[Editor’s notes: This document appears as Serial 253 in the FBI RYMUR release and as State
Department cable 297396 in the State Department release.
[The text for this document was released in 2014 by the now-defunct Wikileaks website at https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1978STATE297396_d.html. This URL may be available through the Wayback Machine.]
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[Listing of agencies receiving informational copies on pdf]
0 241434Z NOV 78
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO AMEMBASSY PANAMA IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN IMMEDIATE
[Listing of 10 additional American embassies and Air Force bases appear on pdf]
CONFIDENTIAL STATE 297396
E.O. 11652: GDS
TAGS: CASC, OREP (RYAN, LEO), GY
SUBJECT: Situation Report No. 18
1. Embassy Georgetown has reported by telephone that the number of bodies in Jonestown is now estimated at closer to 600 than to 400. Detailed reasons for this new count
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are not available. Last night we were told that additional bodies of infants especially were found underneath when bodies were picked up. It also appears that the initial 400-410 may have been only a rough estimate.
2. Four aircraft have now arrived at Dover AFB bearing the remains of 270 persons. One C-141 is standing by in Puerto Rico and will proceed to Georgetown as additional bodies are brought down from Jonestown. CA [Consular Affairs] is continuing its effort to locate next of kin. So far, it has not been possible to locate next of kin for 65 of the 174 dead identified in Guyana.
3. The U.S. Joint Task Commander in Guyana intends to continue shuttling HH-53’s to Jonestown today for the recovery of bodies. Should the weather hold and no maintenance problems be encountered, it is anticipated that all of the first 400 bodies will be recovered by late this afternoon and en route to the U.S. this evening. Because transfer cases will have to be cleaned and returned to Guyana[,] removal of a substantial number of additional bodies will require another 24 – 48 hours. Beginning today, additional search and visual reconnaissance efforts, also utilizing loudspeakers, will be undertaken in the Jonestown area for survivors.
4. DOD is working to locate the equipment and supplies requested by the Guyanese. Some of the items listed are not in the DOD inventory and will have to be procured from GSA or other sources. We have received the necessary identifying data for the helicopter spare parts; DOD has passed the information to the Bell Corporation. The question of funding the purchase of the
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parts remains to be resolved.
Christopher [Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher]