Media Interview with Lynne Joiner

Joiner-Service China 1980

Joiner and Service on the Great Wall, 1980

Lynne Joiner talks on NPR’s radio station KQED.
Listen to the recording!

Commonwealth Club Interview with Lynne Joiner

Meet Author Lynne Joiner

Author Lynne Joiner discusses her book, “Honorable Survivor,” on October 23, 2009 as part of Northeastern University Libraries’ Meet the Author Series. Lynne Joiner is an award winning broadcast journalist, news anchor, and documentary filmmaker. She tells the true story of John S. Service, a U.S. Foreign Service Officer in wartime China, who had the misfortune of predicting Mao Tse-Tsungs revolution when no U.S. policymakers would listen. She describes Service’s later trials and tribulations at the height of McCarthyism. Find her book in the Library’s catalog, NUCAT at E748.S413 J65 2009.

Podcasts – Episode Two – Meet the Author: Lynne Joiner on “Honorable Survivor”

Journalist, documentary filmmaker, and author Lynne Joiner discusses her new book, Honorable Survivor: Maos China, McCarthys America, and the Persecution of John S. Service at The Henry Luce Foundation in New York. As in her book, Ms. Joiner fits John Services life into the broader historical background of the struggle in 1940s China between the Communists and Nationalists, the American involvement with China during and after World War II, the madness that gripped the United States in the McCarthy period, and the rapprochement after ping pong diplomacy. She illustrates her talk with an array of wonderful photographs (available at –of Service as a child (he was born in Sichuan); as an adult working in China, including his personal meetings with Mao Zedong in Yanan; and his tribulations at the hands of the FBIs J. Edgar Hoover and later Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Lynne Joiner – Honorable Survivor – Part 3


“Though ultimately a vindication, Joiner is neither naïve nor uncritical toward her subject….[Her] book is part biography, part history of an extraordinarily complex and tormented chapter in China-US relations, and part description and analysis of the paranoid style in American politics during the McCarthy era. There are lessons to be learned here, for yesterday and for today.”

Lyman P. Van Slyke, The Journal of the China Quarterly, June 2010

“Honorable Survivor is not just a fascinating read… it also offers breathtaking insights, for diplomats and students of history alike, into the realities of the process of national policymaking, including the terrible toll exacted by egotism, miscommunication, prejudice, turf warfare and plain ignorance. As such, the book is full of timely lessons…. Reading Honorable Survivor, one cannot help but reflect on more recent foreign policy challenges – Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan – where a genuine comprehension of developments in a distant land could make all the difference for effective policymaking.”

Susan Brady Maitra, Foreign Service Journal – January 2010

“Joiner’s engaging biography– the first full portrait of Service, “Honorable Survivor” is an important book…. Service’s reporting, writes Bay Area journalist Joiner in her sympathetic, appealing biography, “would be cited [in McCarthy’s attacks] as evidence not of his prescience but of his sympathy for the Communists.” Actually, it was both…. New information is offered, on Service’s Chinese mistress, on a formidable Washington lawyer’s extraordinary and successful efforts to soften the FBI blows against Service, and other matters.”

Ross Terrill, SF Chronicle – December 27, 2009

“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.”

Andrew J. NathanForeign Affairs Quarterly – January/February 2010

“Vivid, engaging, and dramatic, this book tells the story of a life inextricably linked to a larger story about accusers and the accused in postwar U.S.-China relations and Cold War domestic politics….anyone who would like the U.S. to learn about the political realities of the places we deem strategically important in order to seriously pursue windows of diplomatic possibility should know the name and story of John Service. In addition to keeping alive an engaging and important piece of history, Honorable Survivor contributes to the ongoing story of how America gets information about and understands the world in which it acts.”

Hannah Gurman, History News Network –  March 22, 2010

“John Stewart Service was one of several diplomats caught up in the currents of mid-20th century U.S. domestic and foreign policy as Washington’s strategic objectives shifted rapidly from fighting fascist aggression to halting communism’s advance. In ‘Honorable Survivor’, Lynne Joiner has tapped previously unavailable information from FBI files and State Department records to tell the story of his life in a sympathetic but carefully researched account that ranges from Mao Zedong’s north China redoubt to the marble precincts of the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Suzanne Pepper – February 12, 2010

“Lynne Joiner’s remarkably candid, thorough and sympathetic biography… is yet another testament to the exoneration of a loyal American caught up in a historical maelstrom.”

