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Death Knell of Freedom

General Stilwell, a conservative Republican like Hurley, was no Communist. He hated Chiang, however, committed crucial command blunders, and allowed his animas toward the Chinese leader to unwittingly make him a dupe of those who were Communist. It took Hurley only a few months to recognize that State Department officials John Stewart Service, George Acheson (brother of Assistant Secretary of State Dean Acheson), John Paton Davies, John Carter Vincent, and numerous others were actively, defiantly workingto undermine established American policy in free China, as articulated by Roosevelt and supported by the American public.

These men also labored to smear and thwart Hurley. With FDR’s support, the Oklahoman fired Service, Davies, Acheson, and eight other of the so-called “Old China Hands,” and reestablished legitimate U.S. foreign policy. Hurley won the devoutly Christian Chiang’s lasting reverence for doing so.

Roosevelt’s mortal illness and April 1945 death, however, proved the first toll of the death knell of freedom in China. Hurley gradually realized that the Yalta Conference among the Allied leaders shortly before the weak, emaciated President’s passing had paved the way for direct Soviet influence and presence in post-war China. The Oklahoman quickly recognized the devastating effect this was likely to have on Chiang’s struggle against Mao and his Communists. Young Massachusetts Congressman and war hero John F. Kennedy later agreed:

“At (Yalta), a sick Roosevelt, with the advice of General (George) Marshall and other Chiefs of Staff, gave (islands) as well as the control of various strategic Chinese ports…to the Soviet Union….The vital interest of the United States in the independent integrity of China was sacrificed, and the foundation was laid for the present tragic situation in the Far East.”

Championing Communist Chinese

Vice President Harry Truman entered the Oval Office as clueless about American policy in China—including Yalta’s effects on it—as Roosevelt had left him on nearly everything else. Pro-Communists in the U.S. government now promoted Service, Acheson, and others, despite the esteemed Hurley’s dismissal of them.

Service would face a series of trials for espionage and treason over the next several years, before finally being removed from the government. Years later, he was reinstated by a liberal U.S. Supreme Court. He was, however, posted far away from his native China and awarded no further promotions.