Many conspiracy theories abound about the Jonestown Massacre. Some of them seem to have a basis in fact, like the discrepancy in body count that was due to the infants and children being placed in a mildly concave area and then layers of older children and adults laying over them. If you were not there, this seems like an unbelievable story.
But many conspiracies have been fueled by the statements made in a letter by a man named Charles Huff who purports to have been one of seven Green Beret troopers who were the first Americans to arrive in Jonestown after the massacre. I know that claim to be false because I was the third American soldier of the task force in Jonestown. My commander and brigade surgeon were the first two, but they didn’t stay any appreciable amount of time.
Huff’s story was printed in the Church of Scientology International’s Freedom Magazine in 1995. The cult, in an attempt to seem more mainstream, had taken over the Cult Awareness Network, whose newsletter first published Huff’s sensational lies.
Mr. Huff’s excerpted letter follows.
“I was assigned with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces Panama. On November 18, 1978, we were alerted by the State Department to “rescue” American citizens in Guyana.
All the information we knew was that a U.S. Representative Leo Ryan and his staff were killed or wounded and American lives were in danger. Within five hours of the request of the U.S. embassy in Georgetown, Guyana, and the State Department we were “on site” in Jonestown.
This claim is patently ridiculous. The State Department was not even aware of the massacre until late Saturday evening. Unless Huff and his team were sitting in a hotel at Timheri International Airport, they could not have flown to Jonestown and arrive on November 18. The task force’s helicopters were not ready to fly until Monday, November 20. So right from the beginning of his letter, Huff, whose bona fides as a Green Beret have yet to be confirmed, is a liar.
For the next 30 days we stayed to return the compound back to the Guyanese government. When we arrived at Jonestown, we were met by the local Guyana Defense Force (six local policemen).
This is Lie #2. The GDF did not arrive in Jonestown until the morning of the 19th and there were more than a half dozen troopers in the security force. I met them and rode in a helicopter with some of them.
We found one elderly woman who had slept through the murders.
The elderly women, Hyacinth Thrush, was discovered Sunday morning, 19 November, by GDF troopers who found her wandering in shock through the enclave.
Sixteen American personnel committed suicide upon their return to Panama and other places. Three were murdered. One year later, those of us still alive were recalled from the Nicaragua Civil War to hear a CIA briefing on all the events which led up to Jonestown. As a veteran of Vietnam, Nicaragua, El Salvador, the invasion of Panama, the Persian Gulf and Somalia, I have never been more affected than the Jonestown murders.”
I was stationed in Panama for another two years. There were no American personnel that I knew of who committed suicide. Some became alcoholics, but I knew of no one who died at their own hand or anyone else’s. As for this fantasy CIA briefing about events leading up to the massacre a year before, that doesn’t even sound reasonable. Why would soldiers be recalled from their duties in a combat zone to receive a briefing about something that happened a year earlier?