John S. Service

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John S. Service

Template:TOCnestleft John (Jack) Stewart Service (3 August 1909 - 3 February 1999) was an American diplomat who served in the Foreign Service in China prior to and during the World War II. Considered one of the State Department's "China Hands," he was an important member of the Dixie Mission to Yan'an.

Early life

John Service was born in the city of Chengdu in the Sichuan province of China. The son of missionaries working for the YMCA, Service spent his childhood in the Chinese province, and then attended the Shanghai American School for high school. The Service family moved to California, where John graduated from Berkeley High School in Berkeley, California at the age of fifteen.

In the fall of 1927, Service entered Oberlin College, where he majored in both art history and economics. After graduation, Service took and passed the Foreign Service Exam in 1933.

Co-operating with Soviet agent Jaffe

Service in Yenan

Service’s increasingly outspoken belief that American policy in China should tilt away from Chiang Kai-shek and toward the Communists led him to disaster after his return to the U.S. in 1945, as he fell in with a cabal of Communists and sympathizers, led by Philip Jaffe, eager to obtain government secrets and turn them over to Soviet intelligence. They could hardly believe their luck when Service, eager to damage the Nationalists, started providing them with material. Watching and listening to their wiretapped conversations was the FBI, which had been investigating Jaffe and his friends for a few months as a result of the discovery of hundreds of top-secret documents during an illegal search of the offices of Amerasia, a journal he edited and owned. Among other tidbits, the taps picked up Service’s informing Jaffe that “what I told you is secret,” and Jaffe’s telling an associate that he had been approached by a friend who worked for Soviet intelligence and wanted to obtain material from Service’s section of the State Department. Jaffe was determined to cooperate, in extracting information from Service.

The espionage cases against the six defendants arrested in May 1945 rapidly fell apart, to a large extent because much of the government’s evidence had been gathered without warrants. The FBI and the Justice Department had counted on the cooperation with the government of at least one of the arrestees; that would have enabled prosecutors to avoid revealing their tainted investigative tools. One obvious candidate was Service, since the case against him was weak. He could testify about Jaffe’s constant requests for documents; his friends in government, however, worried that such a course of action would destroy his career and, potentially, open an unsavory can of worms, exposing their own machinations. They persuaded Tommy Corcoran, the premier “fixer” in Washington, to assist Service. He traded favors with high-ranking Justice Department officials to ensure that his client was treated with kid gloves when he appeared before the grand jury.[1]

Working with Ariyoshi

Immediately after the war, Koji Ariyoshi worked in China and then New York City with accused "Amerasia" spy John S. Service and Ed Rohrbough -- who would become business manager of the Honolulu Record -- in an effort to steer U.S. policy towards the Communists and against the Nationalists. Rohrbough had edited a U.S. Office of War Information newspaper in Fukien, China during the war.

Evades espionage charges

Though heavily implicated in the Amerasia case, John Service was able to escape espionage charges with the help of Lauchlin Currie.

On June 5, 1945, six people, including State Department official John Stewart Service, were arrested by the FBI on espionage charges. The evidence against thcm consisted of copies of classified documents found in the office of Amerasia by OSS investigators in a surreptitious cntry to determine how the magazine was able to quote classified information.

On June 11 Currie contacted the Washington wheeler-dealer and fixer Thomas Corcoran and told him that he wanted the charges against Service to be dropped.

Corcoran said that this might get him into trouble with other clients, so he would try to do it "on the side...if I have to, I may even come out front, but ...I would rather not have to."

After a number of contacts between Corcoran, Currie, and Service, Corcoran assurcd Service, "I did want you to know I'd gone right up to the top on the damn thing" and that he was sure he could get Service's name "cut out" of the case.

When contacting Justice Department officials, Corcoran told them that he was helping Service for someone else but didn't mention the name Currie. Anlong those he spoke to was Attorney General Tom Clark. The fixer succeeded with the help of the Justice Department attorneys, and the grand jury did not indict Service for espionage. Philip Jaffe paid only a small fine.

The FBI knew all about these relationships because it had a wiretap on Corcoran and heard his conversations with Currie, Service, and the Justice Department officials[2].

Contacting Hugh DeLacy

In February 1972, Service, while at the Center for Chinese Studies at Berkeley wrote a letter to Hugh DeLacy, who he had last met briefly "during the the summer of 1945". Service was replying to earlier contact by DeLacy, who he invited to visit[3]

Links to China

Jack Service with and former vice-chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, Huang Hua, in Los Angeles, September 1997



  1. National Review Online, Secret Service, HARVEY KLEHR
  2. The venona Secrets p 168
  3. Letter, Service to Delacy Feb. 23, 1972.Delacy papers, University of washington Acc no 3915, Box 7, folder 3