Serial 1927

[Editor’s note: Several of the subjects whose names are deleted in this serial are known to the editor, oftentimes because they were revealed by the State Department’s online records. Those notations have been indicated by red type.]

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[Listing of agencies receiving informational copies on pdf]

0 162000Z FEB 79
FM AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9019

LIMITED OFFICIAL USE SECTION 1 OF 2 GEORGETOWN 0745

E.O. 12065: NA
TAGS: OGEN/ GY (PEOPLE’S TEMPLE)
SUBJ: HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE QUESTIONS ON THE PEOPLE’S TEMPLE

REF: STATE 38083

1. Reftel para 1-(I). Individual statements on contacts of mission personnel with the People’s Temple prior to November 18, 1978, being hand delivered to Washington with delivered to ARA/CAR [McCoy] expected February 22.

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2. A. Reftel para 1-(3). Regarding minor child [Dana Griffith Truss] the following communications are relevant: 77 State 303126 and 303147; 77 Georgetown 33221 (3322!?) 77 State 309694; 78 Georgetown 0034 and 0232; Dept letter (CA/CSC) of January 25, 1978 to [names deleted].

B. According to these messages [Dana Griffith] lived with her maternal grandparents from shortly after her birth. The child accompanied them when they immigrated to Guyana in June of 1977, according to State 303126. Guyanese immigration authorities, however, state that they have no record of [Dana Griffith’s] entry into Guyana, although immigration records show that the other

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family members arrived on August 11, 1977. The passports of the grandparents, Emmet and Mary Griffith, now in the department, may yield further information. In December, 1977 [Dana’s] mother telephoned SCS and requested assistance effecting [Dana’s] return. The Embassy discussed the situation with [Dana’s] grandmother refused to send [Dana] back and with Guyanese authorities who suggested that [Dana’s] mother sue for custody in Guyana. There is no indication in our files to indicate whether [Carnella Truss] ever pursued the matter.

3. Reftel para 1-(4). A. Legal arrangement under which People’s Temple operated in Guyana: The Embassy was not aware of the precise details of the lease which the People’s Temple held in Jonestown, although former [Consul McCoy] had been told by Temple members that a formal cooperative arrangement was being considered when he inquired about public reports of applications for Guyanese citizenship by Temple members. L/ARA has copies of the official Guyanese documents permitting

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the People’s Temple to settle in Guyana.

B. The Government of Guyana informed the Embassy prior to November 14 that the People’s Temple members enjoyed the same rights to privacy as do other Guyanese residents. The Guyanese Government therefore stated it would not undertake to force the People’s Temple to receive visitors it did not wish to receive.

4. Reftel para 1-(5). The Guyanese police recovered 803 passports from Jonestown, and turned them over to the Embassy. The Embassy in turn forwarded them to the Department (CA/PPT/L). It is the Embassy’s recollection that these passports include two British Honduran (i.e., [Belize]) and one British passport, but this can easily be checked in the Department. British High Commission was provided Xerox copies

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of bio pages from these passports.

[Page 5 of serial is a misfiled page from another unknown serial]

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5. Reftel para 1-7: The Embassy has no firsthand knowledge of the foreign travel either the Reverend Jim Jones or [Mr. Tim Stoen]. Jones’ passports dating back a number of years have been sent to the Department, however, and may offer such information. A special edition of the Georgetown “Chronicle” of December 6 on the People’s Temple, has articles dealing with Jones’ stay in Brazil and with a proposed trip to Cuba which he possibly made in October, 1976. The Department has copies of this “Chronicle” special edition.

6. Reftel para 1-(8). The Embassy has no record of ever receiving a report of US Customs inspection of any shipment to the People’s Temple in Guyana. That such an inspection had taken place, however, was alleged by People’s Temple members [names deleted] and probably to others as evidence of official American government harassment. People’s Temple members also alleged that Guyanese customs inspected in detail for shipment of goods from the United States to Jonestown, inferring that the extraction was undertaken as a result of prodding by the American government. The fact of the Guyanese inspection in detail of one shipment was confirmed by the Controller of Customs to the Ambassador after November 18, 1978 but no reason (i.e., an Interpol suggestion, was stated for the inspection. Controller volunteered that their search has been negative in terms of any contraband.

