GLEN COVE, NY —In a generally thorough but one-sided
Survivor: Mao's China, McCarthy's America, and the Persecution of John
S. Service, author Lynne Joiner makes the best
case she can to defend the reputation of accused spy, John Stewart
Service was born in China and, like his brother Richard, became a career
Foreign Service Officer. Joiner devotes much of the book to her thesis
that he was persecuted by Chiang Kai-Shek, the Nationalist Chinese
secret police, American Ambassador to China Patrick J. Hurley, J. Edgar
Hoover, the FBI, the Hearst newspapers, the Scripps-Howard newspapers,
Secretary of State Dean Acheson, President Truman, Senators Joseph
McCarthy and James Eastland, and former Congressman Dr. Walter Judd.
Service was one of the most outspoken of a clique of Foreign Service Officers
who, with a few scholars and journalists, worked during World War II to create
a role for communists in the Chinese government and who would have welcomed a
complete communist takeover of China. Such a takeover eventually occurred with
the victory of the tyrannical regime that killed more people than Hitler, Stalin,
and Pol Pot combined. Service reported, based on his personal contacts with Mao
Tse-tung and Chou En-lai in 1945, that the Chinese communists were not like other
communists, were very democratic, and had no interest in allying themselves with
the Soviet Union. He consistently criticized the Nationalist government of Chiang
Kai-Shek and praised the communists.
The striking failure of the Joiner book is the way it
deals with the Amerasia espionage case. The unabashedly pro-communist
Amerasia magazine enthusiastically supported the Hitler-Stalin pact.
Communist spy Joseph Bernstein, who had once worked for Amerasia, asked
for the magazine’s help in 1945 in spying for
the Soviet Union. The FBI recorded Amerasia’s editor and publisher
Phillip Jaffe saying he saw nothing wrong with giving classified documents
The Office of Strategic Services found hundreds of top secret, secret,
and confidential documents in Amerasia’s office, along with a
dark room and copying equipment appropriate to espionage but not magazine
publishing. Joiner mentions the copying equipment but fails to discuss
its significance. Jaffe, a dedicated Marxist, was a major contributor
to communist causes. Service says he was told that Jaffe was definitely
not a Communist Party member. This may well have been the case because
the Soviets tried to keep their espionage operation separate as far
as possible from the Communist Party.
During World War II, Service associated with communist
spies. Sol Adler, his friend and apartment mate in China, was one.
Another, Chi Chau-ting, lived in the same small building. Service’s
friend and advisor, Lauchlin Currie, was also a communist spy. Years
later, Service spoke of the difficulty he had during World War II telling
liberals and communists apart.
Service was at the communist headquarters in China on two occasions in 1944 and
1945. He returned to Washington, D.C., between these periods. He sent typewritten
reports to the Army, the State Department, and Vice-President Henry Wallace.
He classified them either secret or confidential depending on how sensitive they
were. He kept personal carbon copies.
Service was arrested for espionage on June 6, 1945. He
admitted providing eight to ten of the dozens of his secret and confidential
reports found in Amerasia’s office, along with hundreds of other top secret, secret, and confidential
documents. Jaffe said that 19 of the documents came from Service. Many
were supplied by State Department employee Emmanuel S. Larsen, who
was arrested with Service. A third State Department employee probably
supplied others. Service was never convicted of espionage. The Truman
administration was anxious to sweep the Amerasia affair under the rug.
He was discharged from the State Department by Secretary of State Dean
Acheson but eventually reinstated by the Supreme Court. Several years
after his reinstatement, he retired realizing that he would never be
appointed to a high position. He probably provided informal advice
to Nixon concerning his trip to China.
Despite author Lynne Joiner's efforts, Honorable
Survivor fails to document that John Stewart Service was anything but a traitorous
spy who deserved to be punished. He helped the Chinese communists.
He supplied classified documents to a Soviet espionage operation. Although,
according to the author, he may not have known the extent of the Soviet
espionage activities and may have eventually realized that he was wrong,
the loss of his job and security clearance are hardly excessive penalties
for the tremendous harm he did. In fact, the author's point of view
is that John Stewart Service was "persecuted." While the
Service biography is worth reading for its wealth of information, the
bias of the author needs to be kept in mind by the reader.
The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2009
by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com.
All rights reserved.
Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the
New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in
many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles
about the law.
See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.
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