Serial 1135

[Editor’s note: This document was released both as a State Department cable as part of its 1981 FOIA release, and as Serial 1135 of the FBI’s RYMUR release. The text was released at

[The FBI withheld several names from this serial. they are indicated below in red type.]

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INFO OCT-01 ISO-00 SS-15 NSCE-00 CIAE-00 INR-10 NSAE-00 SY-05 PA-02 L-03 H-02 SYE-00 SSO-00 INRE-00 FBIE-00 /053 W
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O 082005Z DEC 78
E.O. 12065: NA

1. Following is text of DCM Dwyer’s [Deputy Chief of Mission Richard Dwyer] recollections of his visit with consul McCoy to Jonestown on May 10. Begin text: consul McCoy had reserved the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s Cessna 402 aircraft for the trip, and we left ogle airport in the early morning hours together with a young individual from the People’s Temple whom I do not recall but who might have been Tim Carter. We arrived at Port Kaituma at about 0930 or 1000 and were met at the airstrip by the driver and LandRover assigned to the assistant district officer for Port Kaituma, Mr. Herbert Thomas. On our way out to Jonestown, we stopped at Port Kaituma to make a brief courtesy call on Mr. Thomas, who was newly assigened [assigned] to the area. Consul McCoy, I recall, particularly requested Mr. Thomas‘ assistance in assuring that the appropriate proper Guyanese officials certified and registered promptly certificates of birth and death of Americans, whiout [without] which the American consulate could not process proper American documentation.

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2. At the enttrance [entrance] to the Jonestown property there was a chain or rope stretched across the road, with a small shack at one side manned by a young woman and a man. Upon recognizing our Jonestown escort, the man detached the chain and the LandRover proceeded through.

3. The Reverend and Mrs. Jim Jones, together with several members of the People’s Temple, met us upon our descent from the LandRover at the settlement proper, about 3 1/2 miles from the gateway, according to one Temple member. As I had no occasion to meet members of the Temple previously, I did not know any of those who accompanied us. I believe Maria Katsarsis [Katsaris], Tim Carter, Mike Prokes were among these individuals. We toured the nursery, children’s day care center, and school, after which Mr. McCoy asked to be excused to conduct his consular business in the open-walled main pavillion [pavilion] of Jonestown. It should be noted that this building was located at the highest point of Jonestown and formed the center of the community. I could therefore observe Mr. McCoy as he conducted his affairs while I continued the tour with the Joneses. We visited the medical care facilities, sawmill, wood shop, machine shop, garden areas, etc. And looked in at some elderly members (called “seniors”) in their small houses. We then proceeded to the central pavillion to examine an exhibition of handicrafts which had presumably been set up for our visit. (a similar exhibit was set up in my presence and that of Codel Ryan on November 17 in anticipation of the arrial [arrival] of members of the press.)

4. Mr. McCoy at this time was addressing a group of new and expectant parents regarding the procedures to be completed for the registration of birth and the issuance of passports. As I recall, Mr. McCoy performed other consular

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duties such as those connected with Social Security benefits, perhaps passports, etc. I recall discussing with him one instance of an enquiry into the health and well being of a Jonestown resident on behalf of a relative or friend in the United States, but I do not recall how many services of this type that Mr. McCoy performed that day.

5. Lunch, a reasonably attractive meal featuring pork, was served to Mr. McCoy, myself, the Joneses, and fifteen or so other persons in the main pavillion. Mr. McCoy returned to his consular duties and I continued to converse with the Joneses and a few others. Jim Jones was concerned about the future of the Temple after he should pass from the scene; we spoke at some length about the problem of motivation and reward in a communal non-monetary society; about problems with the beef cattle which were not gaining weight; about forestry problems (e.g., soft woods for lumber); etc. Jim Jones was then called away by another person, and Mrs. Jones in what may well have been a pre-arranged move said she wished to take the opportunity of Jim’s absence to tell me of what a fine man he was, and to insure that I understood that she fully supported Jim Jones throughout all aspects of birth, rearing, and custody of the child John Stoen, a matter then before the Guyanese courts. Jim Jones returned, dwelt on the Stoen case for a few moments, vowing never to voluntarily give up custody of the child and then turned to other subjects, amongst which were examples of alleged calumnies circulated about the People’s Temple by “Trotskyites” (who appeared to be defined as those persons believing in violent action and opposed to Jim Jones and the People’s Temple).

6. When Mr. McCoy completed his consular work we left Jonestown together with Tim Carter and his infant boy who accompanied us back to Georgetown, arriving about 1700 hours.

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7. While at Jonestown I spoke briefly and casually to between 15 and 25 residents in addition to those who participated in the tour or joined us for lunch. As it was a working day in Jonestown, many residents of working age were working away from the central part of the settlement, and there remained a proportionately high number of old and young people. On the tour, Jim Jones made a particular pont [point] of telling me in the presence of the persons concerned that the individual previously had been involved with drugs, had been a prostitute, had had mental problems, had been an alcoholic, etc. Each of these persons agreed with Jones’ description of his previous like [life] and noted imporvement [improvement] brought about by Jim Jones and Jonestown. It appeared to be an exhibition which Jones had staged for visitors before, perhaps to reinforece [reinforce] his frequent argument that the United States government should be pleased with Jones and Jonestown as the taxpayers were allegedly saving millions that would have had to be spent on subsistence, care, or restraint of these individuals had they continued their previous lifestyles in the United States. In summary, although there were certain aspects of this introductory visit to Jonestown which were plainly staged for the vistors [visitors] (craft displays, certain individuals, band music with lunch, carefully selected tour guides with carefully prepared spiels), Jonestown appeared to be much more than a Potemkin village.

Burke [John Burke, U.S. Ambassador to Guyana]


Originally posted on August 14th, 2019.

Last modified on July 4th, 2022.
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