Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chapter Five

Chapter Five: “I don’t want to go down there”

Nothing makes a man more aware of his capabilities and of his limitations than those moments when he must push aside all the familiar defenses of ego and vanity, and accept reality by staring, with the fear that is normal to a man in combat, into the face of Death.
Major General Robert S. Johnson

I’ll admit it. I was a reluctant witness to the Jonestown Massacre and would not have set foot in the enclave that bore Jim Jones’ name if I had any say about it. Hell, on November 18, 1978, the whole country of Guyana was the last place I wanted to be.

When Captain Skinner and Major Burgos returned from their short helicopter tour of Jonestown, the brigade surgeon instructed me to gather up enough malarial prophylaxis drugs to supply the hundred or so American soldiers who were scheduled to arrive in Jonestown within the next several hours. I quickly assembled the kit and Burgos directed me to board the helicopter he and my commander had just disembarked from. It was still sitting at the end of the runway with its rotors spinning. I was to fly into Jonestown to oversee the distribution of the anti-malaria medications to the troops who would be working there.

I was relieved when I first heard our medical aid station would be set up at Matthews Ridge, some 20 miles from the gruesome death scene. I had no desire to work around all those people who had killed themselves. I tried to convince the brigade surgeon to allow me to send Bernal or Fielder to accomplish this relatively simple task.

“No,” Major Burgos said firmly, “You are the senior medic, you will go.”

A light rain began to fall from a deeply overcast sky as I gathered my personal gear and the drug kit. Although it was the rainy season in Guyana, the precipitation was not as intense here as it was on the northeastern coast where Georgetown was located.

The awaiting helicopter was an American Bell 310, or in the lingo of the United States Army, a UH-1 or “Huey.” After saluting the GDF pilot and co-pilot in the traditional palm-down American Army style, it was interesting to note they responded with the British palm-up salute, a reminder that Guyana was once a colony of Great Britain. The chopper was devoid of seats, just as the Guyanese airliner that brought us to Matthews Ridge was.

The pilot informed me he would be taking off as soon as supplies for the GDF soldiers guarding Jonestown arrived. Within minutes, a battered old civilian truck pulled up alongside the helicopter. Two large, whole, unwrapped fish along with a bag of rice and some fresh vegetables, were deposited onto its deck.

I jumped into the chopper as the pilot and co-pilot strapped themselves into their seats. Thankfully, they offered me a helmet equipped with a microphone and ear pieces so we three could communicate easily during the short flight.

The pilot cranked up the engine while his co-pilot checked gauges. After engine run-up, we quickly became airborne, heading toward a place with more dead human bodies scattered about than any other place on earth I had ever been to. The thought that I soon would be the first member of the Joint Humanitarian Task Force to set foot on this killing field was very disconcerting. I truly wondered how my constitution and psyche would react to the sights and smells that would be assaulting me in a few short minutes.

The rain continued to fall relentlessly and our altitude was not all that high when we entered the cloud bank that was producing it. Speeding through the thick blanket of dark gray clouds in that small aircraft felt a lot like riding in a car through pea soup fog at over 100 miles per hour. It was impossible to see anything beyond the helicopter windshield. It was equipped with radar and an altimeter that seemed to be operational, so there was little danger of hitting a tree, crashing into a mountain, or being hit by another aircraft – I hoped.

To keep it light and demonstrate I was confident in their skill as pilots, I engaged in small talk with the GDF officers shuttling me to Jonestown. “Why is the helicopter painted a bright international orange rather than the traditional green, brown and black of American military choppers that operate over jungles?” I naively inquired.

“Easier to find us if we crash in the jungle,” deadpanned the pilot.

That made perfect sense but was not very reassuring to this passenger taking his first ride in a GDF helicopter over one of the thickest jungle forests in the world. The co-pilot smiled and assured me that neither he nor the helicopter commander had ever crashed.

Within a few minutes, we arrived over Jonestown and the pilot began his descent from the gloomy disorienting clouds. It was comforting to be able to see the ground once again. We were about 1000 feet over the community when we broke through the clouds.

“Where are all the bodies?” I asked, trying to sound as confident and professional as I could.

“Right down there, mate,” replied the co-pilot.

I told the two GDF flyers it was difficult to make out the individual bodies from this great height and before I finished getting the words out of my mouth, the pilot maneuvered the international orange GDF helicopter in a rapid descent to a hover about 150 feet above the pavilion.

From this lower elevation, what had appeared to be piles of trash in a landfill from 850 feet higher, was easily recognized as a mass of hundreds of bodies in multicolored clothing. Arms, legs and heads extended from bodies so bloated the formerly loose fitting shirts and trousers that were so comfortable to wear in the tropics were skin tight against the gas-filled bodies. Even the severe prop wash of our helicopter rotors hovering overhead did not make the taut clothing flutter.

It looked exactly like a scene from a macabre horror film, but the bodies below were not elaborate mannequins placed on the ground by some Hollywood set designer and his artistic assistants. Nor were they movie extras in make-up waiting for the director’s signal to rise up and begin walking in yet another remake of Night of the Living Dead.

They were the quickly rotting remains of dead humans, men women and children, who until a few short days ago, had been living breathing beings with dreams and aspirations that probably were not all that different from my own.

I learned much later that for the past two years and more, most of these people had been living a miserable existence, but at least where there is life there is hope. There was no hope left in Jonestown that rainy November day, only horror, and I said out loud, to no one in particular, “I don’t want to go down there.”

“I don’t blame you, mate.” The audible reply to my rhetorical question jerked me back into the present.

Within a minute or so, we landed in a large expanse that was to become known as the soccer field. The Guyanese no doubt called it a football field. No matter what its name, I had no desire to leave the chopper that felt like a protective cocoon.

At this moment, the Bell 310 GDF chopper was the only aircraft on the ground in Jonestown, but within a day, this field would become the busiest airport in Guyana, save the Timheri International at Georgetown. Jolly Green Giants would be shuttling American soldiers and their supplies into Jonestown and taking full body bags out, in the most bizarre military airlift in the history of the United States Armed Forces.

As unpleasant as Jonestown was, it was a relief to disembark from that small helicopter. The short ride through dark rain-filled clouds had been disorienting. The unfamiliar and pungent odor of the fish, while not as unpleasant as the aroma exuded by Jonestown, was a little sickening. I had to squat on my haunches, again without a seatbelt, to keep the fish’s natural juices from soaking my uniform. Little did I know at the time, all my uniforms would be discarded and burned at the end of this mission anyway. It was impossible to wash the scent of death from them.

I would have preferred the smell of fish to the putrid odors that penetrated my nostrils once the helicopter door was slid open. The bodies had been lying in the sweltering tropical heat for three days at this point. The temperature during the day on Sunday had been nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the rain, the thermometer was hovering at over 90 on the third day.

