Dover AFB Prepares Testimony for State Legislative Hearing



SUBJECT: Request to testify before state legislatiure concerning Dover AFB role in Guyana. Submitted pursuant to requirements of AFR 110-5 para 17 Reference telecons on 22 January 1979 between 436 ABG/JA and MAC/JA, 21AF/JA and HQ USAF/JAC.

The following request was received at 1500 hours on 19 January 1979 by 436 MAW/CC Quote:

Dear Colonel Mall: During Senate debate on House Joint Resolution 4, urging that unclaimed bodies from the Guyana People’s Temple mass suicide not be buried in Delaware, several Senators expressed a desire to have a first-hand briefing in detail on the existing conditions at Dover Air Force Base with respect to these bodies.

As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Social Services, I have been delegated the duty of inviting you to be present at 2 P.M. Tuesday, Jan 23, in the Senate chamber of Legislative Hall to brief members on the situation as it relates to the bodies still at Dover Air Force Base. You are welcome to bring any members of your staff who may be helpful. I look forward to seeing you next Tuesday if your schedule permits.

Sincerely yours,
signed Herman M. Holloway Sr.
State Senate-2nd District


This appearance date was changed to 3:30 p.m., 25 Jan 79 by Senator Holloway per a telecon with 436 ABG/SJA. Recommend 436 MAW/CC be permitted to appear before this joint session of the State Legislature accompanied by 436 ABG/CD (Project Officer), 436 ABG/JA and a representative of the State Department (Mr. Michael White). It is anticipated that a significant Air Force interest would be served by this appearance in that it would enhance working relations between the State and this AFB. It is further anticipated that this would facilitate removal of the bodies from Dover AFB.

The following proposed statement of the 436MAW/CC is submitted for your approval along with potential peripheral issues and proposed responses.

Statement to a Joint-Session of the Delaware Legislature, 25 January 1979.

“Mr. Chairman, members of the Senate Health and Social Service Committee, the full Senate and the House, I would like to begin by thanking you for inviting me to address this body on the support role Dover Air Force Base played in our nation’s Guyana relief mission. The personnel at Dover, as you know, played no small part in this unprecedented tasking, so there is much to say of them and I trust, you all agree with me, from your knowledge thus far, of the events of these past two months, that the men and women of Dover’s Eagle Wing have put forth a truly outstanding humanitarian effort.

Before I begin, I would like to take a moment to put my remarks in proper perspective for you. Since the inception of this mission, the Air Force has played a secondary role in the processing of these bodies, receiving all of its tasking from the Department of State through the Department of Defense. And so, I will only be able to address with you, the logistical support provided by Dover. Mr. Michael White, from the Consular Affairs office of the Department of State who is here with me today, will address all other facets of the Guyana relief.

Status of Human Remains:

As is publicly know, the final number of bodies brought to Dover from Jonestown, totaled 913. Of that number, 599 casketed remains are being stored at Dover Air Force Base, pending disposition instructions from the Department of State. As a matter of interest, 274 of the 599 bodies still at Dover are unidentified. 325 are identified, but not released.

Logistics Situation:

At the onset of the Guyana operation, it was decided to designate a storage facility that would provide for ease of access, as well as the least possible disruption to our normal mission essential flying activities. In addition, security was given utmost priority in light of the unprecedented events which led to this tragedy. As a result, we decided to use a portion of an alert hanger (Bldg 1315) located on the southeast corner of Dover Air Force Base which is not connected to our operational mission. That alert hanger consists of eight separate, large bays and has been used as a storage area for bulk items and heavy equipment associated with base civil engineering activities. Three of the eight bays (numbers 4, 5 and 6) were emptied and set aside for storage of casketed remains. Their total capacity has enabled us to store all of the remaining 599 bodies inside the three bays.

Personnel Support:

A considerable portion of our manpower resources has been devoted to the receipt, processing, identification and disposition of the remains of the 913 victims of the Peoples Temple tragedy. A total of 947 people volunteered their time to accomplish our part of the Guyana mission. The vast majority of the work was accomplished by the 6th of December allowing almost all of our volunteers to return to their normal duty. We currently have a total of six people involved in logistical support (1 civilian, 1 officer and 4 enlisted personnel) at the storage facility. One of our mortuary people handles the administrative details. The other five are available to assist in the removal of the casketed remains from the storage facility to the vehicles of the local funeral directors which are brought on base to receipt for the remains. This, of course, is to preclude damaging of the caskets prior to turning them over to the funeral directors. Overall, there has been no significant manpower impact on our normal operations.

