INTRODUCTION TO: The Vehicle Used in the Attack: Part 1, The Tractor and Part 2, The Trailer

Introductory Notes

The Great Mass Blanket Misidentification Snafu:  The Assassins

The Great Mass Blanket Misidentification Snafu:  The Vehicle Used in the Attack

Notes on Film Quality

The Tractor

            The Photographs Used

            The Methods to be Used

            Establishing Structure and Contours

The Trailer

            The Photographs Used

            The Methods to be Used

Instructions to Proceed to Visual Proofs




There are two related areas of misidentification:  of the assassins and of the vehicle which transported them, respectively, as confirmed by a combination of on-site NBC film footage (the actual crime scene) and the FBI eyewitness reports (how the assassins and their vehicle were misidentified.)

Misidentification of the assassins is addressed in “Eyewitness Identifications?  The FBI Report Versus the NBC On-Site Film Footage” and “Eyewitness Identifications?  The View from Jonestown.“  The present section addresses vehicle misidentifications.  However, since the film footage obviously shows assassins and their vehicle together, it may be helpful to cross-check the findings.




As revealed in “Eyewitness Identifications?:  The FBI Report Versus the NBC On-Site Film Footage,” the assassins were misidentified across the board.  That was confirmed using NBC film footage, the FBI eyewitness reports and photographs of accused Temple members, as well as blatant disqualifiers such as that a black man wasn’t white (panel 9) and that there was no one at Jonestown seven feet tall (panel 11.)

How could such a shocker happen?  Upon reconstructing the crime scene as filmed on-site, it becomes clear that “eyewitness identifications” were based upon Temple men seen earlier and perhaps later, not during the attack (panel 5).  We know this because the real Jonestown vehicle was filmed just minutes prior to the attack a stone’s throw away (panel 3)– parked and at rest, with the driver sticking up visibly into the air!  Indeed, members of the departing party were filmed right in front of that vehicle; so yes, they saw the Temple vehicle and yes, they saw the Temple men.

Yet when the sudden, swift (no more than two minutes) brutal attack broke out, the defectors (i.e., the only ones who could identify Temple men) had variously fallen, fled, or had already boarded the plane and had no ground level view.

Only two eyewitnesses claimed to have seen any specific shooter of any specific person:  One saw “an unknown individual” (panel 14); the other told the FBI that he had first fled “fifty yards” and then “looked back and observed [various shootings]… at point blank range” (page 61 of the FBI report, panel 16 in “Eyewitness Identifications?:  The FBI Report Versus the NBC On-Site Film Footage.”)

The latter story was unbelievable on its face; indeed, the alleged shooters have been ruled out using the NBC footage.

Moreover anyone (at least five eyewitnesses) who claimed to identify the driver said that the attack vehicle was driven by a blond, white, fair-skinned young man when the film footage reveals a dark-skinned black man (see panel 9; to boot, the lead assassin was in the vicinity of seven feet tall (i.e., not Peoples Temple) and dressed like a walking rain forest — in solid green military camouflage including long sleeves in the tropics, i.e., “impossible to miss,” yet he was missed by everyone.  Nor was there anyone in Jonestown of that height.  Not anyone.

Conclusion:  “The Great Mass Blanket Misidentification Snafu” holds; the eyewitness reports pass no scrutiny.  Likewise, if the assassins were not from Peoples Temple, were they not transported in some vehicle other than the Temple tractor-trailer?  Thus we arrive at the counterpart to misidentification of the assassins; namely, misidentification of the vehicle used in the attack:




Misidentification of the vehicle used in the attack is also verifiable by sight, namely the comparison between NBC film footage of the vehicle used in the attack and on-site photographic extractions of the real Jonestown vehicle that it was supposed to have been.

Note first that alleged identification of the attack vehicle in the FBI report are inconsistent, variously called a “tractor,” “trailer,” “truck” and “wagon.”

Next, there were plentiful assumptions about what vehicle it might be, but no one saw the attack vehicle drive from point a (where the real Jonestown tractor was parked) to point b (the staging point of the attack.  See panel 7, “Eyewitness Identifications?:  The FBI Report Versus the NBC On-Site Film Footage”).  Indeed, both eyewitnesses and the film footage itself confirm that the victims neither saw nor heard the vehicle on its approach (“Eyewitness Identifications?:  The FBI Report Versus the NBC On-Site Film Footage,” panel 4.)