If you have never experienced the awful aroma of mass death produced by hundreds of rotting bodies in close proximity to one another, there is no adequate way to describe it with words. The best mind picture I can paint, and this is admittedly insufficient, is to ask the reader to close his eyes and think of the most grossly overpoweringly sweet scent you can imagine and combine with the foulest most flatulent odor you can ever recall. Then consider that you will be required to smell this completely disgusting, maggot-gagging aroma 24 hours a day for the next nine days and your imagination will not even come close to the smell endured by the soldiers working with the dead of the Jonestown Massacre.

The sickening sweetness of death was overwhelming. The tropical heat and humidity seemed to enhance it. Although there was a light breeze blowing through the enclave almost all the time, it was not capable of removing the fetid odor of death and replacing it with fresh air.

Nothing but time seemed to rid the olfactory senses of the assault of death. Its odor literally permeated the skin no matter how many times we bathed or what soap we used. What is worse, long after the smell left my body, even when friends and family denied smelling it, I still did. Clothing and military equipment could be burned and reissued, but only time could repair the damage the smell of death did to the human senses.

Some of the GDF soldiers at the soccer field that day wore kerchiefs over their mouths and noses. I tried it and the cloth had no affect whatsoever on lessening the odor. It only added to the claustrophobic feeling of being smothered by the kerchief as well as death’s aroma.

When the rest of the American contingent began arriving, some tried wearing their Army issued protective (gas) masks. They reported the odor of the dead permeated even the fiber filters of those masks made to protect soldiers from poisonous gases and biological agents.

I looked around at the faces and uniforms of the men I saw in Jonestown as some of them removed there rations from the GDF helicopter I arrived in. I saw no one but Guyanese around me. A GDF lieutenant approached me and we exchanged salutes. His name was LT Abbott and he was in command of the 20 or so troops who were guarding Jonestown since the morning after the massacre.

LT Abbott seemed tired and drawn. His speech was a monotone most of the time. He seemed emotionless, devoid of feeling. The young officer seemed to be suffering what World War I soldiers called “shell shock.” In later wars, the condition was called “combat fatigue” or “combat stress.” In my war, Vietnam, the nomenclature became “post-traumatic-stress disorder.”

“Are you alright, lieutenant?” I asked.

“What, oh yes. …haven’t slept since I don’t know when. None of us have really… difficult to sleep here,” was Abbott’s disjointed reply.

“I was told by your commander you would be coming. You are the medic they sent, correct?” asked the lieutenant, seemingly more in control.

“Yes, yes sir, I am,” I replied.

“Your colleagues have yet to arrive, I am told they should start flying in an hour or two from now,” Abbott informed me. I acknowledged the information and we stood staring at one another for a moment or so.

“Your captain and the surgeon did not have time for a tour, but you do. Would you care to see Jonestown?”

I really did not relish the tour but was very cognizant of the fact that this was an historical event. It occurred to me that I was now part of it. I had no idea at the time what affect the Jonestown Massacre would have on the rest of my life, but I agreed to take LT Abbot’s tour.
From where we stood, at the edge of the soccer field, row upon row of neat white cottages on stilts could be seen. They were freshly painted, some with bright blue or red trim, but most of them all white.

The open-air pavilion was about 100 yards away. It had the familiar tin roof of most buildings in Guyana and even the most gentle of rains played the tin like a drum. The structure was held up by bark trimmed logs and crossbeams made of timber. The logs were painted brown and the crossbeams white. Most of the bodies were in or near the pavilion.

Wooden walkways led from the pavilion to two buildings about the same distance from where I stood. A huge metal building containing at least one tractor with a flatbed trailer attached to it was near the soccer field.

“Those two cottages are the infirmary and Reverend Jones’ home,” Abbott informed me. “The tractor and trailer were used by the assassins who killed the government man for your country on Saturday,” he added.

“I’d like to see the infirmary,” I said.

“I have someplace else I want you to see first,” Abbott said with a serious look on his face.

He beckoned me to follow him. By the intent in his step and the look on his face, it was obvious this tired but handsome black officer already had an itinerary for my tour worked out in his mind.

As we passed rows of stilted cottages with neatly manicured yards, a few bodies were strewn here and there, not in large groups, singly and in twos or threes. They looked not unlike rag dolls little girls had tossed aside after tiring of playing with them. I often wondered if that wasn’t what happened that November 18 in Jonestown. Did the maniacal cult leader, Jim Jones, tire of playing with the brainwashed members of his congregation?

As he approached the open doorway of one of the cottages on the edge of the jungle, he directed me inside with a resolute, almost angry voice.

“I brought you here first because I wanted to show you Americans weren’t the only ones to die here. These are my countrymen. They were shot – murdered.” The lieutenant flatly stated.
In the stifling one room cabin, I saw several bodies, perhaps a half dozen. Each obviously was shot at close range, with a heavy-gauged shotgun. They were all blacks.

“What were so many Guyanese doing in this American commune?” I asked the lieutenant.

“I’m not certain. Maybe some of them worked here. Perhaps some had family members who did. They may be local residents who chose a most inopportune time to visit their neighbors,” he surmised.

The next stop was the commune’s radio tower. We ascended a vertical wooden ladder and entered the platform. It was on stilts that were 20 or so feet high, not unlike the guard towers I was familiar with in military camps in Vietnam.

A lone, Caucasian former member of the People’s Temple lay on the floor, a pad and pencil in his long-dead hands. It appeared the unknown man had taken the poisonous brew and began making a written record of his physical reaction to it. After three short paragraphs of increasingly difficult-to-interpret handwriting, this man’s final thoughts became illegible as the convulsive affects of the cyanide overtook him.

Climbing down from the tower, LT Abbott proceeded to take me to Jim Jones’ cottage. Although I had never seen a picture of the man in life, in death, he had the appearance of a leader. His shirt and trousers were black. That alone separated him from the rest of the dead. The strikingly strange position of the body, lying on the steps of his home, arms outstretched and sightless eyes wide open, Jones’ seemed to be appealing to the God he denied until the end.

Jones’ body did not fall at the steps he was now resting on. Marks on the ground indicated it had been dragged from about 20 feet away. His arms appeared to be stiff in rigor mortis, however, a Time magazine photo taken later, but while the corpse was still on the steps, showed the left arm resting over Jones’ head, the right one lying at its side, obviously after rigor left the body.

A bullet hole was on one side of his forehead. There was little blood around the hole. I didn’t move the body, but I didn’t notice any sign of an exit wound. I don’t particularly remember seeing a pool of blood on the ground from where the body was removed. I specifically looked for powder burns or residue around the entrance wound. There was none. This indicated to me Jones had been murdered and did not commit suicide as initially reported by the US government and the media.

Abbott stepped into Jones’ home, carefully avoiding touching his corpse. I followed. Lying in front of an open empty safe was a dead woman, also shot, through the mouth. I believe this woman to be Ann Moore, the nurse who had allowed Odell Rhodes to avoid death when he accompanied her to the infirmary to fetch a stethoscope for Dr. Schact.