Long Term Impact of Logistics Situation:

To date and for the immediate future, we will be able to carry out our responsibility for the storage of the 599 bodies. Prolonged storage of these remains could have some impact on scheduled programs – unrelated to our primary mission. We are in the process of entering into an agreement which would allow the move of a civil engineering, maintenance, inspection and training team (CEMIRT) from Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts to our installation by April 1979. In connection with CEMIRT’s move, we had planned to preposition some of their equipment into bays 7 and 8 which are now being used for the civil engineering residual supplies. The move of that CEMIRT equipment to Dover Air Force Base has been slipped pending final disposition of the human remains.

In summary, the logisticals situation is not a problem in the short term, but could cause delay in the relocation of CEMIRT to Dover Air Force Base if continued indefinitely.


As I said at the onset of this statement, the current role of Dover Air Force Base is confined to providing a storage facility for the 599 casketed remains of the Guyana tragedy pending Department of State instructions for their appropriate disposition. The Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, the Honorable Barbara Watson, represented here today by Mr. Michael White, indicated in late December that the State Department would endeavor to reach a decision on the decision on the disposition of the unidentified and unclaimed bodies at Dover by 1 February 1979. Dover Air Force Base will continue to provide for the storage of those bodies as long as our primary airlift mission remains unaffected by their presence. We continue to hope that a near-term solution is at hand in the interests of all parties concerned (see insert on page following). (eds. note: end statement)

In addition to the issues addressed in the proposed remarks of Colonel Mall there is a possibility that the following issues and questions may be raised:

I. Concerning the mortuary contract.

(A) How and to whom was the base mortuary contract for Guyana awarded?

Proposed answer: It was a modification to the present base mortuary contract which was awarded after public bid as a requirements contract to a Mr Earl Ford under the ASPR. This modification is similar to one which was awarded to the base contractor when Dover handled the bodies from the 747 crash in the Azores. Mr. Ford is a new contractor whose contract began on 1 October 1978. The total amount of the modification is approximately $360,000.00.

(B) Is there presently an investigation concerning this contract?

Proposed answer: Yes.

(C) Is it true that the FBI is conducting this investigation?

Proposed answer: Yes.

(D) Could you please tell us about the investigation?

I am sorry, but I am not at liberty to discuss the matter at this time.

II. Concerning the environmental impact.

(A) What impact if any did the processing of the bodies have on the local environment?

Proposed answer: To the best of my knowledge none. The processing of all bodies was coordinated with the National Center for Disease Control and the discharge of all effluence was coordinated with the Kent County engineer and the Director of Environmental Control for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control for the State of Delaware. Further, the Kent County waste treatment plant at the air base’s request increased the chlorination rate at the pumping station No. 6 and took daily samples to monitor the discharge. Finally, the entire processing was monitored by the base environmental engineer and bio-environmental engineer.

(B) Do the bodies present a health hazard?

Proposed answer: To the best of my knowledge no. The medical personnel who handled the bodies informed me that they did not present a health hazard before they were embalmed and now that they are embalmed and in sealed caskets they will not present a health hazard.

III. The issue of removal of bodies to the West Coast by military aircraft.

(A) What is the weekly flying schedule from Dover to the West Coast Air Force bases, Travis in particular, for the C5A aircraft?

(B) What is the feasibility of using these aircraft in transporting the Guyana bodies to the West Coast on these aircraft?

(C) What is the feasibility of using other cargo aircraft, in particular the C141, in transporting the Guyana bodies to the West Coast?

What would be the approximate cost for transporting the bodies on these aircraft to the West Coast?

Proposed answer to all above questions: I do not have this information available to me at this time but I will be more than happy to endeavor to obtain this information for you. However, questions pertaining to the decision not to use military air to fly these bodies, and questions concerning policy or political consideration will be referred to the State Department representative present.

IV. All questions concerning the present and past dispositions of the bodies, including the death certificate issue will be referred to the State Department representative present.

V. Concerning overall costs of Guyana.

(A) What costs have been incurred by Dover Air Force Base in support of the Guyana operation?

Proposed answer: All costs directly attributable to the Guyana operation have been charged to the State Department on a reimbursable basis. Total costs at Dover as of January amounted to $651,989.17. $110,571.01 of this amount involved military personnel costs. The remaining costs were associated with the processing and storage of the casketed remains.

(B) What are the overall costs of Guyana to the government?

Proposed answer: I am sorry, but I do not know the answer to that question, I am only in a position to speak to Dover’s incurred costs.

Absent instructions to the contrary, class A uniforms will be worn by all Air Force personnel attending this legislative session.