            Meaning that no one knew if the vehicle they had seen parked just minutes before and the vehicle used in the attack were the same vehicle at all.  One reporter did see another, different, unidentified vehicle!; but his testimony was buried and ignored.  See “Eyewitness Identifications?:  The FBI Report Versus the NBC On-Site Film Footage,” panel 14.)

The vehicle used in the attack was supposed to have been the tractor-trailer from Jonestown, yet as we will show, it was not even properly a “tractor,” but rather a vehicle never available for public sale nor useable on a farm.

Also bear in mind why the vehicle used in the attack would have been custom-designed:  namely, deception and camouflage.  (See “In Plain Sight,” sections “Why Modify the Attack Vehicle?” and “Who Had Access to the Jonestown Vehicle to Quasi-Duplicate It?”)

That may fall into place last.  First the reader must see that the two vehicles were different; then comes “why.”  However, also note that custom-modifying a vehicle which then appears in a remote locale could have been nothing less than costly and meticulously pre-planned.

Last, what is perhaps the most shocking is that what the FBI failed to do at the time.  They had the NBC film footage of the assassination in their possession.  Their primary duty was to show it to the survivors to confirm eyewitness identifications.  But as I discovered on a trip to Washington D.C. in January, 1980, they were too intent on suppressing the film to be burdened with reviewing it.

I would also like to add a few notes about assessing film footage worn by age:




There are degrees of clarity with photographic work.  Here the film is old and subject to such factors.  This neither rules out positive identifications nor positive mis-identifications; it just takes knowing what you are looking at.

There are three degrees of film degradation:  blurry, bleeding and pixilation.

“Blurry” means that there is no distortion of form or contours, just not crystal clarity.  Blow-ups may or may not be helpful because whereas an enlargement makes an area easier to spot, it can also make the resolution more fuzzy.

Then there is “bleeding,” where colors extend out further than they did in real life.

Bleeding is easy to spot because it can (not necessarily, but can) distort the integrity of forms and shapes.  Like if you photograph a human face and the photo “bleeds,”  then you might wind up with a mouth wider than it actually was, or streaks across where the eyes should be.

On the other hand, a bleed is so easy to spot that distortions are easy to match up to bleeds; whereas if there are no bleeds, then you might not see a photo as clearly as you would like, but you know that what you are looking at is what was there.

To review, we have crystal clear images, like let’s say modern HD.  Then there is blurring which maintains form and contours, just fuzzier to make out.  Then we have bleeding which may not necessarily rule out positive identifications but can make them more uncertain.

If the bleeding is more extreme, it could go into pixilation, which can look like boxes, which may even obscure contours and forms.

Pixilation may make positive i.d.’s prohibitive.  However on the other hand, lack of pixilation, moreover not even bleeding, keeps form in tact; if smooth continuous contours, all the better.

In other words, if there is no pixilation, not even bleeding, and if contours are traceable, then you are simply looking at how the object appeared in real life even if the outlines may be blurred.

Now that we have addressed the integrity of the photographic extractions from the NBC film footage, we can proceed to address the photographic proofs for the tractor and same for the trailer separately.  Unlike, let’s say, an ordinary automobile in one piece, this was a vehicle in two parts with two sets of structural characteristics.






The real Jonestown tractor is verified by photographs taken both at Jonestown and at the Port Kaituma airstrip.  It  was a Massey Ferguson 178, a popular tractor manufactured circa 1970.  A crystal-clear photo of that tractor was extracted from an internet site as the baseline for comparison (see picture 1 )

It’s not the same as the Jonestown tractor exactly but the differences are cosmetic, not structural, like a black exhaust pipe instead of a white one.  But since the “Massey Ferguson” and “178” insignias are clearly discernible, this was chosen as a good baseline against the Jonestown vehicle, which vehicle is an exact duplicate in form, structure and contours.