On a bed in a room to the right was another dead woman. She lay on her back and although the front of her blouse had a good deal of dried blood on it, I noticed no apparent wounds. I believe this was Maria Katsaris, Jones’ mistress.

Mysteriously, the only children I saw during the tour were two little boys lying on the floor of Jones’ cottage. We know now that Kimo Prokes and John-John Stoen, children Jones’ claimed to have fathered, lived there.

The sight of the two children combined with the stench of death and the obvious enormity of what occurred here just two days earlier was incredibly shocking. My stomach was in a sorry state, ready to expel its meager contents and definitely not ready to replace it any time soon.

My head was swimming. Although the odor was no better outside the house, I had to escape its confines and at least put my face into the light breeze that was wafting through the commune. The rain had ceased, but the dark overcast sky indicated it could begin again at any time.

Our next stop on this bizarre tour of a literal city of the dead known as Jonestown was the infirmary. As a medic, this was the facility I was most interested in. Empty pill bottles and injection vials littered an otherwise clean floor. Many of the labels on the drug containers read ‘Librium,’ ‘Valium’ and sodium Phenobarbital.

The clinic boasted a modern x-ray machine and a sophisticated training microscope with two eye pieces. Other instruments and medical equipment were equally state-of-the-art. There were no bodies in the infirmary itself, but it was the first place I requested to visit and, because I was a medic, LT Abbott knew I would be interested in seeing it.

I didn’t stay very long there, but long enough to see Larry Schact’s medical degree on the wall. I wondered out loud how a man who studied for years to become a healer could have allowed himself to become an integral element in this gross insult to humanity. LT Abbott didn’t reply.

Interestingly, an organization of medically-oriented ham radio enthusiasts called the Medical Amateur Radio Council (MARCo) made up of physicians and dentists mentioned Dr. Schact in its April 2004 newsletter.[1] It appears he joined the council in order to take advantage of the medical advice and expertise of some of its members.

Historian, Joseph Dieckman, a researcher with the Jonestown Institute, has found numerous reports of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) violations by radio operators of the People’s Temple. FCC Case Number 77-R-71 was opened on August 25, 1977, many months after the initial violations were sent out.[2]

There were four members of the People’s Temple that had amateur ham radio licenses issued by the FCC. They included Albert Touchette [WB6MID (/8R3)], who operated in Jonestown; Paula Adams [WB6MNH (/8R1)] the operator in Guyana’s capitol of Georgetown; Elton Adams [WD6DVI] and Benjamin Bowers [WA6DTJ], who each operated in San Francisco.[3]

The United States Regulations regarding amateur radio are found in Part 97 of the US Codes. All of the violations Dieckman cited are found in the FBI’s RYMUR files.

Of the four radio operators, Bowers had the most reported violations. They included: No control operator present at time of operation; Exceeding maximum input power to the final amplifier; No station log/station log unavailable for inspection; Failure to notify at 10 minute intervals, Transmitting business traffic; Transmitting false, deceptive or unauthorized call letters; Failure to identify as required; and, Operating outside authorized US amateur band limits.[4]

Touchette and Adams had far fewer violations. Most were for operating their radios outside of approved bands, a violation of international radio operation regulations.[5]

According to MARCo, Dr. Schact was a sadist. “Louie,” who was the medical technician who worked at the Jonestown clinic with Schact said, “He didn’t like to use an anesthetic for suturing. If you asked for any pain relief, he stated you were not strong. Only natural childbirth was allowed in Jonestown.[6]

“He was a terrible doctor,” charged (Dale) Parks, who was one of Schact’s assistants in Jonestown. “He had no compassion, but members of his church saw the 30-year-old Dr. Schact as a modern-day Albert Schweitzer. When he first came he was totally strung out on drugs. He could not even carry on a conversation. He even had trouble remembering his name.[7]

Because he abandoned his internship, Dr. Schact lacked clinical experience. He turned to MARCo for help. The colony began using amateur radio for all communications outside the enclave since no telephones were permitted.

Jones himself would sometimes use the radio, using fictitious names. Sometimes he called himself “Al,” the name of the station’s licensee. However, he usually relied on female radio operators and Touchette, the station’s licensee. His name appears alongside other Jonestown murder victims and could very well have been the man I saw in the radio tower.

MARCo member, Bill Otten, [now KC9CS, formerly WD9AMW] recalls his conversation with “Al” one evening on 20 meters. “Early in March of 1979,[8] I was sitting in front of my radio on a cold northern Illinois evening. I was scanning up and down the 20 meter band and a station caught my attention. It was in Guyana, a country I had not yet logged toward DXCC, so I listened for a while. It soon became apparent that the station in Guyana was talking to another station in San Francisco, and as I was listening, I was intrigued, because nothing substantial was being said. I recall mentioning to my father that the stations I was listening o were being very vague, almost as if drug transactions were taking place over the ham bands.

“I returned to the radio and WB6MID/8R3 came back to my call. I told him I was a wildlife biologist researching upland game and habitat in northern Illinois. Several days later, I tuned the radio and once again found the Guyana station, but this time it was being operated by a distinctly different voice and he did not recall our conversation of a few days earlier. This time, I asked for the operator’s name and a QSL card. His name was Albert Touchette.”[9]

The operator of Bill’s first contact identified himself as the director of a compound in the jungles of Guyana. “I run the mission,” he stated. Apparently he was Jim Jones himself, a fact later substantiated by the FBI. In November, some months later, Bill and his wife were on a trip when they heard the sad news of the deaths of more than 900 people.

Contacts with the Jonestown station by W6JZU (now Robert Smithwick, W6CS) were equally cryptic, consisting solely of passing traffic or arranging phone patches between Jonestown and the San Francisco temple, through a station identifying itself as WA6DTG, operated by a “Martha Bown,” or “Debbie Evans.”[10]

From the log of W6JZU: “Typically, the WB6MID/8R3 station operator talks to a WADTJ in San Francisco. WB6MID is licensed to Al Touchette of Redwood, CA. They often start up about 14.300 kcs (the band edge at the time), then they would move up to the high end to 14.345. They often used a coded expression such as ‘Let’s take a break for 15 minutes,’ and then they would move further up and out of the band 15-20 kcs. When out of the band they used coded call signs with the same voices and not amateur call signs. Both the ARRL (Amateur Radio Relay League) and the FCC became aware of this bizarre operation, but were limited to what action to take since the principal station was outside the United States. All letters admonishing this illegal operation were ignored.[11]

MARCo member Don Key (K0IND) confirmed this style of operation after monitoring the station over several months. “At the time of the Jonestown Massacre, Laurence Eugene Schact, MD, submitted an application himself for MARCo membership. He listed his call signs on the application as being WB6MID/8R3. When this proved to be incorrect (the holder of that call sign was Albert Touchette) he was never granted MARCo membership. His application is dated March 9, 1978 and the massacre occurred eight months later on Nov. 18, 1978.[12]

Amateur radio was used extensively to maintain communications. Every evening, about sunset, the three stations would talk with each other, sometimes for hours at a time. Every now and then, they would break in on the MARCo nets and describe some medical problem that Dr. Schact encountered.