Byron Tau, Roll Call – September 28th, 2009

Wall Street Journal “Review” Controversy

The Wall Street Journal published two different versions of an article by Jonathan Mirsky about HONORABLE SURVIVOR in December 2009. The author sent a letter to the editor after the first article appeared on WSJ online and in the Asian Wall Street Journal on Dec. 14, but it was never acknowledged. After another version appeared on WSJ online and in The Wall Street Journal (USA) on Dec. 21, Joiner wrote a second letter. It was finally published– 3 weeks later– on Jan. 10, 2010.

Below is Lynne Joiner’s letter to The Wall Street Journal Editor as well as excerpts from Jonathan Mirsky’s articles and links to WSJ online.

January 10, 2010   Service Was No Fellow Traveler
By Lynne Joiner
In his review of my book “Honorable Survivor” (Bookshelf, Dec. 21), Jonathan Mirsky presents startling new revelations from two phone conversations Mr. Mirsky claims to have had with John S. “Jack” Service “shortly before he died”- that is, over 10 years ago-confessing that he had given the Amerasia editor “a top-secret document revealing the Nationalist Order of Battle” that showed “the exact disposition of the forces facing the Mao’s troops.” (Service was never able to see the evidence being used against him during his lifetime-and so it continues a decade after his death.)
I conducted extensive interviews with Service during the last year of his life and he never mentioned this to me or to others who knew him well.
On the night of his arrest in June 1945, Service freely admitted to the FBI that he let the magazine editor borrow some personal copies of reports he had written in Yenan. The FBI found the fingerprints and notations of another State Department employee on other Service reports found in the Amerasia office. Even the Loyalty Review Board reported there “was no evidence that the employee stole or abstracted… any official files,” while instructing the Secretary of State to fire Service for “doubt of loyalty.” Moreover, Service’s activities took place in the context of an ongoing debate over China policy inside the U.S. government, continuing throughout 1944-45. Even Ambassador Patrick Hurley was still working to bring the Communists into some form of coalition government with the Nationalists.
After his reinstatement in 1957, following a unanimous ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court, Service admitted he had broken security regulations and told investigators, “It is not a pleasant thing to say but, yes, I was certainly being used.” Years later, Service told me he also regretted having become a zealous advocate of a particular policy option. His intention had been to promote a realistic U.S. policy aimed at “averting, or blunting, civil war and… preserving our relations with China, if not as the close friend and ally we once hoped for, at least on a basis better than bitter enmity.” These seem hardly the words of a Communist or fellow traveler. read the full article »

December 14, 2009   In the Service of Whose Country?
By Jonathan Mirsky
… In two phone interviews with me shortly before he died, Service admitted that he had given Jaffe a top-secret document revealing the Nationalist Order of Battle which showed the exact disposition of the forces facing the communists. He said he knew this could be considered treason.
Service’s stunning admission that he did pass classified intelligence to Jaffe, whom he must have assumed would pass it on, puts his subsequent career-and Ms. Joiner’s book-in a different light. He no longer can be viewed as an innocent victim…. If what he told me near the end of his life is true, the word treason no longer seems misplaced. read the full article »

December 20, 2009   In Whose Service?
By Jonathan Mirsky
… When I observed that some might regard this as treason (I made no accusation), Service said he knew it. “I want to get this off my chest,” he said, explaining: “I was gullible, and trusting, and foolish.” ….
Service pressed me to publish our conversation, but friends of his said that it would be very painful. I agreed and after some time forgot the whole episode, until Ms. Joiner’s book came my way. His stunning admission that he did supply classified intelligence to Jaffe, whom he must have assumed would pass it on, puts his later career-and Ms. Joiner’s book-in a different light. If what Service told me near the end of his life is true, he can no longer be viewed as an innocent victim. read the full article »