Pictures 2-4 are of the real Jonestown tractor taken respectively from a Peoples Temple Agricultural Project brochure (picture 2 ); the Port Kaituma airstrip for the Congressman’s arrival on November 17, 1978 (picture 3 ); and at the airstrip for the Congressman’s would-be departure on November 18, 1978 (picture 4 .)

Three photos were selected to verify in multiple settings that this was indeed “the real Jonestown tractor.”  Picture 2 is the least blurry of the Jonestown tractor pictures but at a distance.  Picture 3 is blurry but close up so that the structure, design and contours are unmistakable.  Picture 4 is blurry at the distance but still quite verifiable as the Massey Ferguson 178; its inclusion is essential as eyewitnesses spotted that very tractor at the edge of the airstrip just prior to the shootings, which is exactly when and where it is shown on film.

Pictures 3 and 4 taken together verify that this was the vehicle used to transport people between the airstrip and the community; and more especially, for the arrival and would-be departure of the Congressman’s party, respectively.

Picture 5 is extracted from the NBC film footage of the beginning of the assassination.  At issue is was it the same or different vehicle as pictures 2-4, the real Jonestown tractor; or even the same make/model tractor as shown in picture 1.  To which we also add:  Was it a “tractor” at all; if not, how and why was it custom-modified?




Pictures 1-5 are the photographic extractions to be used in comparing the original Massey Ferguson 178, the real Jonestown tractor, with the vehicle used in the attack.

Some additional photographic extractions are used as needed when they highlight specific features being examined, such as a clear unobstructed view of the exhaust pipe or successive frames of the vehicle rotating.

Comparison of the real Jonestown trailer with the trailer used in the attack will be done separately, using the best available photos.

Understandably, this researcher had to work backwards, using what appears in the film footage to then extrapolate why duplications and modifications were made.  As outlined in “In Plain Sight,” duplication served the purpose of deception and modification served the purpose of camouflage.

In other words, if you wanted to deceive an onlooker into thinking that men from Jonestown committed the assassination, you would use the same make/model vehicle as they customarily used to transport visitors back and forth to deceive the eyewitnesses into a snap mis-identification.  However, were characteristically open areas of that vehicle not camouflaged, it would risk having non-Temple shooters spotted as such upon approach.

Supporting this is that a) the gunmen (once they emerged from concealment) were visibly not from Peoples Temple; b) they in no way matched up with the “eyewitness identifications” cited in the FBI report; and as seen in the current section “The Vehicle Used in the Attack,” c) the real Jonestown vehicle was verified as a standard, open tractor on the NBC film footage whereas the vehicle used in the attack was not.

It was the NBC film footage and the FBI eyewitness reports themselves that dictated an approach of duplication versus modification upon visual inspection, with deception and camouflage as the respective intents.

A “Quick Spotting Guide” has been compiled so the reader can “chunk” the different respective areas of real Jonestown vehicle and the vehicle used in the attack.  Once the eye spots whole sections of the respective vehicles as “same” and “different,” the individual respective features can be more readily isolated.

Special attention goes to THE DRIVER’S INSET, a visibly wide open area of the real Jonestown tractor, sealed off in the vehicle used in the attack.  This was the most glaring modification for the purpose of camouflage.

There are also separate pictures showing factors of coloration, texture, light, contours and structure so readers can spot for themselves same versus different; continuous versus broken; open versus closed.

Separate sections will address other visibly different features and how a vehicle with a driver with no apparent line of vision and no visible steering wheel might have steered this suspect vehicle.




          So shocking are these findings, especially at late date, that many may not do any feature-by-feature comparison until they are convinced that the respective vehicles were indeed different.

This is established through structure and contour.  In other words, let’s say the real Jonestown vehicle and the vehicle used in the attack were two individuals.  You would not say they were different people because they were dressed differently, but if you had, let’s say, skeletal x-rays that were visibly different, that would confirm that they were different people.

Structure with a tractor, is how the metal hull was constructed:  how long were its component pieces, where cut off, where extended, the shapes of its interlinking parts, how they were assembled.  Contours is how the surfaces appear visually:  continuity of lines, shapes, coloration, texture, even light.  When the contours are smooth, continuous, broken, even-textured, they reveal continuous structure, at least that structure closest to the surface.  Likewise, when contours are broken or cut, the underlying structure would be different as well.