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7. Reftel para 1-(9). Guyana Airways Corporation (GAC) records show that the GAC Twin Otter aircraft which was sent to pick up the congressional party at Port Kaituma on November 18 left Georgetown’s Timehri Airport at 1552 hours November 18 and arrived at Port Kaituma at 1647 hours local time. (DCM Dwyer’s report and other published reports reflecting an earlier arrival time of the aircraft at Port Kaituma are apparently in error.) The single engine Cessna aircraft

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arrived in Port Kaituma at the same time. The attack on the congressional party took place approximately a half hour later. At approximately 1800 hours Prime Minister Forbes Burnham telephoned the Ambassador and requested that the Ambassador come immediately to the Prime Minister’s Georgetown residence. At approximately 1815 hours [Embassy Second Secretary Joseph Hartman] who earlier in the day had helped to arrange for the charter of the Cessna, was telephoned by a representative of the owner of the aircraft and informed that

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[Listing of agencies receiving informational copies on pdf]

0 162000Z FEB 79
FM AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9020

LIMITED OFFICIAL USE SECTION 2 OF 2 GEORGETOWN 0745

there had been a shooting incident at the Port Kaituma airstrip about which he had heard from a civil aviation official. [Mr. Hartman] immediately called [Consul Douglas Ellice] and then went to [Mr. Ellice’s] house, approximately 150 yards from his own. He informed [Mr. Ellice] of the telephone call. [Mr. Ellice] immediately telephoned the Ambassador but the Ambassador had already left to go to the Prime Minister’s residence. [Second Secretary Peter Londono] was at Timehri Airport together with HFAC staff member [James Schollaert] to meet the delegation upon its return from Port Kaituma. He was informed by the airport authorities at approximately 6:15 PM that a shooting had occurred at Port Kaituma and that the Ambassador was at that moment on his way to meet with the Prime Minister.

After receiving an initial briefing from the Primin on the shooting at Port Kaituma as well as what the GOG planned to do to get security forces into the area, the Ambassador went directly to the chancery, arriving at 7:55 PM according to the logbook of the Marine security guard, and dictated 78 Georgetown 3774 which was sent at 2030 hours local time. The Ambassador also placed an overseas call to [Ashley Hewitt, the director of ARA/CAR]. The call could not be completed immediately so that when the Ambassador left the Chancery to return to the Prime Minister’s residence at

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8:30 PM he instructed his secretary to read [Hewitt] the text of the message when the call came through. This was done at approximately 8:40 PM. At 2250 hours local 78 Georgetown 3775 was transmitted which contained an unofficial list of the passenger manifest containing the names of those who accompanied Congressman Ryan on November 17. At 0015 hours local 78 Georgetown 3776 was transmitted, containing the second report of the Ambassador who had just returned from the Prime Minister’s residence or the aircraft crew of the Otter and Cessna were being debriefed. The pilot reported that Congressman Ryan and members of the NBC crew had been killed. At 0715 hours local on the morning of November 19 Police Commissioner [Lloyd] Barker telephoned the Ambassador and confirmed the deaths of Congressman Ryan, NBC newsmen [Don] Harris and [Bob] Brown and one unidentified photographer, which information was transmitted in 78 Georgetown 3778 at 0805 hours local. The Police Commissioner called again later in the morning to add the names of Gregory Robinson and Mrs. Patricia Parks to the list of dead, which message was transmitted as 78 Georgetown 3779 at 1150 hours local time.

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8. Reftel para 1-(10). In addition to the visitors cited in the Jonestown guestbook already provided to the Committee, the following individuals are also known to have visited Jonestown: GOG Chief Medical Officer; [GOG Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Wills and Minister of Education Vincent Teekah] GOG Northwest Regional Development Officer; [British High Commissioner Peter Gautrey]; Chancellor of the University of Guyana; GOG Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Works; GOG Assistant Director-General of National Service; GOG Northwest Regional Minister; [Dr. Albert Greenfield]; Guyanese dental surgeon Dr. Ng-A-Fook; the Rev. and Mrs. John Moore (whose two daughters

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perished on November 18 at Jonestown); GOG Permanent Rep to the UN Rashleigh Jackson before his appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

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9. Reftel para 1-(11). The weapons recovered from Jonestown were enumerated by FBI [names deleted] on temporary duty in Georgetown. [Ambassador John Burke] messages to FBI headquarters concerning these weapons were 78 Georgetown 3927; 3969, 3970; and 4017. Thirty-two weapons, including one signal flare pistol, were recovered by the police of Jonestown which together with the pistol allegedly taken away from Mr. Lawrence [Laurence] Layton by [Mr. Dale Parks] at Port Kaituma on November 18 comprise the 33 weapons noted in [Chairman Zablocki’s] letter. In addition to these, two weapons were seized by the police in Port Kaituma from Messrs. [Tim and Michael Carter] and Michael Prokes. The Guyanese police have informed the Embassy that they have no knowledge of any other weapons at Jonestown.

Burke [John Burke, American ambassador to Guyana]

Originally posted on August 5th, 2020.

Last modified on December 26th, 2020.
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