Serial 1162

United States Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Memorandum
Date: 11/24/78
To: Mr. McDermott
From: R. E. Kent

Subject: FBI DISASTER SQUAD ASSISTANCE IN RYMUR CASE

PURPOSE: To advise that the Identification Division’s Disaster Squad was dispatched on 11/23/78 to Dover, Delaware, to assist in the identification of the bodies of the victims of the Guyana mass suicide/murder incident.

DETAILS: Memorandum Ingram to Moore, dated 11/21/78 and captioned “RYMUR,” advised that there was a possibility that the Department of Defense would request the assistance of the FBI Disaster Squad to effect the identification of the bodies of the victims of the Guyana incident. On the evening of 11/22/78 a teletype (copy attached) was received from the State Department formally requesting the services of the Disaster Squad and asking for its availability at Dover Air Force Base (AFB), Dover, Delaware, early on 11/23/78. Contact was immediately made by telephone with Mr. Bill Courtney, Chief, Air Force Mortuary Services, Dover AFB, to coordinate the Squad’s arrival there. Mr. Courtney advised that he did not see any purpose in having the Squad arrive prior to the morning of 11/24/78. Plans were made for the departure of the Squad accordingly.

At about 11:00 p.m., the same evening (11/22/78), the Identification Division was furnished a copy of a teletype from the American Embassy at Georgetown, Guyana, which contained the names and dates of birth of the People’s Temple colony as reflected on Guyanese immigration records. The list, which contains 889 names, was immediately distributed to the Identification Division’s Night Force for searching and 55 Night Force employees voluntarily stayed after 1:00 a.m. (on paid overtime) to continue the searching. An additional 16 Day Force employees volunteered to perform paid overtime work on Thanksgiving, 11/23/78. As a result of this extra effort, virtually the entire list was searched against both the Criminal and Civil Fingerprint Name Files making it possible for the Disaster Squad to take with them a large number of fingerprint cards to use in identifying the bodies.

[page 2]
Memorandum to Mr. McDermott
RE: FBI DISASTER SQUAD ASSISTANCE IN RYMUR CASE

At 9:30 a.m., 11/23/78, Mr. Courtney called and advised that the first plane had arrived from Guyana with 40 bodies and that the next plane would arrive at 9:15 p.m. that night. He suggested that it would now be desirable if the Disaster Squad arrive in Dover later in the day. It was agreed that the Squad would arrive in the early evening to begin work on the bodies already there and to be on hand when the second planeload arrived.

Accordingly, a Disaster Squad comprised of two Agents (Inspector Conrad S. Banner and Assistant Section Chief [name deleted]) and eight Latent Fingerprint Examiners (Messrs. [Names deleted]) departed by Bureau cars for Dover AFB at 4:30 p.m., 11/23/78.

The news media have reported on speculation voiced by former followers of the Reverend James W. Jones to the effect that the corpse which has been tentatively identified as being Jones is in fact that of an imposter or a “look-a-like.” An arrest fingerprint card, submitted by the Los Angeles Police Department on Jones in 1973 for the charge of “Lewd Conduct,” was located in our files and will be used to identify his remains.

You will be advised of any significant developments in this matter.

RECOMMENDATION: None, for information.

[page 3]
Memorandum to Mr. McDermott
RE: FBI DISASTER SQUAD ASSISTANCE IN RYMUR CASE

ADDENDUM OF IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION:

This is to advise that Inspector Conrad S. Banner, in charge of the FBI Disaster Squad at Dover AFB, has confirmed the positive identification by fingerprints of the remains of Reverend James Warren Jones. Fingerprints from this body, which was among the first group to arrive at Dover AFB, or positively identified with fingerprints from our files of James Warren Jones, FBI #70597N2, DOB 5/13/31, Crete, Indiana, arrested 12/13/73 by the Police Department, Los Angeles, California, on a charge of lewd conduct. No disposition was given. This arrest fingerprint card lists the arrestee’s occupation as pastor, employer as Disciples of Christ in residence as 7630 E. [East] Road, Redwood Valley (presumably California).

At 8:30 a.m., 11/24/78, eight additional Latent Fingerprint Examiners [names deleted] departed by Bureau cars for Dover AFB. This will bring total Disaster Squad personnel on the scene to eighteen, the largest number ever committed to a disaster operation.

Originally posted on August 22nd, 2019.

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