the book

About the Book

HONORABLE SURVIVOR: Mao’s China, McCarthy’s America and the Persecution of John S. Service¬†is a fascinating tale of international intrigue, spies, romance, and the fate of nations that remains relevant today. Emmy award-winning journalist Lynne Joiner weaves John Service’s extraordinary story into the fabric of a watershed moment in our history when World War II was ending, the Cold War was dawning, and the McCarthy era witch-hunters were stirring. The book is a compelling true story of love, betrayal, reversal of fortune and final redemption.
From the time of his arrival at Yan’an, the Chinese Communist stronghold during World War II, John S. Service was in the thick of momentous events. After getting to know Mao and other top guerilla leaders, the Foreign Service officer cautioned his government not to take sides in China’s renewed civil war and alerted top U.S. officials to the growing power of Mao’s peasant revolution which he predicted would change China- and the world- forever.
But Service’s prescience was turned into persecution: he became a scapegoat for the alleged “loss” of China to Mao’s communists, attacked as a traitor when war in Korea began and was fired in disgrace on false (and confidential) charges he fathered the illegitimate child of his wartime lover, a beautiful Chinese actress and alleged Soviet spy.

Service became an early victim of Senator Joe McCarthy’s infamous witch hunt and was a suspicious “person of interest and doubtful loyalty” to J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI for more than a quarter century.

A unanimous ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court returned Service to the diplomatic corps in 1957, but only Nixon and Mao’s historic handshake in 1972 finally confirmed his vindication by history.

Joiner was accorded special access to Service’s private papers and photographs (with Mao, Zhou Enlai among others). Through painstaking FOIA appeals, Joiner gained access to secret FBI, CIA, and State Department security records and confidential transcripts of congressional hearings and federal loyalty review boards. Newly released Soviet and U.S. documents demonstrate that some of his wartime associates were in fact identified as Communist spies or fellow travelers; Service himself, Joiner concludes, was an¬†honorable survivor, innocent of the charges leveled against him.