Service, John S. (John Stewart), 1909-1999

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Foreign service officer.

From the description of Reminiscences of John Stewart Service : oral history, 1978. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 309724904

Foreign service officer; b. John Stewart Service.

From the description of Papers of John Stewart Service and Charles E. Rhetts, 1950-1963. (Harry S Truman Library). WorldCat record id: 70959670

John Stewart ("Jack") Service was a diplomat and China expert for the U.S. Foreign Service, and political adviser on Chinese affairs to General Douglas MacArthur; he was charged with disloyalty by Senator Joseph McCarthy and cleared several times. He served as the Resident China scholar, at the University of California, Berkeley after retirement from the diplomatic service.

From the description of John S. Service papers, 1925-1999. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 84653548

Biographical Information

John Service, the son of American YMCA missionaries, was born August 3, 1909 in Chengtu, China and spent his school years there, in Chungking, and in Shanghai. Following his graduation from Oberlin College in 1931, he joined the Foreign Service as a clerk at the American consulate in Kunming. He went to Beijing for language training in 1935-1937, and then served in Shanghai until the U.S. entry into World War II. From 1942 to 1945, Service was in Chungking, for much of that time on the staff of General Joseph Stillwell.

In July 1944, Service was a member of the first contingent of Americans that went to Yenan, where the Chinese Communist forces had their headquarters: the Dixie Mission. His reporting on conversations with Mao Tse-tung and other top leaders provided U.S. policy-makers with first hand information on Communist plans for China after Japanese defeat. On the basis of long experience and knowledge of China, Service came to believe it very likely that the Communists would prevail over Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Party. For that reason, and also because the Communists had proved effective in fighting the Japanese, Service was one of many Americans in China at the time who advocated providing some military assistance to them. Many read Service's dispatches as a realistic assessment of power in China. However others, most notably Patrick Hurley, the Ambassador to China in 1944-1945, and the pro-Chiang China Lobby thought that Service's recommendations were evidence that he was pro-communist.

The Amerasia affair further complicated Service's difficulties with the Political Right. Soon after returning from China in April 1945, Service met Philip Jaffe, the editor of Amerasia, a leftist magazine on Asian affairs. Service did not know that the FBI had Jaffe under surveillance for possessing secret government documents and unwittingly provided him with background material for an article, including copies of some of his reports. In June, Service was one of six arrested for alleged espionage. Service defended himself by claiming it was normal for government officials to pass on certain documents to journalists as background material. A federal grand jury voted unanimously not to indict Service and a State Department Loyalty Review Board cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Senator Joseph R. McCarthy revived the loyalty question in 1950. Drawing on material supplied by the China Lobby, he announced that Service was a "known associate and collaborator with Communists" who had been "consorting with admitted espionage agents."

The Wisconsin Republican claimed that J. Edgar Hoover had stated that he thought he had a 100% case against Service. The State Department recalled Service who was then on a ship headed for India and the post of Political Conselor in New Delhi.

The State Department Loyalty Review Board again examined the Amerasia case. It heard testimony from both George Kennan and John K. Fairbank attesting to Service's anti-communism. The FBI provided material designed to convince the panel that Service had fathered an illegitimate child while in China. The Board once again cleared Service. Concurrent with that review, a Senate panel led by Millard Tydings examined McCarthy's charges. Service testified that he had been indiscreet in giving Jaffe material, but then repeated that it was routine to do so. The Tydings Committee cleared Service of any wrongdoing.

In the fall of 1951, the Civil Service Loyalty Review Board, which had the power to examine cases already decided by the State Department, took up the case. In December it ruled that there was "reasonable doubt" about Service's loyalty, and cited the Amerasia case as justification for this decision. Secretary of State, Dean Acheson then fired Service.

Service fought his ouster through the courts. In 1957, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Department of State had not followed its own established procedures in firing Service and ordered him reinstated. Service resumed his diplomatic career and served as Consul in Liverpool from 1959 to 1962. However his case remained politically sensitive and the Department was unwilling to promote him or give him an assignment drawing upon his China experience.

