123 Service, John S.

Mr. John S. Service, of the Office of the Political Adviser in Japan, to the Secretary of State

Sir: I have the honor to submit the following statement which may be useful to the Department in connection with unfounded charges recently made against me by former Ambassador Hurley.

From July to November 1942, the Embassy sent me on an extended trip through Northwest China, unvisited by Foreign Service Officers since the outbreak of the China War20 and a zone of political tension because of nearness to the developing Communist areas. As a result, while on temporary detail in the Department in January, 1943, I was asked to write a memorandum on the general subject of Kuomintang–Communist relations.21 Officers of the Department were not at that time prepared fully to accept my view that those relations would become the core of the China problem as the war progressed and would eventually raise a question of American involvement. They did, however, agree in the need for direct and comprehensive information concerning the Chinese Communists in order to evaluate the probable trend and balance of political forces in China.

After my return to the Embassy in May 1943, the Embassy encouraged me to have informal contact with the officially recognized Communist representatives in Chungking for the purpose of obtaining information without which the Embassy’s reporting of the political situation would have been incomplete.

In August 1943 I was detailed to duty with the staff of General Stilwell.22 Because of my experience and acquaintance with the Communists, and because it was thought impolitic at that time for American Army officers to have such contacts, I was instructed to act as the sole liaison between Army Headquarters and the Communist representatives in Chungking who, because the Central Government refused to permit Americans to visit North China, were the only source of intelligence from that area.

As political intelligence officer for General Stilwell, I also made reports to him on phases of the unstable political situation in China which might affect the conduct of the war and his operations. In connection with this work I was sent on several trips to places of actual or potential unrest and necessarily had direct or indirect contact with groups or persons possibly considered by the Kuomintang to be dissident.

The Embassy was kept fully informed of all my activities, which were entirely the gathering and reporting of information, and received copies of all reports prepared by me which were political in nature. [Page 736] This was at the express wish of General Stilwell who instructed me to cooperate fully with the Embassy and to act as a liaison between it and his Headquarters.

By early in 1944, the rapid expansion of American military participation in China, including preparations for air operations extending into and over North China, caused the Kuomintang-Communist impasse to become an important American military problem: in addition to the need for united activation of all Chinese forces against the Japanese, direct access to the Communist-controlled areas of North China was essential for military intelligence, weather information, air crew rescue and so forth. It was natural, in view of my duties on General Stilwell’s staff, that I was assigned an active part in the negotiations to obtain permission from both factions for American observers to visit Yenan. My connection with the matter was made obvious to the Central Government by my presence with Vice President Wallace23 and General Ferris24 when consent was finally obtained from Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.

The War Department having offered the State Department participation in the observer group, Ambassador Gauss recommended acceptance, for the political intelligence to be obtained, and suggested that I be named. Thus my trip to Yenan, although nominally in a military capacity as a member of General Stilwell’s staff, was actually at the specific request of the State Department.

The Observer Group was explicitly instructed that it was to confine its activities to the gathering of information and such work as air rescue and was not to make any offers or to enter into discussion of military aid or supplies. These instructions were rigidly complied with. They were made known to the Communist leaders in the bluntest and clearest terms in our initial interviews and were a definitely understood condition in all my subsequent relations with them. I so reported in writing at the time.

I remained in Yenan from July to October, 1944. Copies of all reports prepared by me during that time, including memoranda of all non-social interviews with Communist leaders, were furnished the Department through the Embassy.25

When General Stilwell was relieved of command of the China–Burma–India Theater in October, 1944, he ordered my return to the United States and my detail to the Army was considered ended. However, while I was on leave in the United States, his successor, General Wedemeyer,26 requested the State Department to reassign me to the Headquarters of the China Theater for similar duties.

I have been given to understand that the State Department was reluctant to release me because of a current shortage of officers but that, at the same time, it considered it important to maintain political observation at Yenan—which could only be accomplished, practically speaking, by an officer attached to the Army. The Department [Page 737] therefore made my return for duty with General Wedemeyer conditional on my availability for observation at Yenan. General Wedemeyer agreed, stating that I would spend most of my time at Yenan. My return to China in January, 1945, was accordingly on that basis.

It was realized before I returned to China that my longstanding contacts with Communists and other opposition groups, my frequent movements about China, my connection with the negotiations for the Observer Group and my having visited the Communist areas, together with my close relationship to General Stilwell, had aroused the suspicion and hostility of certain persons and groups of the Kuomintang. Stories were freely circulated by them to Americans that I was a Communist.

