John Carter Vincent

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This article is about the diplomat. For other uses of the name, see John Vincent (disambiguation).

John Carter Vincent (August 19, 1900 – December 3, 1972) was an American diplomat, Foreign Service Officer, and China Hand. Born in Seneca, Kansas,Vincent graduated from Mercer University in 1923 and was appointed Foreign Service Officer in the same year. He then served in Changsha, Hankow, Swatow, Peking, Mukden, Nanking, and Dairen, before becoming Counsellor to the American Embassy in Chongqing in 1942. He became Director of the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs in 1945, then Envoy to Switzerland, 1947-51. He was diplomatic agent in Tangier 1951-52, before being forced to resign from the Foreign Service in 1952. He retired to Cambridge, Massachusetts and died there in 1972.

Wartime Activities[edit]

Vincent was among the China Hands who wanted to gather intelligence from and provide material to the Communist armies, then part of the Allied coalition in the war against Japan and ostensibly under Chiang's command. When Vincent and other China Hands, including John Service accompanied Vice-President Henry Wallace on a state visit to the Soviet Union and Chongqing in June, 1944, he helped to persuade the Generalissimo to finally grant permission for the Dixie Mission, which opened contact with the Communist base areas. According to the New York Times:

The China experts, traveling through the areas controlled by various warlords, reported that Chiang's Nationalist Party, the Kuomintang, was dragging its feet, reserving its American-supplied arms for an eventual showdown with the Communists. The old China hands predicted that in such a fight, the Communists would win. They called instead for American pressure on Chiang to reform his Government and direct his forces against the Japanese, in cooperation with the Communists. "Selfish and corrupt, incapable and obstructive," were a few of the words Mr. Service used to describe the Chiang Government in a 1944 memo to General Stilwell. Vincent and the China Hands also argued that the Chinese Communists had their own genuine domestic roots that might trump any ideological loyalty to the USSR, as was occurring at the time with Tito's Yugoslavia. The defenders of the China Hands argued that it was exactly this perspective in China policy that Nixon and Kissinger began to implement in 1972.[1]

End of career[edit]

In 1951 Vincent was attacked by Senator Joseph McCarthy and accused of having been a member of the Communist Party by former Party activist Louis F. Budenz.[2] Budenz testified in the summer of 1951 that Vincent had been a member of the Communist Party. Budenz, however, indicated he had no personal knowledge of this, basing his opinion on what he claimed had overheard other party leaders say when discussing the anti-communism of Ambassador Patrick Hurley, whom they disliked and hoped Vincent would replace.

Similar accusations were made against all the China Hands, based on their allegations of ineptitude and corruption of Chiang Kai Shek's regime. After having been cleared by numerous administrative security panels of any disloyalty, in December 1952 the Civil Service Loyalty Review Board by a one vote margin found reasonable doubt regarding Vincent's loyalty and in 1953 Secretary Dulles requested Vincent's resignation.[3] Dean Acheson, Truman's Secretary of State, as he had with Alger Hiss, steadfastly defended Vincent. Acheson felt that Vincent, like the China Hands generally, was being unfairly and demagogically maligned for honestly conveying inconvenient facts and tried to intervene with Dulles to save Vincent's career.

He died on December 3, 1972.[4]


  1. ^ John Kifner, "John Service, a Purged 'China Hand,' Dies at 89", New York Times (February 4, 1999).
  2. ^ M. Stanton Evans, Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe Mccarthy and His Fight against America's Enemies (New York: Crown Forum, 2007): 42-3,
  3. ^ Memorandum by the Secretary of State in the Matter of John Carter Vincent Memorandum by the Secretary of State in the Matter of John Carter Vincent
  4. ^ "John Carter Vincent Dies. Specialist on China Policy. Diplomat Was Dismissed Despite Loyalty Report.". New York Times. December 5, 1972. Retrieved 2008-08-15. "John Carter Vincent, a China specialist and former director of the State Department's Office of Far Eastern Affairs, died Sunday" ... 

External Sources[edit]


  • Gary May, China Scapegoat: The Diplomatic Ordeal of John Carter Vincent (Washington, DC: New Republic Books, 1979).