"Jonestown research" has been a hodge-podge of disinformation, missing pieces, false testimony, misguided interpretations, and nearly everything else that could possibly go wrong in a research process. Reasons for that are explored in many pieces on this site, beginning with a biased press that was manipulated by people with dishonest motives, variously political or personal, and ending up with cover-ups and disinformation from governmental, as well as unknown or clandestine sources.
The process of sifting through evidence has been tedious but rewarding, to discover what was based upon the actual experience of the times, and what makes sense in context. The greatest value of research is not its piecemeal nature, but how it fills into the jigsaw puzzle of the whole.
The information on this site will be periodically rotated or revised, to explore in detail what might otherwise be unknown to or undervalued by the reader.
THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION
One of the most provocative caches of new evidence to emerge in recent weeks has been a book about Jonestown published in Russia in 1987, unexpectedly provided to this author by NEW DAWN magazine in Australia (their site is at www.newdawnmagazine.com). It is "The Jonestown Carnage: A CIA Crime," by S.F. Alinin, B.G. Antonov and A.N. Itskov, published by Progress Publishers. It appears to be out-of-print. Our Australian contact visited Moscow recently and found the equivalent of "a stall in a mall," with Russian translations of Walt Disney and trash novels in place of their weightier previous works.
The book is somewhat propagandistic. (The Russians see C.I.A. agents everywhere, the American see them nowhere – the truth is undoubtedly in the middle.) But the internal documentation from Peoples Temple seems quite solid, and the sources used were personnel from the Soviet Embassy in Guyana’s capital, Georgetown, at the time the tragedy happened.
The book is full of information relating to what was well-known within the church: That there were extensive contacts (find NY Times article) with the Soviet Embassy, visits from the Embassy to Jonestown, and plans well under way to transplant the entire community to the then-Soviet Union, to get out from under the persecution against the community coming from the United States. Although it does not appear in this book, my own files contained the English translation of an article written by the Soviet news agency, TASS, upon their visit to Jonestown:
Even the mainstream press in the U.S. had confirmed that a contingency plan to relocate to the Soviet Union was in the works. Just days following the tragedy, on November 27, 1878, the New York Times printed the following article about a memo that was found in Jonestown:
In "The Jonestown Carnage: A CIA Crime," the authors used an interview with the same Fyodor Timofeyev of the Soviet Embassy regarding his trip to visit Jonestown personally on September 27, 1978, just six weeks before the tragedy. He speaks of the community learning Russian in preparation for an exodus:
Timofeyev also reported having seen the Jonestown Guest Book:
Unfortunately, we may never know the contents of this confiscated Guest Book, featuring commentaries from visitors from all over the world. The few segments that survived are reprinted in the documentary section of "SNAKE DANCE: Unravelling the Mysteries of Jonestown."
What interested me especially about the Russian visit to Jonestown is that it occurred so close to the time of the tragedy. I had been told informally by a survivor, that a scouting party was set to go to the Soviet Union in December, 1978, which would have been just a month after the Congressional visit, had the community not been destroyed. That proposed plan is now confirmed in the Russian book:
The reader should note that plans really were imminent for the new move overseas, and consider its effects upon stepping up plans for the Congressional investigatory visit, designed to stop the people of Jonestown in their tracks.
It also casts new suspicion on arch-opponent Timothy Stoen’s visit to Guyana in early October, at which time he threatened to have mercenaries sent to Jonestown to kidnap the child he falsely claimed was his. The exact quote in the log of the United States Embassy in Georgetown read as follows and is reprinted in "SNAKE DANCE":
It was very risky to make this threat directly to the State Department. Stoen and others had already falsely charged that Peoples Temple was armed and dangerous, and it was here shown to be the reverse – that the community was, rather, threatened by military might! But the planned move to the Soviet Union gave new urgency to bring the Congressman to Jonestown, thus such risks were taken.
Would the people of Jonestown ever have been allowed to get out from under the persecution which had dogged them from the States? To what lengths were governmental elements willing to go to freeze the community in place, or worse, to ensure its destruction?
