The Foreign Service Journal, November 2010

N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 0 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 57 support for the corrupt and unpopular Nationalist govern- ment and asked Washington to consider allying with Mao Tse-tung’s communist forces. While Chiang was starving peasants in the countryside and saving his resources to fight the communists, reported Service, Mao was giving food and other resources to the peasantry and actually helping to de- feat Japan. These reports were collected and published in Joseph Esherick’s Lost Chance in China: The World War II Despatches of John S. Service (1974), an invaluable resource for anyone interested in Sino-American relations during the war. A 1944 trip to the communist base in Yenan is docu- mented both in Esherick’s volume and in Service’s oral his- tory, which is archived in the Bancroft Library in Berkeley and available online ( details/statedutychinaera00johnRich). As the first American diplomat to meet withMao since the LongMarch a decade before, Service had extensive conversa- tions with the communist leader, who ex- pressed an eagerness to work with the Americans. Service reported these conversations and the state of wartime China just as President Franklin D. Roosevelt was be- coming deeply frustrated with Chiang and was considering closer cooperation with Mao. But as Barbara Tuchman and other historians have argued, the win- dow of possibility closed in the follow- ing months, when FDR appointed an ardently pro-Chiang ambassador to China, Patrick Hurley, and shifted his war strategy in the East to a greater reliance on the Soviet Union. Back in Washington, D.C., after the war, Service met with interested journalists and academics and shared his version of the story with them, occasionally giving them per- sonal copies of his reports to use as background. Contrary to McCarthy’s charges, Service had already been arrested for these acts after his return from the war in 1945 and deemed innocent by a grand jury. Moreover, between 1945 and 1950, he underwent and passed no fewer than eight loy- alty examinations in the State Department. As the testimony of various State officials in these investi- gations reveals, a relative freedom of expression existed in the diplomatic establishment before McCarthy. Yes, Service had lost the policy battle. But he had won great respect within the department as a talented and committed political re- porter. Clarence Gauss, who served as ambassador to China until 1944, testified that Service was perhaps the most tal- ented political reporter he had ever encountered. A Quest for Vindication In the years following World War II, Service was pro- moted to senior status in the department, becoming the youngest officer ever to achieve a class two rank. But these promotions took place against the backdrop of an increas- ingly hostile Cold War climate, both internationally and do- mestically. By the end of 1949, following the communist victory in China and the Soviet explosion of the atomic bomb, the red-baiting that would characterize Cold War do- mestic politics for the next several years shifted into high gear. Thanks in large part to the testimony of ex-commu- nists like Elizabeth Bentley and Whittaker Chambers, and the intercepted “Venona” cables between American and Russian agents, a few real (and many more imaginary) Soviet spies were being uncovered in all branches of American government and society, fueling accusations that Presi- dent Harry Truman and Secretary of State Dean Acheson were “soft” on com- munists. The Korean War put additional polit- ical pressure on the Truman administra- tion. In late 1951, the Loyalty Review Board overturned the previous rulings in Service’s favor. That December, John Service became the first China specialist, and one of the first of dozens of Foreign Service officers, to be fired as a result of McCarthyism. But Service’s story does not end there. He spent the next six years in a legal battle to exonerate and reinstate himself in the For- eign Service. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1957 ruled in Service’s favor. While this rul- ing confirmed that Cold War paranoia was starting to ease, Service’s fate reflected the long-term effects of McCarthy’s attacks on the State Department. Locked out of posts in Asia and other politically critical areas, the beleaguered diplomat retired in 1962. As with his initial firing, the complicated dance involv- ing Service’s life, McCarthyism and U.S. relations with China did not end with his departure from government service. In 1972, when President Richard Nixon traveled to China and shook hands with Mao, Service once again be- came a “lightning rod,” to use Joiner’s term, attracting at- tention from both supporters and critics of the adminis- tration’s policy of renewing relations with China. Invited to China by Premier Zhou En-lai in 1971, Ser- vice actually visited Beijing before Nixon, accompanying Henry Kissinger, who asked Service for advice on China pol- icy and even invited him to San Clemente. But when Though he lost the policy battle, Service won great respect as a talented and committed political reporter.