Responding to such requests was routine for MARCo, but it was the elementary nature of the questions that first alerted MARCo members that things were not quite right in Jonestown. Members’ concerns increased when some of the questions asked seemed so simple that even people on the lower levels of the medical field normally would be able to answer. MARCo members provided radio medical consultations on broken bones, skin rashes and other tropical problems one would expect to find in a jungle and agricultural environment. In addition to Schact, there were two registered nurses and a radiological technician in residence in Jonestown.[13]

It was not only the simplistic nature of the questions that raised eyebrows. Jonestown operators would talk in such confusing and inappropriate terms that nobody listening could tell what they were talking about. They would sometimes not put sentences together, just quote a few words or say things that had no relation whatsoever to what they had just finished saying.
For example, when the figure “35,000” was worked into conversations, that number did not seem to have a reference to what they were talking about. It was later learned that they were ordering a $35,000 Caterpillar tractor to be sent from the US. The word “tractor” was never used.[14]

Schact was a drug abusing young man when Jones originally chose him to be the cult’s physician. He paid for Schact’s undergraduate and medical school educations. Schact went to Jonestown in 1977.[15]

The tour of Jonestown continued. As we left the infirmary and were walking toward the pavilion where the main mass of fallen bodies were located, the unmistakable sound of incoming H-53 helicopter could be heard in the distance.

“That must be your comrades,’ LT Abbott said, “Shall we continue?”

“Yes,” I replied flatly and without enthusiasm. I didn’t know how long I had been on this bizarre tour, but I knew it had to end soon.

I noticed many of the bodies seemed to lie in family groups and several dozen that I saw wore handmade identification bracelets fashioned of paper and transparent tape. The lieutenant surmised and I agreed, the residents had made these primitive bracelets to facilitate identification by authorities so loved ones could easily claim them when they arrived in the United States. Unfortunately, by this time, the bodies were so bloated that the bracelets were actually imbedded in the skin and most were unreadable.

A few minutes after the Jolly Green Giants landed and shut down their engines, LT Abbott and I concluded our tour. I had seen Jim Jones, seemingly pleading to the God he defied, rejected and mocked until the end. I saw his wooden throne-like chair with the sign overhead that read, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”

I saw the pot of bubbling purple brew, made from Flav-Or-Ade, not the grape Kool-Ade erroneously reported by the media. The deadly poison contained in it, had been forced down the throats of babies and little children with needleless syringes by the very mothers who had given them life. The instruments of their death were littered all around.

I saw dogs and a large chimpanzee that had been shot and killed and I wondered why all these mammals had been executed and yet two beautiful blue macaws sitting on their perches had not. Those birds were the only living things left in the enclave, except for the pigs away from the main part of Jonestown.

Perhaps the masters of these dead animals killed them out of mercy, or they though they would also be united with their pets in the great hereafter Jones promised was awaiting them. Perhaps the macaws were allowed to live so they could bear witness to the insanity that struck Jonestown. If that was the purpose these they were spared, they didn’t make good witnesses. Not a word passed from these parrots’ beaks.

LT Abbott showed me what he wanted me to see, so he could satisfy himself the world would know it wasn’t just Americans that died at Jonestown. I was a witness to the carnage, I am sure so someday I could report what I saw in this place. I saw far more than I desired to see. Even worse, I saw far more than I would ever be able to forget.

When we walked back to the soccer field, two of the US Special Forces troops who had arrived in the Jolly Greens already managed to get the tractor attached to the flatbed trailer and was shuttling big bundles of brownish-black plastic body bags from the H-53s to a staging area near the pavilion. I approached another Green Beret soldier, a medic I knew from Fort Gulick, Panama. I asked him if he was going to be based in Jonestown and he said he was. He agreed to take the drug kit of anti-malarial pills and distribute them to all the soldiers who arrived at the site.

Some of the soldiers that arrived were from the Graves Registration (Mortuary Services, as it is called now) Company at Fort Lee, Virginia. There were a couple of dozen of them, clustered around a junior grade officer, apparently being briefed about the mission. These soldiers from the States coordinated with the well-trained and highly disciplined Special Forces troopers. Although the soldiers from Fort Lee appeared to be ordinary soldiers, it takes a special breed of person to carry out the indescribably difficult mission of the Graves Registration soldier. They surely are the unsung heroes of this and many missions the get involved with.

LT Abbott returned to tell me the GDF helicopter I arrived in would be back shortly, bringing fresh troops to relieve some of his tired men. He asked if I was ready to return to Matthews Ridge.

“I was ready to get back to my men as soon as I arrived, thanks for the tour,” I said as I shook Abbott’s hand.

He gave me a week smile and said, “I wish I could say it was my pleasure, but at least it was a pleasure to meet you,” he replied.

With the sound of the GDF Bell 310 in the distance, I saluted LT Abbott and waited for the helicopter to land. It did and eight young Guyanese soldiers in clean freshly pressed uniforms disembarked from it. Eight of their counterparts, uniforms sweat-stained and smelly, who preceded them and had the grim task of guarding the Jonestown dead since Sunday morning, eagerly prepared to load out. There were no noisy greetings or high fives between these two groups of soldiers as was the custom when American troopers performed similar exchanges. Instead, the signs of fear and trepidation on the faces of those just arrived and relief on those leaving told the story.

I gratefully joined the departing soldiers as did a small nervous Caucasian American in a white shirt and dress slacks. I didn’t see anyone but uniformed American service men and women disembark from the incoming helicopters, so I assumed he was in Jonestown before I arrived. He carried an unpainted wooden crate without a top. It was filled to overflowing with what appeared to be official documents.

I nodded to the shaky guy in the dress clothes. He returned the silent signal of greeting and pointed to the .45 caliber pistol on my belt. “Is that thing loaded, soldier?” asked my jittery countryman.

“Wouldn’t do me much good without ammo, would it friend?” I replied.

Sidling up to me so he could not be easily heard by other ears than mine, he motioned me to draw even closer so he could tell me something in confidence. “If anybody tries to take this box away from me, shoot them,” he ordered softly and seriously, then he quickly stepped onto the helicopter.

I jumped in and sat next to him. The chopper still was not configured with passenger seats, so the ten of us sat on the floor.

I put my mouth to the crazy guy’s right ear and said in a voice loud enough to be heard by him alone over the roar of the huge aircraft engine, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

“No, I’m not,” he replied flatly, staring at me with his most convincing ‘I am dead serious’ look.

