Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
FBI Catalogue: Tapes Not Summarized
FBI preliminary tape identification note: One unlabeled/April 13 meeting
Date cues on tape: 13 April 1978 (notation on tape box, confirmed in context)
Sen. Robert Kennedy (D-New York)
Sen. John Stennis (D-Mississippi)
Charles C. Diggs (D-Michigan) (by reference)
Fidel Castro, leader of Cuba
Eric Gairy, prime minister of Grenada
Nikita Khrushchev, premier of the Soviet Union
Karl Marx, German economist, father of communism
Peter Fernandes, head of Guyana Livestock Board
Hamilton Green, Guyana Minister of Health and Labor (by reference)
Cheddi Jagan, leader of People’s Progressive Party
Guyana Minister of Foreign Affairs (by reference) (either Fred Wills, former minister, or Rashleigh E. Jackson)
Angela Davis, member of Communist Party, black activist
Huey Newton, leader of Black Panther Party
Lee Harvey Oswald, alleged assassin of Pres. John F. Kennedy
Thomas Dawsey, Kessler Air Force Base engineer (by reference)
Donald Freed, author and screenwriter (by reference)
Leon Joly, March Air Force Base engineer (by reference)
Unita Blackwell Wright, mayor of Fayetteville, Mississippi (by reference)
Mervyn Dymally, Lieutenant Governor of California
Charles Garry, Temple attorney
Carlton Goodlett, San Francisco physician, newspaper publisher
Genesda (phonetic), “head of a public advocates in San Francisco”
Mabel and Wade Medlock
Elmer and Deanna Mertle, aka Al and Jeannie Mills
Temple members not on death or survivors’ lists:
Hazel (reference seemingly to stateside person)
Calvin (could be part of nickname of “Kool-Aid Calvin”)
Christine (numerous in Jonestown; could be name used in colloquial expression)
Irene (numerous in Jonestown; could be name used in colloquial expression)
Ann (probably either Annie Moore or Annie Rozynko)
Clarence (probably Clarence Cole, aka Clarence Klingman)
Connie (probably Connie Frohm)
Dan (probably Kutulas) (speaks)
Diane (numerous in Jonestown) (speaks)
Kay (probably Nelson; specified later in tape)
Phyllis (could be either Chaikin or Houston, although woman sounds older)
Rebecca (probably either Rebecca Beikman or Rebecca Flowers) (speaks)
Avis Jocelyn Breidenbach, aka Avis Garcia (by reference)
Gloria Rodriguez Carter
Gene Chaikin (speaks)
Sandra Yvette Cobb aka Sandy Jones
James Edwards (“Reb”)
David George (by reference)
John Harris (speaks)
Beatrice Alberta Jackson
Ava Phenice Jones, aka Ava Cobb, Ava Cobb- Brown
James Warren Jones, Jr. (by reference)
Johnny Jones, aka Johnny Moss Brown, Jr.
Lew Eric Jones (by reference)
Marceline Jones (by reference)
Marchelle Jacole Jones (by reference)
Monyelle Maylene Jones (by reference)
Stephan Jones (speaks)
Timothy Glenn Tupper Jones (by reference)
Shanda Michelle Oliver, aka Shanda Michelle James
The Jonestown community is in the “middle of a White Night,” as Jim Jones describes the meeting held in mid-April 1978, and there is a lot to discuss: an upcoming visit from the head of Tass, the official news agency of the Soviet Union; a press conference which the Jonestown leadership will hold in a few days with their critics in the media and relatives; a potential relocation of the settlement to Cuba; and the financial strain of checks being blocked from the U.S. and the Guyanese currency being devalued. There are other petty frustrations, such as a faltering sound system and audio bleed-through from the radio room. Despite these problems, both mundane and seemingly monumental, the tone of the meeting is, for the most part, open and warm, with Jones in a good mood and laughter echoing on a number of occasions.
The tape begin, as do most others in this collection, in mid-thought. Jones is recalling some of the political difficulties they had back in the States, telling familiar stories of the people that the Temple defended and chastising those same people for refusing to stand up for the Temple. He uses the occasion to remind people how miserable their lives had been in the States in general, and wonders aloud how any of them could consider returning to a place of such racist and capitalist exploitation.
Instead of returning to the US, the subject of a massive migration to Cuba recurs several times in the tape. Jones spends some time talking about the beauties of the island country and its commitment to social welfare. Even the problems with physical infrastructure the people of Jonestown may have heard about should be of no great concern, because Cuba is channeling its resources into true necessities. “Some of their streets are not up to par, because they been putting more care in the hospitals and the schools,” Jones says.
Describing the Jonestown community as an “open democracy,” Jones asks for a discussion of the idea as they move towards a decision. He himself points out benefits and drawbacks to the proposal: they wouldn’t need a security force as they have in Jonestown, because the reactionary forces aligned against them wouldn’t be able to get close, “and I can assure you then that there’d be no more hassle in terms of the families” who want to get their relatives out of the community. At the same time, the Cuban government might not allow Jones to retain his position as leader, and he would be inclined to accept that decision, since he wasn’t the kind of man with an “ego [that] has to defend his throne.”