COVER-UP OF MILITARY ACTIVITY
THE NIGHT OF THE TRAGEDY
Something else in this book is of compelling interest in piecing together what happened at Jonestown the night of November 18, 1978, specifically about clandestine military activity that night. The only timing that has been known for certain publicly was the event that set everything into motion. The assassination of Congressman Leo Ryan at Port Kaituma airstrip happened at about 4:30 p.m.
Past that point, there was then a meeting in Jonestown to discuss what had happened and what to do. It is notable that on the final tape, Jim Jones repeatedly denies knowledge of the identity of the killers, much less having "ordered" the killing. Indeed, he was anguished and panicked that the killings had happened. When people come back from the airstrip to report that the assassination had happened, the comment on the tape was "The Congressman has been murdered… They saw it happen, and ran into the bush…" In other words, the people from Jonestown were not the shooters, but rather witnesses.
The many factors which point away from anyone from Jonestown as the assassination team, are spelled out in both "Jonestown: The Human Story" (HUMAN STORY) and "Jonestown: The Truth" (THE TRUTH). The public was told that it was virtually an automatic certainty that members of Jonestown had killed the Congressman, but there was never proof, nor were there public hearings. This fact may be critical when we look at U.S. military actions taken in the aftermath, because if Peoples Temple was responsible for the killings, the scene could have been left as they found it, but if a U.S. military force was responsible for the killings, and it was framed on Peoples Temple, then the actions of the military could expectably entail cover-up.
The suicides at Jonestown began sometime early in the evening and continued on into the night. It is reasonable to think that they took several hours, as over 900 people were involved. A "final letter" found at Jonestown (FINAL WITNESS), just recently released via FOIA materials obtained by one Brian Csuk, identifies November 19th, 1978, as "the last day of Peoples Temple," so it is certainly possible that the process was not completed until after midnight the following day.
According to another FOIA document obtained by one Jim Hougan, a call came into Georgetown on a C.I.A. radio channel confirming the deaths at Jonestown at 3:29 a.m. on November 19th. This makes the best estimate of the completion of the process as later than midnight, but not later than 3:30 a.m.
A survivor who was brought back to Jonestown to identify bodies says that he and his escort of soldiers from the Guyanese Defense Force came into Jonestown on Monday morning, November 20th, and that they were "the first ones in." He also reported that many of the bodies appeared to be forcibly injected, so that it appeared to be the scene of a brutal mass murder, not "suicide" at all. The Guyanese coroner, Leslie Mootoo, was not brought in until later that day, or even the next day, November 21st. Mootoo’s findings, according to FREEDOM Magazine, were that of hundreds of bodies forcibly injected and others shot with bullets or arrows.
How credible is the story of "brutal mass murder"? It is in no way to diminish the gruesomeness of mass death, to comment that there is a distinction between bodies lying dead but without signs of violence, and bodies in some horribly desecrated condition en masse. Given that the bodies were found in that desecrated condition, did those injuries occur during the death process, or were they ghoulishly inflicted upon them after the fact? And if the desecration was done deliberately after the fact, for what purpose?
We do have two testimonies that indicate that the suicides, although laden with grief, and undoubtedly panic and terror as well, did not involve deliberate, much less mass violence. The "final letter" speaks of people "hugging, kissing, embracing" as they passed on in a long, determined line. Stanley Clayton, probably the last to escape from Jonestown when only 100-200 people were left alive, told the coroner’s jury in Matthews Ridge (an adjoining town) told of Jim Jones coming down to those left and saying, "I love you. This is nothing but a deep sleep," which, however horrifying, was not accompanied by any physical brutality; and of Marceline Jones, known to be an exceptionally compassionate soul, hugging people and telling them, "I’ll see you in your next life."
How, then, did hundreds of bodies come to be found in such a horribly desecrated condition? And why was the "official" coroner’s work postponed so long that advanced decomposition had already set in under the tropical sun, making it daunting, even impossible, to determine the respective causes of death?