“Look buddy,” I said to the little man in what I hoped was an equal tone of seriousness, “I don’t know who you are and I don’t know what you have in that box that is so valuable, but whatever it is, there is no way I am going to risk spending one night in a Guyanese lock-up because I shot someone who was trying to take that box away from you.”

I turned an faced the GDF soldier sitting across from me. The helicopter lifted off and I watched the jungle get smaller as we ascended higher in the waning light of my first day in Guyana. Fortunately, he and his seven comrades had just spent the most stressful 36 hours of their lives, the only living beings in a village of 900 plus dead bodies. They were exhausted and didn’t seemed to be the least bit interested in the conversation I was having with the weird American bureaucrat or the box he was now sitting on.

“I’m from the American Embassy in Georgetown,” my mysterious new associate informed, no doubt believing I would be impressed. “I’ve been here since yesterday gathering these documents. They are very sensitive, we can’t let them get into the wrong hands,” he told me in a forceful yet panicky voice.

“Let me make myself very clear to you sir,” I said to the alleged State Department man, “I don’t care if you are Rocky J. Squirrel I am Bullwinkle the Moose. I don’t care if you are President Jimmy Carter himself, I don’t care if Ivan and Natasha try to take those papers from you, unless I feel our lives are in danger, this pistol stays holstered.”

“Give it to me then,” he half ordered and half begged in a squeaky little voice. Genuine fear showed in his eyes when he removed his shades so he could see in the withering sunlight.
“Listen, I don’t know you and I don’t like you. This .45 is going to remain in its holster, and if anyone draws it out, its going to be me and if you keep fucking with me, it is you I will be shooting, I yelled at the probable CIA clerk.

About this time, the pilot began his descent. I looked down and realized we were not landing at the Matthews Ridge airstrip. With the impending landing at some other destination than the one I thought we were going to, our conversation ended.

Although it was nearly dark, it was obvious we landed at Port Kaitumba, the location where the Ryan Party was ambushed. The scene must have looked much as it did on Saturday night, when the assassinations took place.

The eight weary GDF soldiers departed the helicopter here. It was now Monday night, almost 48 hours to the minute since the carnage occurred. The planes that were to take the congressman and his aide, concerned family members, defectors and the press, were still on the tarmac, their skins pock-mocked with bullet holes.

Later I learned the plan Larry Layton and his hit squad developed called for assassins to board each aircraft.[16] When the planes were airborne, a gunman on each was to kill its pilot thereby causing a deadly crash into the jungle below.

The plan was botched when the gunmen began firing from the flatbed trailer as it approached the aircraft. No one will ever know what would have happened in Jonestown that night on November 18, 1978, had the quickly devised plan been carried out successfully. Could the Jonestown Massacre have been averted if the planes were reported missing and no one was aware of the foul play? As it was, the botched assassination plan was the catalyst for the biggest mass murder/suicide in history.

The man from the embassy and I were the only passengers on the Port Kaitumba to Matthews Ridge leg of the helicopter trip. By now, we were enveloped in total darkness and we each sat on opposite sides of the cabin. I was determined to keep as much space between myself and this odd, nervous American. I regarded him as one might a weird, off-the-wall relative with whom one does not want to be seen with in public.

Captain Skinner and Major Burgos were standing at the refueling point when the chopper finally landed at the airstrip. The helicopter would fly on to Georgetown after departing Matthews Ridge. My commander approached the helicopter as I slid the door open and jumped out.

“How’d it go?” he yelled in my ear over the din of the helicopter. “Mission accomplished,” I
replied tersely, “Are you leaving, sir?”

“Yeah, Doc. Burgos and I are going back to Georgetown. We will work out of there. You’ve got everything under control here. Call us if you need anything,” Skinner shouted over the chopper’s engine.

“Watch out for that little squirrelly guy on the helicopter,” I warned my commander. “He’s some kind of spook or something. Wanted me to shoot anyone who tried to take his damned box from him.”

Captain Skinner did not reply. Perhaps this was because I referred to the other passengers diminutive status and it made him feel more self-conscious of his own. Maybe he knew something I didn’t. At any rate, he turned towards the helicopter, staring intently at the State Department man as he watched Major Burgos hop into the passenger cabin and then turned around, sat and pulled himself in.

I watched the international orange GDF bird lift into the starless night until its running lights disappeared in the low clouds. Then I strode up the hill to our aid station, hoping at least one of the guys was thoughtful enough to set up my cot and roll out my sleeping bag. They were. I never saw the man from the US Embassy again and I never learned what his name or function was.

Monday, November 20, 1978 had been one of the most bizarre days of my life, but the weirdness was just beginning. The next eight days would test the credulity and strain the sanity of many of the Americans performing this very strange and most unmilitary mission.

[1] Medical Amateur Radio Council, April Newsletter, Retrieved April 2004 from / med/marco/index2/html.
[2] E-mail from Joseph Dieckman, Subject: FCCPT Document Attached, dated July 10, 2004.
[3] Joseph Dieckman, The FCC Investigation of Amateur Radio Usage of the Peoples Temple, Research Paper, 2004.

[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Medical Amateur Radio Council, April Newsletter, 2004.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Note: Bill Otten told Josef Dieckman in a 2004 conversation that the year should have been 1978. Dieckman related this information to the author in a telephone conversation on June 26, 2004.
[9] Medical Amateur Radio Council, April Newsletter, 2004
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] FOIA, Federal Bureau of Investigation RYMUR (Jonestown), 176; John Peer Nugent, White Night, 144-147.
[16] FOIA, Ibid., 157, 260.

Chapter Four

Chapter Four: John Wayne Bars and Other Treats

Kill one man and you are a murderer. Kill millions and you are a conqueror. Kill everyone and you are a god.
Jean Rostand

No sooner had my team begun to set up our aid station and sleep tent than the children and teenagers of the nearby town arrived to stare at us. It was the first time they had ever seen American soldiers and airmen and as word of our presence spread, the number of curious onlookers multiplied. The ethnic breakdown of Guyana is mainly blacks, East Asians, mostly from India, and Amerindians who are indigenous to the country.

The group of locals watching us was made up mostly of blacks and Amerindians. All were female and all were teenagers. Girls seemed much more curious and bolder than the boys and we did not see any male teens until their sisters returned later in the day.

Two delightful almond-colored young ladies drew closer to me as I sat on a larger rock and began opening my C-ration meal. This particular box contained turkey loaf, canned peaches, peanut butter and a small tin that contained crackers and two candy discs, euphemistically called “John Wayne Bars.” The candy got its name during the Vietnam War. It was an ironic honor for the macho super patriotic actor who had never served a day in the service, but killed a lot of Japanese and Germans on the silver screen.

As I used the P-38 that always hung around my neck to open my main course, the two curious girls looked on intently. Although very hungry myself, out of courtesy, it seemed appropriate to share my meal with them. I handed a John Wayne Bar to each cutie.