During my absence from China, General Hurley had become Ambassador and it had already become apparent that he was unfortunately willing to give credence to these unjustified attacks (from which other officers of the Embassy and General Stilwell’s staff also suffered); that he identified private difference of opinion with “opposition” and “disloyalty”; and that he refused to accept factual reports if contrary to what he apparently wished to believe. In discussing this situation with the then Chief of Foreign Service Personnel27 before my departure from Washington, I stated that I was nonetheless willing to return to China because General Wedemeyer had requested my services and because I considered it a war job of importance.

On my arrival in Chungking, Ambassador Hurley warned me that if I “ever interfered with him” he would “break me”. It was never made clear to me just what he considered “interference”.

In February, 1945, after Ambassador Hurley had returned to the United States following a break-down of the Kuomintang-Communist negotiations, there were signs in Chungking of a dangerous drift in the political situation in which both main parties were stiffening their positions and making war-like preparations. The matter was of such gravity that I asked to join the political reporting officers of the Embassy in a telegram to the Department to which Mr. Hurley has apparently objected.

Shortly thereafter it became known that the Communists were about to hold their first Party Congress in many years. In view of the tense political situation in China, it was expected to be of great importance as defining the Communist position and laying down the Party’s future policy. Because political observation was obviously desirable and because I had been assigned to Headquarters for that purpose, I was instructed by the Chief of Staff, then in command, to proceed to Yenan. I did so about March 4, 1945. On this, as on my first trip to Yenan, I was instructed that I was in an observer capacity only. The Communist leaders were informed of this and understood clearly that I had no policy authority whatsoever.

As the Department is aware, I was ordered back to the United States about April 1, 1945, at the instigation of Ambassador Hurley, and since that time have not been concerned with China affairs of a policy nature.

As for the charges made directly by Mr. Hurley or appearing in what seem to be inspired articles (such as those by a former—non-Foreign [Page 738] Service—member of the Chungking Embassy staff), I make the following brief comment.

I am not a Communist. This can be verified by anyone who knows me well.

I did not “sabotage” American policy in China. On the contrary, in answer to unavoidable questions by Communists I explained the impossibility of American intervention in favor of a political party forcefully opposing a recognized government.

I did not tell the Communists that Mr. Hurley’s statements did not represent American policy. On the contrary I never left doubt that they were the policy.

I did not send any messages of any kind to the Communists; nor did I show my reports or other official reports to Communists or any other Chinese; nor did I give the Communists, orally or otherwise, any classified American military information. Officers who were members of the Observer Group can confirm that we took all possible precautions to safeguard our reports.

I did not advocate the collapse or overthrow of the Central Government. On the contrary, my reports will show that I consistently took the view that the Central Government could (and should) strengthen itself by liberalization which would promote unification of the country on a democratic basis, and that American influence should be exerted to that end.

I have had conversation with Mr. Hurley only three times. On two of those I was not asked and had no opportunity to express opinions. I am at a loss to understand his basis for the charges he has made against me. It seems obvious that he has not made a careful reading of my reports and that he is not familiar with the background of my duties and assignments in China which is outlined above.

Everything that I wrote in China was given to the Embassy at Chungking and presumably is a matter of record there or in the Department.

I have received commendations from both General Stilwell and General Wedemeyer. I believe that my efficiency record in the Department of State is favorable.

I have always considered myself a loyal officer of the American Government and the Department of State, and that I have exerted my efforts in the furtherance of American interests.

Respectfully yours,

John S. Service

Approved for transmission:
George Atcheson, Jr.

  1. July 7, 1937.
  2. For memorandum of January 23, 1943, by the Third Secretary of Embassy in China, temporarily in the United States, see Foreign Relations, 1943, China, p. 193.
  3. Lt. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, Commanding General, U. S. Army Forces, China–Burma–India.
  4. For documentation on the mission of Vice President Henry A. Wallace, see Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. vi, pp. 216 ff.
  5. Brig. Gen. Benjamin Ferris, Deputy Chief of Staff to General Stilwell.
  6. For documentation on this subject, see Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. vi, pp. 335718, passim.
  7. Maj. Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer, Commanding General, U. S. Forces, China Theater.
  8. Nathaniel P. Davis.