Like we all know the difference between a wall and a door.  We know the difference between open and shut.  We know the difference between horizontal and vertical.  We can keep it that basic and distinguish same from different.

Different structures also serve different functions; and function can give the reason why a structural design may have been altered.  With a military action like an assassination, of course, that reason would have to do with logistics.

As we shall see, the structure of the real Jonestown tractor versus the vehicle used for the attack was markedly different; the former a farm vehicle, the latter designed for use in an assassination.  However, the part of the vehicle that was not modified was in fact duplicated.

As detailed in “In Plain Sight,“ under “Why Modify the Attack Vehicle?“ and “Who Had Access to the Jonestown Vehicle to Quasi-Duplicate It?,” the “tractor” used in the attack was like a hybrid:  the front duplicating the Massey Ferguson 178 at Jonestown to deceive onlookers into thinking that it was the Jonestown vehicle upon approach (= deception); and the back modified to conceal its occupants (= camouflage.)

Once the reader can see how peculiar and inexplicable that was, s/he might be open to explanations.






All of the photographs used for the Jonestown trailer were filmed right on the Port Kaituma airstrip by NBC on November 17, 1978 at the arrival of the Congressman’s party.  The photo of the trailer used in the attack was of course also taken from the NBC film footage.




Altering the vehicle’s structure for camouflage, so critical for the tractor, is not at play with the trailer.  This trailer was enclosed with side panels with the assassins not visible until they disembarked.

However, please note again that one newsman at the airstrip spotted another, different tractor-trailer than the (real Jonestown) tractor-trailer parked under the wing flap of the smaller plane.  (See “Eyewitness Identifications?:  The FBI Report Versus the NBC Film Footage,” panel 14 ).  Notably, the newsman reported that that different, other trailer was covered with a canvas, a tarpaulin.  That would have prevented anyone from looking over the side panels and spotting anyone not from Peoples Temple there.

In this respect, the logistics were the same for the tractor and the trailer, i.e., the need to camouflage the occupants.  It did not require the trailer to be structurally different, just covered up when at rest; but the need for camouflage was parallel.

Once the vehicle began moving towards the attack point, of course, there was no longer any canvas and the occupants simply hid behind the side panels until they disembarked.  There were other structural factors to consider, however, as follows:

Namely, as we will demonstrate with a full rotation of the real Jonestown trailer, this was a wide vehicle with moreover, no front panels, only side panels.  Moreover, given that there were two wheels, left and right at the back of the trailer, but none at the front, this vehicle was inherently wobbly, neither suited for speed nor short stops.

As we will see with the real trailer, a second hitch was installed to stabilize that vehicle, the type of improvisation oftentimes done on a farm.  Whether that second hitch was already installed two months earlier when the suspect party (one Joseph Mazor) was into Jonestown with a camera. we cannot know.  Whether the parties who duplicated the trailer thought it an unimportant detail or simply did not expect their creation to be preserved on film, we cannot know either.

What we do know is that clear as day, broadside, in bright sunlight, in plain sight, there was no second hitch on the trailer used in the attack; whereas there just as clearly was a second hitch on the real Jonestown trailer.

We will also view the real Jonestown trailer in complete rotation and see that there were no front panels on that vehicle.  And although we cannot view the attack trailer in full rotation, just at one angle, we see enough of the right front corner to verify that either a) the front of that vehicle was closed off with panels.  (Extra camouflage precaution?  Better stabilization?  Would make sense.)  Or b) even if its front was open, like the real vehicle, the coloration is different.

We can also see clearly that the coloration of the real trailer and the duped trailer as a whole was opposite:  the real trailer dark green on the top, reddish pink on the bottom; the duped trailer reddish pink on the top, dark green on the bottom.

Between the opposite coloration of the two trailers as whole; the visibly different respective front right panels; and the clear visible presence of a second hitch on the real vehicle versus the clear visible absence of a second hitch on the duped vehicle, we do know for certain that the two vehicles were different.  Case established.




Please click on Part 1: The Tractor, and Part 2: The Trailer, separately, to view the complete sets of photographic proofs.