The girl sitting to my right introduced herself as Pauline when I told her my name and asked for hers’. She studied the aluminum foil wrapper that encased the round disc of chocolate imbedded with tiny bits of almonds and crunchy nougat.

“What is this?” Pauline inquired in a crisp British accent.

“Why it’s candy,” I replied.

“What form of candy?” she asked, still studying the wrapper.

“It’s a chocolate bar,” I answered. Almost before I finished my sentence, Pauline eagerly peeled the foil wrapper from her John Wayne Bar and literally stuffed the entire disc into her mouth., ravishing it in a single bite. Her silent little friend did likewise.

“What’s the matter with you girls?” I asked as they greedily licked tiny slivers of candy from around their lips, “You act as if you’ve never eaten chocolate before.”

“I have not,” came Pauline’s response in that accent I found so enchanting when emitted from the mouths of these pretty Amerindian girls.

“Oh come on! Doesn’t your mother allow you to eat sweets?” I asked suspiciously.

Pauline simply looked at me and said, “We don’t have chocolate in this country.” That simple explanation sounded unbelievable to this American who took chocolate and many other things for granted. A Guyanese Defense Force soldier standing nearby talking with Fielder, overheard my conversation with Pauline and confirmed her statement.

“It’s a luxury,” he said. “Guyana has a problem with its balance of trade so we don’t import luxuries if we can help it.”

Word quickly spread around Matthews Ridge that the American soldiers staying at the airfield had chocolate candy. Soon every female teenager in the region was visiting us, hoping to be lucky enough to cadge a John Wayne Bar or one of the less desirable treats found in C-rations.

It nearly got out of hand. The girls were becoming more daring in their attempts to befriend an American service man who would be willing to give them chocolate bars. Fielder, a young, virile and not unattractive African-American soldier had more than his share of young ebony beauties willing to bestow favors on him for candy. I have talked to GIs who, from other times and during wars experienced the same thing.

Captain Skinner and Major Burgos remained with us at Matthews Ridge during that first day, but as night fell, both returned to Timheri Airport where the command structure of the task force was located. During the first few hours we were at the airstrip, they flew into Jonestown for a brief tour.

With the two officers gone, it was up to me to maintain order. Sam Bernal was not a problem. Like me, he was an old married guy with kids. Fielder and Sanborn were another matter altogether. Not yet 21 years of age, neither had complete control over his hormones.

But they were well-disciplined and knew they would endure my immediate wrath and perhaps be disciplined under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, if they were anything but discreet. So for these two soldiers, discretion definitely became the better part of valor.

Two aviation fuel specialists from the Canal Zone were located at the airstrip with us. They had three huge hard rubber bladders of jet fuel used to refill aircraft shuttling supplies into and bodies out of Jonestown.

The fuel specialists were a Sergeant E5 and a Specialist Fourth Class. As a Specialist Sixth Class, I was the ranking noncom at the site and that, in effect, made me their supervisor. The sergeant was an older more stable guy. His assistant was very interested in the local social scene.

Rounding out the personnel at our little outpost were two Air Force Communications specialists that provided us with a communications relay link that allowed Jonestown, thru us, to talk anywhere in the world. It was staffed by a young NCO and his airman assistant and once we were operational, these two were the busiest men at the airstrip.

They had to insure the radios were monitored 24 hours a day. During daylight hours, when recovery operations were being conducted, an hourly body count was transmitted to Timheri Airport from Jonestown via our relay. At night, there was very little radio traffic and we could make radio calls anywhere in the world.

On Thanksgiving, we all made brief calls to our families. That was one of the few pleasant memories I remember from those traumatic days.

The natives were very friendly, especially the teenaged girls with their craving for chocolate. Our young studs began bragging about their romantic conquests to air crews that arrived for refueling. Although these guys were far from trolls, they attributed their success with the ladies to John Wayne Bars. It wasn’t long before word got out to the command center at the airport that Brailey’s guys were getting laid for chocolate bars.

It was no secret that some of the men at Matthews Ridge were having sexual trysts with some of the local girls. Beside my standing order to use discretion, I also advised them to use condoms. I had no idea that word of their extracurricular activities had reached the hallowed halls of Joint Task Force Command.

One day, an Army U-21, an aircraft similar to a Lear jet, landed at the airstrip. This was not unusual. Curious officers often made the trip from Georgetown, just to see the sights. Most of the time they would board a helicopter at Matthews Ridge and fly into Jonestown, or they would make a cursory inspection of our aid station, have a cup of Gator Ade with us and then leave as quickly as they came. These officers rarely announced their itineraries, so we never knew when they might visit.

On this particular morning, I believe it was the day before Thanksgiving, the 193rd Infantry Brigade’s Transportation Officer arrived. She was a willowy first lieutenant with long legs who actually looked great in Army fatigues. LT Thomas was a free spirit who enjoyed joking with the troops. This day proved to be no exception.

As I saw the cute lieutenant descending the stairs of the aircraft, I recognized her and decided to trot down the hill to greet her. As we approached one another, I saluted smartly, “Good morning Lieutenant,” I offered.

Returning my salute just as crisply, she replied, “Good morning Specialist Brailey,” and tossed me the large brown distribution envelope she was carrying.

As I caught the bulky package, 1LT Thomas smiled at me coyly and said, “Tell your guys to have a good time on me.” The envelope was chock full of John Wayne Bars.

Before I could think of a snappy comeback, the playful officer marched back up the steps of the waiting U-21. A few seconds later, she looked down at me from one of the aircraft’s round windows. Several Guyanese children were playing nearby, among them Pauline and her friend. I opened the envelope of C-ration candy and began distributing them among the kids, much to their delight.

I turned toward the aircraft which had yet to begin its taxi for take-off. As I dispensed the last of the John Wayne Bars to a couple of the smaller children, I saluted toward the lieutenant and walked back up the small hill to my aid station.

It was no exaggeration that a few of our soldiers at Matthews Ridge were fraternizing with some of the local girls and were giving them John Wayne Bars. However, I do feel to say they were receiving sexual favors for the candy is a little far fetched. These guys were red blooded American soldiers in their late teens and early twenties. They would be doing horizontal coed exercises with or without the chocolates.

One reason the sexual mores of that region of Guyana were so liberal is because of the sparseness of the population there. Matthews Ridge was close to the border with Venezuela, one GDF sergeant told me. The women of the town, be they single or married, were encouraged to be fruitful and multiply in order to lend legitimacy to some border disputes between Guyana and its neighbor.

And these young women who were between adolescence and adulthood were beautiful and flirtatious. Take Pauline for example. She was a lovely 15-year-old Amerindian girl with a body that would make any 21-year-old swimsuit model in the USA envious. Maybe it was the diet or the fact that they had to walk virtually everywhere they went, while Americans have more than they need to eat and would sooner ride in a car to the corner convenience store than walk to it, but the girls of Guyana seemed to grow up faster.