Service retired in 1962 and he and his wife, Caroline, lived in Berkeley and Oakland, California, until their deaths in 1999 and 1997, respectively. After receiving an M.A. in political science at Berkeley in 1963, Service worked for a number of years in the Center for Chinese Studies at the University. He made four trips to China in the 1970s and 1980s, and was a member of many organizations seeking to strengthen U.S.-China relations. For many years Service edited China-related books for the University of California Press.

Written by his son, Ambassador Robert E. Service,

February 2002

From the guide to the John S. Service papers, 1925-1999, (The Bancroft Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
John Stewart Service and Charles E. Rhetts Papers
referencedIn Caroline Schulz Service Papers, 1919-1997 Bancroft Library
referencedIn Atkinson, Brooks, 1894-1984. Brooks Atkinson papers, 1904-1980. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Bancroft Library. Regional Oral History Office Oral History Interviews, 1959-1979, (bulk 1969-1975) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Service, Caroline Schulz, 1909-1997. Caroline Service letters to Lisa Green : TLS and ALS, 1950 Sept.-1995 April. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Service, Caroline Schulz, 1909-1997. Caroline Schulz Service papers, 1919-1997. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Dulles, John Foster, 1888-1959. Oral argument for petitioner by Charles Edward Rhetts in the Supreme Court of the United States, April 2, 1957 [sound recording] : John S. Service v. John Foster Dulles et al, no. 407, October term 1956 (decided June 17, 1957). UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Service, Caroline. Caroline Service; State Department duty in China, the McCarthy era, and after : oral history, 1933-1977. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Service, John S. (John Stewart), 1909-1999. Reminiscences of John Stewart Service : oral history, 1978. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Service, Caroline Schulz, 1909-. Reminiscences of Caroline Schulz Service : oral history, 1976. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Bancroft Library. Regional Oral History Office. Bancroft Library. Regional Oral History Office oral history interviews, 1959-1979 (bulk 1969-1975). Library of Congress
creatorOf John S. Service papers, 1925-1999 Bancroft Library
creatorOf John S. Service papers, 1925-1999 Bancroft Library
creatorOf Service, John S., 1909-. Papers of John Stewart Service and Charles E. Rhetts, 1950-1963. Harry S. Truman Library
creatorOf John Stewart Service and Charles E. Rhetts Papers. 1945 - 1963. Subject Files
referencedIn Brooks Atkinson papers, 1904-1980 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Papers, 1925-1997 Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
creatorOf Service, John S., 1909-. John S. Service sound recordings collection [sound recording]. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Joiner, Lynne. Honorable survivor : Mao's China, McCarthy's America, and the persecution of John S. Service : and other material, 1933-2003. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Service, Caroline. Caroline Service : State Department duty in China, the McCarthy era, and after, 1933-1977. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Atkinson, Brooks, 1894-1984 person
associatedWith Bancroft Library. Regional Oral History Office. corporateBody
associatedWith Beech, Keyes. person
associatedWith Davies, John Paton, 1908-1999. person
associatedWith Eddy, George A. person
associatedWith Fairbank, John King, 1907-1991. person
associatedWith Isaacs, Harold Robert, 1910- person
associatedWith Joiner, Lynne. person
associatedWith Kennan, George F. (George Frost), 1904-2005. person
associatedWith Letcher, John Seymour, 1903- person
associatedWith Levenson, Rosemary, person
associatedWith McCarthy, Joseph, 1908-1957. person
associatedWith Morin, Relman, 1907-1973. person
associatedWith Odets, Clifford, 1906-1963 person
associatedWith Online Archive of California. corporateBody
associatedWith Rhetts, Charles E. (Charles Edward), 1910-1971. person
associatedWith Service, Caroline. person
associatedWith Service, Caroline Schulz, 1909- person
associatedWith Service, Caroline Schulz, 1909-1997. person
associatedWith Service, Grace, b. 1879. person
associatedWith Tydings, Millard E. (Millard Evelyn), 1890-1961. person
associatedWith United States. Dept. of State. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Dept. of State. Loyalty Review Board. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Foreign Service corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Loyalty Review Board corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
United States
United States
United States
Anti-communist movements
Sino--Japanese War, 1937-1945--Diplomatic history
Security clearances
Internal security
Diplomatic and consular service, American
Diplomats--United States
Lawyers--United States


Birth 1909-08-03

Death 1999-02-24






Ark ID: w62b9jm0

SNAC ID: 6314635