refers to frozen chop suey."

Fourteen interviews of varying lengths were recorded between March 28, 1977, and November 14, 1977. The interviews were all held in the Services beautiful house in the Berkeley hills, usually in the breakfast room with its view of the Golden Gate, and the hummingbirds flying in and out to their feeders. Sometimes the sun would drive us down to Jack’s cool study where his immaculate files were easily available. Midmorning, we would always break for coffee, cookies, and informal anecdotes which the interviewer was sometimes able to persuade Jack to add to the record. Jack was always well prepared with notes and documents. After the first interview, there would generally be addenda or corrigenda to previous sessions, which would be recorded before we started on the main interview. Jack’s generally low key delivery did not mask the periods of high adventure and deep emotion.

Editing and Completion

The tapes were transcribed, edited for continuity, and returned to Jack for revision. He was able to check the accuracy of his memory due to his excellent filing system for the voluminous papers he has collected, all of which he has promised to The Bancroft Library. Unfortunately there is a significant gap. All his personal papers on the Yenan period (1944-1945) were destroyed at the height of the McCarthy period.


The manuscript was final-typed, proofed, and indexed. Professor John K. Fairbank, dean of Chinese historians, generously agreed to write the introduction, and completed it promptly in spite of all the demands on his time. The process of illustrating the memoir was fascinating and frustrating since so much excellent material had to be omitted. However, the illustrations, illustrative materials, and appendices have helped to enrich an already important narrative.

Three color videotapes were recorded of Jack Service at home. They are deposited in The Bancroft Library, as are the original interview tapes. Wade-Giles spelling of Chinese names has been retained for consistency, since pinyin was introduced after Caroline Service’s memoir was completed.

The Services have stipulated that their memoirs remain closed except with written permission of the interviewee until January, 1988.

Special thanks to Teresa Allen and Marie Herold for much more than their excellent transcribing and final typing. Their constructive criticisms have much improved the volume. Ruth Baseman made a splendid presentation of the many photographs she was asked to place on each page of illustrations.

Rosemary Levenson
Project Director
China Series

June, 1981
Regional Oral History Office
486 The Bancroft Library
University of California at Berkeley

List of Subjects Discussed


    Quo T'ai-ch'i, 183

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