The children who visited our site day after day were made up of mainly Amerindians. I asked Pauline if she and her friend went to school.

“I don’t anymore. The other children were mean to me and my mother and father said I don’t have to go back,” she replied.

“Mean to you. How?” I inquired. Pauline explained that some of the bad boys would dip her pigtails in ink or cut them with scissors. She also said they would cut her dresses and she didn’t have all that many dresses.

Fifty-one percent of the population of Guyana were descended from immigrants who came from India. People of African or partial-African descent made up 42 percent and only four percent of Guyanese descended from the indigenous or native population. The remaining three percent of the Guyanese people came from Europe or China.

The Amerindians in Guyana were broadly grouped into coastal and interior tribes. The coastal Amerindians are Carib, Arawak and Warao, whose names come from the three language families of the Guyanese Amerindians. Interior Amerindians consisted of seven tribes: Akawaio, Arekuna, Barama River Carib, Macusi, Patamona, Waiwai, and Wapisiana. The tribes living near Jonestown included the Barama River Carib, Akawaio, Arekuna and Patamona. They all shared the Carib language.

It turns out there was a great deal of racial bigotry and prejudice against the Amerindians by the two predominant ethnic groups. This, alas, seemed to be the case in every country I traveled and visited in during my 20 years in the Army. Indigenous peoples around the world were usually considered inferior to the larger ethnic groups.

Sergeant Harper, a gregarious Guyana Defense Force supply sergeant whom I befriended popped into our sleep tent the second evening we were in country.

“Would any of ya like ta go ta town an’ slot some puss?” he asked with a big grin on his face.
“What’s that you say?” I responded, thinking his thick and unfamiliar accent kept me from properly understanding his question.

“Do ya wanna go ta town an’ slot some puss,” the exasperated Sergeant Harper asked slowly. He saw by the look on my face that what he was asking still really did not register.

As we all looked on, he made a circle with his left thumb and index finger and pushed his right index finger in and out of the hole made by the first and second digits of his left hand, repeatedly saying, “Slot some puss, slot some puss, slot some puss.”

Embarrassed that Harper had to use familiar, but vulgar international sign language to make me understand his question, I stupidly asked, “Are there any bars in Matthews Ridge?”
Slapping me on the back, he shouted, “Ya Mat-ewes Ridge got plenny bahs, mon, plenny wimmin too!”

So that night I made the command decision to leave Fielder at the aid station with one of the communications men and the aviation fuel NCO. The rest of us piled into Harper’s nine passenger Land Rover. As we sped away from the GDP outpost for our first off duty mixer with the local population, Sergeant Harper gave us strict instructions to meet at the vehicle at 11 PM. He said that was around the time the town’s generator ran out of fuel, effectively cutting off all electric power until the next morning.

Sergeant Harper took us to Mrs. Pool’s Bar. She was a large, funny black lady with a wonderful personality that fit right in with the perpetual smile on her face. After introductions were made all around, I put a 20 dollar bill on the bar and told Mrs. Pool to let me know when I ran out of money so I could replenish the drinking fund. Since a bottle of Banks Beer, the national brew of Guyana was $1.20 with the dollar returned when you returned the precious bottle, (there were no bottle factories in the country at this time) we managed to drink all night on 20 dollars.

As I was seated at the bar, sipping on an ice cold beer while Sergeant Harper and my new friend, Mrs. Pool explained the culture of Guyana to me, my little friend Pauline stuck her head through the doorway. There were other children in the bar younger than she, so I motioned for Pauline to come and join us. She simply shook her head and said, “I cannot,” and kept watching us.
I tried to verbally coax Pauline into the establishment, saying, “Come on in, I’ll buy you a cold drink.” She replied simply, “I cannot.”

Seeing I was getting nowhere fast, I excused myself and went out on the porch. “What would you like to drink?” I asked, thinking she’d say ‘orange’ or ‘root beer’ or some other soft drink. I was wrong.

“I’ll have a Banks please, and one for my brother Frank,” was her reply.
“You are too young to drink beer,” I said emphatically to this 15-year-old Amerindian girl.
“I am not!” was her equally firm and defiant response. I looked to Mrs. Pool and Sergeant Harper for guidance and they both indicated it was no problem for Frank, Pauline’s 17-year-old brother or Pauline to have a beer. So the proprietor of the little bar opened three frosty bottles of Banks and I carried them to the porch where Pauline, her brother and I spent about an hour in conversation.

They told me Mrs. Pool wouldn’t allow Amerindians into her bar. It was then I realized all the children and local patrons of the establishment were black. I learned that Frank was the eldest sibling of 13. His father worked for the government, and as usual, was away, but his mother, grandfather, brothers and sisters all were at home.

“You must come meet my family,” suggested Pauline.

“Another time, perhaps,” I said.

“No, now,” she said impetuously.

“I don’t want to impose.”

“No, my mother was excited to earn Americans were in Matthews Ridge. She has never met an American,” Frank explained.

“How far away from here is your house?”

“Just up the ridge a bit,” said Pauline as she jumped from her seat and grabbed my arm to pull me up.

As I told Sergeant Harper of my plan to meet Pauline’s family, Frank begged off, saying he had somewhere else to go. As I left, the GDF supply sergeant reminded me of the 11 PM deadline for the return trip to the airstrip, some three miles away.

“We won’ be waitin’ mon,” he said with a laugh.

“I’ll make it back by 11, I replied.

Pauline took my hand and led me to a trail that took us exactly where she said it would – up the ridge – straight up. I was getting a practical lesson in the main geological feature that gave the town its name. Although Pauline and her family lived less than a mile from Mrs. Pool’s bar, it as if I was climbing Mount Everest. By the time we reached her house, my legs ached fiercely and my uniform was drenched in sweat. Young Pauline looked as fresh as she did before we began our trek.

Her mother was very nice, a much older version of her daughter. She probably was only half dozen or so years older than me, yet she seemed tired or shy, perhaps both, all at once. Her hair was a beautiful black color without any streaks of gray. Her hands were much more calloused and worn than mine, but then again, she probably lived a harder life than I. It can’t be easy trying to raise 13 children who were born during a 17 year period.

While her mother made tea, Pauline and I played with the other children. While we were getting to know each other, their grandfather silently strode into the room. He was a quiet and dignified gentleman with more white hair on his head that black. The old man had a professorial look to him and he literally spoke the King’s English.

I noticed the home was a simple but clean structure made mostly of plywood and two by fours. The roof, like every other one in Matthews Ridge, was fashioned from tin. Furniture was sparse and utilitarian. Although I was not given a tour of the residence, it seemed to consist of a great room where the kitchen, dining and socializing area was, surrounded by rooms that apparently were bedrooms.

