The Foreign Service Journal, November 2010

56 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 0 hough he is a familiar, even iconic fig- ure to many in the Foreign Service, few Americans outside the diplomatic es- tablishment know the name, let alone the life story, of John S. Service. It was not until last fall that the first compre- hensive biography of this emblematic figure, Lynne Joiner’s Honorable Survivor: Mao’s China, McCarthy’s America and the Persecution of John S. Service (Naval Institute Press, 2009), appeared. (See the February 2010 Foreign Service Journal for a review.) As Joiner observes, Service was indeed a “lightning rod” of U.S.-China relations and domestic politics during the Cold War. But the lessons of his life and career still resonate to this day. Most Americans first heard of John Service in February 1950, after Senator Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., gave his fa- mous speech in Wheeling, W. Va., in which he claimed to have a list of 205 State Department employees who were members of the Communist Party. As a Foreign Service of- ficer who had served in China during World War II, Service was near the top of McCarthy’s list. McCarthy alleged that Service “had sent official reports back to the State Department urging that we torpedo our ally Chiang Kai-shek and stating in unqualified terms (and I quote) that ‘communism was the only hope of China.’” He went on to charge that Service had aided and abetted the communist cause by turning over secret State Department information to known communist agents, an act of espi- onage and treason for which he had never been tried. The Real Story The son of missionaries, Service was born in 1909 and raised in China, joining the Foreign Service in 1935. He spoke fluent Mandarin and already understood local poli- tics and culture better than most Westerners when he ar- rived at the U.S. embassy, located in Chungking, in 1941, after serving as a clerk in the consulates at Yunnan-fu in Kunming and Shanghai. The diplomat quickly proved himself an unusually eager and talented political reporter. In addition to meeting reg- ularly with local officials, he traveled deep into the Chinese countryside to get a sense of political and economic condi- tions. Several of Service’s wartime reports are remarkable not only for their incorporation of previously untapped in- formation from the field, but also for their ability to convey complex political analysis through concrete examples. In a July 1943 message, for example, Service illustrated the weakness of Chiang Kai-shek’s government through an analysis of official propaganda. This particular report was part of a broader series in which Service began to argue against unconditional U.S. FS H ERITAGE J OHN S. S ERVICE : A C OLD W AR L IGHTNING R OD T HE LESSONS OF J OHN S ERVICE ’ S LIFE AND CAREER STILL RESONATE MORE THAN 60 YEARS AFTER HIS WORK IN C HINA . B Y H ANNAH G URMAN Hannah Gurman is an assistant professor at New York Uni- versity’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where she specializes in the history of American foreign policy in the 20th century. Her dissertation, The Dissent Papers: The Voice of Diplomats in the Cold War and Beyond , won Co- lumbia University’s Bancroft Dissertation Prize and is cur- rently under review for publication. T