At the Port Kaituma airstrip, it was medical personnel who arrived first, on the morning of November 19th, a MEDEVAC plane flown in from Charleston, SC. In cases of death or injury, it would be expectable that medical personnel would be the first in rather than Special Forces, Green Berets, henchman of the C.I.A. That is the expectable way to act when the primary concern is human life.
Yet two reports have emerged from completely independent quarters, one American from within the U.S. military, and one Russian from "The Jonestown Carnage: A CIA Crime," to confirm that the first U.S. military to arrive at Jonestown was not a medical unit at all, but Special Forces, Green Berets. Moreover, they arrived specifically at Jonestown, both clandestinely and much earlier than was ever revealed.
A source uncovered by FREEDOM magazine, one Charles Huff, was with the U.S. Army Special Forces in Panama at the time of the tragedy. According to Freedom, he was "one of the Green Berets who were the first American troops on the scene following the massacre." He said they were into Jonestown within about five hours.
He elaborated that "’We saw many bullet wounds as well as wounds from crossbow bolts.’ Huff noted that those with fatal bullet or bolt wounds appeared to have been running towards the jungle that surrounded Jonestown. Huff said that the adults who had not been shot had been killed by injections between the shoulder blades."
Who desecrated the bodies? Nearly no one "escaped" from Jonestown except for the tiny handful of people who ran into the jungle, and were surely not responsible for any carnage. How could one not suspect that it was the Green Beret force itself who inflicted the purported damage?
An unexpected confirmation showed up in the Russian book. Their claim was that "At about 18.00 [that’s 6 p.m. on November 18th], several S-141 military transport planes took off from military bases in Panama and Dover [Delaware] and headed for Guyana. The estimated time of flight was 3 hours 40 minutes. … Two hours later, without notifying the local authorities in the area of Venezuela where the Americans had their private missions (which served as a front for C.I.A. secret operations), three helicopters took off in the direction of Jonestown, which was 1 hour 10 minutes away."
What is startling in the Russian account, is that both their account and the American account of the arrival of Green Berets, designate the country of origin as Panama. The two independent reports tally with each other perfectly.
These accounts raise far more questions than they answer. If disaster was feared at Jonestown, why was it not medical personnel that was sent in? Why was Jonestown made to look like the scene of a brutal mass murder? Might it have been to make the community look more culpable for the assassination? Or to dehumanize the community so completely that no one would ever seek out the truth? Or, more diabolical still, to ensure that the people of Jonestown were indeed dead? Were they trying to protect a frame? What might have happened if the people of Jonestown had been alive when the troops arrived? What orders had those secret, select cadre of troops been given?
Does this sound far-fetched? Remember that Joseph Mazor, the man who claimed to have led the mercenary raid against Jonestown a year prior to the tragedy, told the community that his original orders had been to "kidnap children and then kill all the adults," i.e. mass extermination. That was for an attack in broad daylight upon a peaceful community. Now it was on the heels of the assassination of a U.S. Congressman, going into the middle of the night. How much greater the peril!
There is no evidence that the Green Berets were sent in clandestinely following the assassination to "rescue" anyone -- to the contrary; nor that there was any medical or human concern for the people of Jonestown. Indeed, a source uncovered by FREEDOM Magazine, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty claimed that "The Joint Chiefs of Staff had prepared air shipments of hundreds of body bags. … Within hours, they began to shuttle them down to Georgetown, the main city. They couldn’t possibly have done that without prior knowledge that it was going to happen. It shows that there was prior planning." The military was not attempting to prevent death. Indeed, it appeared that they were counting on it.
As will be detailed in succeeding pieces, autopsies were virtually non-existent and those few that were performed were appallingly negligent and inept. Yet a military, not medical force, was sent in early on, clandestinely, to do whatever cover-up work they wished.
Where has this information been hiding for twenty years? Is it not overdue to air this publicly, complete with its sinister implications?
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