Nevertheless, Jones himself raises obstacles to the idea of moving. While at one point he says that the Cuban government has no problem taking all of them – provided there was no “rightwing fascist coup” between now and then – he answers a question at another point by saying, if Cuba blocks any of them from going, then none of them should go. More specifically, he talks about people they might not let in, like babies born in Jonestown, or a Guyanese youth who now lives in the Jonestown settlement. Jones suggests that they raise these issues with Cuba, then – as he proposes on other tapes on which the subject of migration to Cuba comes up – “if there’s any hang-up, here I die, with [my children]. The rest of you can go, but I die. No, I’m just telling you, I’m just telling you for me, that’s just the way it is, I’m sick of it, I ain’t gone through that shit no more.”
There are alternatives to Cuba besides death – Jones mentions the Caribbean island nation of Grenada, which has a sympathetic government with which the Temple leadership has previously negotiated (and this time, he adds, they would be negotiating from a stronger position than they had when they were in the States) – but he also mentions death at least twice.
He also raises the subject of nuclear war extinguishing the community, once as an argument for going to Cuba – “Everybody goes sometime, and it would be lovely to be where there’re the most fantastic cooperatives I’ve ever seen in my life” – and once as an obstacle to their departure for Cuba. The Castro government is protected by the Soviet Union, but the fact is, Cuba has been active in liberation movements in Africa, and all their own plans have to remain contingent upon the timing of the nuclear war, which he describes (as he has in other tapes) as inevitable.
The potential migration leads to a conversation about the imminent arrival of a correspondent from the Soviet news agency Tass. Jones directs a general community clean-up – elimination of eyesores, setting up park benches, hanging plants outside of cottages – but spends more time discussing who from Georgetown should accompany the Soviet delegation.
The people also discuss the upcoming news conference to take place in the States, but most of the conversation consists of proposals to disrupt it. One person suggests the use of tear gar, another offers the idea of a stink bomb, and yet a third notes that a phoned-in threat of a gunman would serve to delay the event. Another woman says that, even though she doesn’t want to go back to the US, “I would like to go there on account of [Temple critics Elmer and Deanna Mertle, aka Al and Jeannie Mills]… I would like to go there and kill a bunch of them and then let the policemen kill me, or give up, let ‘em kill me, because I’d like to get a lot of them before they get me.”
It might not be that easy, another woman counters, you might be tortured rather than killed. At that point – with Jones’ participation – the conversation turns to ways to resist, endure, and eventually succumb to torture. “You can quit eating and quit drinking,” Jones notes, “and they can’t keep you alive indefinitely with intravenous. No way. They can try, but they can’t do it… Don’t let them feed you. Don’t let them give you a drop of water. Then the torture will stop pretty soon.”
Although there is a bit of nervous laughter at the gallows humor around the idea of disrupting the press conference and suffering the consequences for it, the laughter is genuine and hearty elsewhere. Jones joins in as well, even poking fun at himself and some of the petty frustrations that annoy him elsewhere on the tape (such as mimicking the radio voice that bleeds through and interrupts the P.A. system).
Still, it is a White Night, and Jones asks people to prepare for it by staying close to the pavilion, limiting the portions of what they eat, allowing seniors to sleep, and enabling security forces to encircle the general population.
Jones is the most agitated in the tape towards the end when he talks about money, the devaluation of the Guyanese currency, the machinations of the International Monetary Fund (as well as the fact the people in Jonestown don’t even seem to know what the IMF is), and the checks which are being blocked. Although he is concerned about threats to the $4 million which he says they have in Guyana banks, he also downplays the significance of that amount. “That isn’t all we got, now. I don’t put all eggs in one basket. That ain’t all we got. We got some buried over yonder, and here and there and elsewhere.”
Throughout the White Night – throughout the history of Jonestown – people stood by their leaders and accepted the hardships of living in a foreign country, separated from everything that was familiar to them, and harassed (as they felt they were) by the US government, the media and their families. Midway through this tape, an older unidentified male expresses his loyalty to Jones that still remained strong:
“Dad, I’d taken this lady home a lot of many nights from the Temple, and one night, me and my wife was taking her home, and we was telling her about we was getting ready to sell out everything we had, we didn’t want anything, we was going to join the cause. She said, you all ain’t nothing but damn fools, to sell your property and go with him out there. You should keep some for your children. I said, I don’t want anything. I don’t have any children. I got some nephews and nieces, and I don’t want to leave them anything, because they don’t care nothing about me. So I’m going to sell out everything I got and go with him. That’s what me and my wife did.”
Date of transcription: 3/7/79
In connection with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into the assassination of U.S. Congressman LEO J. RYAN at Port Kaituma, Guyana, South America, on November 18, 1978, a tape recording was obtained. This tape recording was located in Jonestown, Guyana, South America, and was turned over to U.S. Officials in Guyana and subsequently transported to the United States.
On March 6, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B47-33. This tape was found to contain the following:
This tape was reviewed, and nothing was contained thereon which was considered to be of evidentiary nature or beneficial to the investigation of Congressman RYAN.
Differences with FBI Summary:
There is nothing to compare between the two summaries, since the FBI did not write anything for this, or 64 other tapes which bear the notation “Tapes Not Summarized.” These tapes seems to have little on them which the FBI could use for its purposes of investigating crimes arising from the Jonestown tragedy, but then again, that describes many other tapes as well. The difference seems to be that one or two FBI agents catalogued this set of tapes – as evidenced by the typewriter used in writing the reports – and that generally, the transcriptions were made early in the process, before someone may have asked for greater detail in the reports.
Tape originally posted April 2006