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RG 30/119 - John S. and Caroline E. Service (1909-1999, 1909-1997)


John “Jack” Stewart Service, a graduate of Oberlin College (A.B. Economics, 1931; honorary L.L.D., 1977), spent the most fruitful years of his life as a U.S. Foreign Service officer attached to the State Department. His service in China during WWII ultimately made him one of the most famous of the “Old China hands.” His disagreements with U.S. foreign policy towards Mao Tse-Tung and the Chinese revolutionary movements during and after World War II propelled him into the spotlight during the Joseph McCarthy era.

Service was born in Cheng-tu, Szechwan Province, China on August 3, 1909, the fourth child to Robert Roy Service (n.d.) and Grace Boggs Service (n.d.). His parents had relocated to China in 1905 as career missionaries for the Shanghai YMCA. The family took home-leave in 1915 in Cleveland, Ohio where John attended primary school. After returning to China, his mother continued his education through correspondence courses supplied by the Calvert School in the United States. At the age of eleven, the Service family relocated again to Shanghai, where John began high school at the Shanghai American School (n.d.). After graduation (n.d.), he apprenticed himself to a Shanghai architect; concentrating on designs for YMCA buildings. He initially hoped to attend University of California, Berkeley, but was attracted to the life of missionary work and instead, enrolled at Oberlin College (1927-31).

At Oberlin, he participated in student government, the Shansi Committee, the OberlinReview and the Hi-O-Hi staff, the Peace Society, the Men’s Honor Court and the Ohio Conference Championship track team. He married his College classmate, Caroline Edward Schulz (O.C. 1931, History, Phi Beta Kappa) in Haiphong, French Indo-China on November 9, 1933, where his father was stationed as a missionary.

The couple went to Shanghai in 1933, when John accepted a clerkship at the American Consulate. In 1935, he was commissioned as a U.S. Foreign Service officer and stationed in Kunming, China. In the early 1940s Service was assigned to the U.S. Army under General Joseph Stillwell. Known for his fluency in Chinese language and culture, he was ordered by General Stillwell to assess Mao Tse-Tung’s growing revolutionary movement in Southern China. In his reports to Stillwell and the State Department, he indicated that the Communists would eventually force Chiang Kai-Shek to democratize his government, end corruption and seek some accommodation with the Communists. He described China as unstable and ripe for civil war, and said that the Communists’ presence could not be ignored.

The family evacuated China during the war and relocated to Washington, D.C. In 1945, he was charged with spying after the Amerasia affair. His reports opposing American foreign policy toward China led to his arrest by the F.B.I.  The Bureau accused him of conspiracy in violation of the Espionage Act.  Six different loyal board and security hearings found no evidence to substantiate the charges against Service.

In 1950, U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) blacklisted him among the 205 people he labeled as Communists. As one of McCarthy’s first victims, Service was fired from the State Department in 1951. Despite having been cleared by the six loyalty boards, Service found his job opportunities to be quite limited. He was forced to make ends meet by taking positions in a marina and a steam valve company until the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated his State Department position with back pay in 1957.

After an assignment at the U.S. Consulate in Liverpool, England (c. 1960), he retired from the Foreign Service, and completed an M.A. in Political Science (1964) at the University of California, Berkeley.

He stayed in Berkeley until his retirement in 1974 at the Center for Chinese Studies, where he oversaw development of the first research library in the West to specialize in Communist China. He edited and reviewed books on China for the Center and the University of California Press. In 1974, he wrote Lost Chance in China: The World War II Dispatches of J.S. Service, and edited his mother’s memoirs Golden Inches: The China Memoir of Grace Service, in 1989.

In retirement, he was elected to the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association, (c. 1978-1982), and was named Honorary Shansi Trustee in 1982. His earlier service to the College included Alumni Board in the 1950s and Class President of the class of 1931 during 1977-1981. In 1977, he was presented an honorary L.L.D. by his alma mater.

Service died in Oakland, California on February 3, 1999. He and Caroline (1909-1997) had been married for sixty-five years. They had three children: Virginia (O.C. 1957), Robert (O.C. 1958), and Philip.


Caroline “Cary” Schulz, a Phi Beta Kappa history major at Oberlin College (1927-1931) was born in Kansas City, Missouri on November 30, 1909. Her father, Edward Hugh Schulz, was a West Point Academy graduate and career army officer. His wife, Katherine Julia Muhleman Schulz (m. November 12, 1898), and youngest child Caroline moved with him as frequent transfers required. Caroline’s education, therefore, was quite erratic. She attended seven schools by the end of elementary school—New Haven, St. Paul, Deming, two in Washington D.C., Milwaukee, Seattle— and three high schools in Honolulu and Seattle: a total of ten moves before enrolling in college.

Her decision to enter Oberlin College in 1927 was apparently influenced by her parents’ acquaintance with the Hemingway family. At Oberlin she was a member of the Peace Society, a drama group, and the Aeliolian Literary Society. She also served as Assistant Advertising Manager for the Hi-O-Hi staff. At Oberlin, she met her future husband, John Stewart Service (A.B. Economics, 1931; honorary L.L.D., 1977).

After graduation in 1931, she made her formal debut into Washington D.C. through the social scene at the officer’s club on Ft. Humphrey Army Base. She completed a business and secretarial course at Strayer College in Washington D.C. (1932-33).

John Service and Caroline were married on November 9, 1933 in Haiphong, French Indo-China (present day Vietnam) where John’s father was stationed. She accompanied him to their first U.S. government position in Shanghai in 1933, beginning a long, eventful career spent in both China and Washington D.C. The events of the Joseph McCarthy era deeply affected her family life. Because her husband wrote critically of U.S. policy towards China, they were forced to endure years of legal hassles to clear his name of Communist charges. The U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled that he be reinstated to the State Department position he formally held, and receive back pay. After John Service retired from the U.S. Foreign Service, they relocated to Oakland, California for the remainder of their lives.

Caroline Edward Schulz Service died in Oakland, California on November 18, 1997. John and Caroline Service had three children: Virginia (O.C. 1957), Robert (O.C. 1958), and Philip.

Sources Consulted

Oberlin College Archives. Record Group 28. Alumni File, John Stewart Service.

Oberlin College Archives. Record Group 28. Alumni File, Caroline Edward Schulz Service.

Dr. John H. McCormick

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