Honorable Survivor: Mao’s China, McCarthy’s America, and the Persecution of John S. Service

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Honorable Survivor: Mao’s China, McCarthy’s America, and the Persecution of John S. Service
by Lynne Joiner
U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2009
450 pp. $37.95
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John Service was one of several China hands fired from the U.S. State Department for questionable loyalty in the early 1950s. His trouble started when he got entangled in the inquiry into the leaking of classified documents by federal employees to the academic journal Amerasia, a spy case that turned out to be more about FBI misconduct than Soviet espionage. He was not indicted, but the investigation led to his interrogation before a series of State Department and congressional committees and to his firing. The deeper cause of his downfall was that he had challenged more powerful officials by arguing that Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang was too corrupt to survive -- and he turned out to be right. (Less correct was his view that Mao's Communists were potentially pro-American pragmatists.) Service was eventually vindicated by the Supreme Court, but his diplomatic career had been ruined. Joiner traces the story in engrossing political and personal detail, based on interviews with Service and his wife and files from the State Department and the FBI obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. It is a cautionary tale about the harm of persecuting diplomats who tell the truth as they see it, but also, as Joiner acknowledges, about the dangers of a security culture so lax that extensive leaking had become habitual even for honorable officers.