The entire family and some inquisitive neighbors who dropped by, seemed happy and honored to have met their first American. I certainly enjoyed their sincere and friendly hospitality. I met all the children, one by one. The British accent they all had seemed so incongruous coming from people dressed simply in Amerindian garb.

The one topic we did not discuss was the event that brought me to their town in the first place: the mass murder/suicides in nearby Jonestown. Perhaps Pauline’s mother and grandfather thought the subject would embarrass me.

I checked my pocket-watch and saw it was nearly 10:20 PM. It was time for me to start down the ridge to meet up with rest of the guys. I always wore a pocket-watch in tropical countries because the wrist variety invariably gave me a rash within a day or so due to the heat and humidity.

“That’s a fine timepiece,” said Pauline’s father. It was a silver colored Timex that cost me less than 10 dollars at the Post Exchange in Panama.

“Would you like it, sir?” I asked the old man, hoping the watch could serve as a small token of gratitude for the wonderful visit I had with Pauline and her family.

"Oh no, I could not possibly take such a fine gift,” he said. I told Pauline’s grandfather I had another just like it at home and would not miss this one.

He then asked me if there was anything I wanted from Guyana. Recalling how colorful and intricate the nation’s postage stamps were, I told the old fellow my daughter collected postage stamps and would love to receive a packet of cancelled ones from his country. That Christmas and for the next few years after, Suzanne, my oldest daughter, would receive an envelope full of cancelled Guyanese stamps around Christmas.

My engaging conversation with Pauline’s grandfather and Sergeant Harper’s parting words that the Land Rover would leave for the airstrip when the generator ran out of fuel weighed on my mind. I was anxious to catch up with my soldiers and Harper because my aching legs were not looking forward to a three mile hike home, not after climbing a mile up Matthews Ridge and a mile back down.

As Pauline and I left her home for the less strenuous trek down the ridge, the power suddenly went off, cloaking the entire town in instant darkness. The constant whirr of the faraway generator was replaced with silence and the chorus of sounds from the insects and animals in the Jungle was more obvious. Kerosene lanterns began to appear in some windows, causing eerie shadows to appear on the moonless night.

“I though the power went off at 11 PM,” I said to Pauline.

“It stops when the petrol runs dry,” she answered.

We continued down the ridge and to my distress, the next mechanical sound I heard was the Land Rover starting up. I could see its headlights off in the distance, but was not close enough to hail Sergeant Harper without disturbing anyone who went to sleep earlier. I knew I was in for a long walk back to the airfield, in pitch black conditions, on an unfamiliar dirt road surrounded by jungle, in a strange country.

As we passed one of the only two story buildings in the town, its windows lit by flickering lanterns, I said to Pauline, “I’m not looking forward to my walk back to the airstrip.”

“Do you want to go in here?” she asked, pointing to the two story building.

“What is that building?” I asked.

“It’s the hotel,” was Pauline’s short reply. I learned later that the hotel in Matthews Ridge boasted less than 10 rooms for visitors to the town.

“I can’t stay here tonight. I am the boss man at my camp and I have responsibilities back there, so I must trek to the airstrip,” I explained.

Taking my hand in hers and stroking it intimately, she said in a very provocative voice, “I don’t mean for the whole night.”

I was flabbergasted. “Pauline,” I almost shouted as I retrieved my hand from hers, “You are only 15-years-old.”

“I may be 15, but in Guyana I am a woman!” was her hurt and sharp reply that I would never forget.

As we stood together in the darkness, outside the only hotel in Matthews Ridge, I tried to explain to Pauline that in America 30-year-old men do not make love with children half their ages. This woman-child, with a body as sexually appealing as any I’d ever seen, was extremely offended. She turned in a huff, and before I knew it, disappeared into the dark tropical night.

I found my way back to the airstrip with the help of a friendly Guyanese man who offered to accompany me on my walk in the dark. When he offered to help me, I thanked him and told him I could get back there myself.

“There are snakes that come out at night that will kill you before you can take two steps,” the Good Samaritan replied.

Thinking I may be getting set up for a mugging, or worse, I said, “I’ve got a powerful .45 caliber handgun to protect me from animals,” pointing to the holstered sidearm on my belt.
“You won’t have an opportunity to use your gun,” he told me, “these snakes are practically invisible in the dark.”

I decided to take my chance getting mugged by this affable little Amerindian man, rather than running into a deadly serpent while alone on this frontier track. We reached the aid station in a little over an hour, after listening to big cats screaming in the not-so-distant jungle. Except for some small nocturnal rat-looking large rodents, we didn’t see any other animals.

I thanked my new friend and guide profusely offering him some Gator Ade, the only drink we had that was palatable. He declined saying he must get back home. I then gave him four C-ration meals to repay him for his trouble. When he looked at the contents of just one meal, he shook my hand vigorously in thanks saying, “This one box will feed my wife and two children for one meal,” he said solemnly as he repacked the tins and packets back into the box.

The next morning, I related my experience with Pauline to Sergeant Harper. He gave me a hearty laugh and said, “She right ‘mon. Dat gal ain’ no virgin. Ya shudda bed her down now. Dat gal like a wildcat, ya know.”

Harper also told me that the government actually encourages the girls and women of the region to be fruitful and multiply, just as my troops had been told by the young girls they were having sex with.

The United States military had journeyed to a strange country on an unreal mission. It’s a place where girls, barely out of adolescence were encouraged to make babies, beer bottles cost five times what their contents did, and the children never ate chocolate. Yet compared to some of the other events I was to experience in Guyana over the next week, these things didn’t seem so strange after all.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Chapter Three

Chapter Three: “We aren’t prepared for this”

“Death is king of this world: ‘tis his park where he breeds life to feed him. Cries of pain are music for his banquet.” George Eliot

I hated it when a patient died, especially if he or she was young and vital. Children affected me the most, so innocent and so new to this state called “life.” I saw my share of people die – old men from cancer, young men from motorcycle accidents or wars, children from illness and abuse. As a medic, you get immured to death, at least most do.

I tried to take death in stride. I didn’t fear my own death, to me it was just another stage of life, perhaps, I hope, not even the final one. But to see a baby die before he was able to say its first word or a child, before she went to her first school dance or had her first adolescent crush, or a 19-year-old soldier, his legs amputated at the hips, who you spent weeks keeping alive and you did it, you defeated an inevitable death, until he committed suicide days after being sent back home, because he always wanted to be a cowboy. Those deaths I couldn’t take in my stride.

I felt strongly about people who died for no good reason, especially when they are helpless or coerced. I still do. Before I arrived at Jonestown, I was confused, not understanding what happened there. When I left Jonestown and returned home, I was still confused, and pissed off.

I’m not sure when the 193rd Infantry Brigade Emergency Operations Center received the first notification that something terrible had happened to several hundred Americans living in the jungle of Guyana, but I was informed by First Sergeant Arthur Phillip at about 9AM, November 19. I was preparing breakfast for my family when a phone call alerted me that my presence was immediately required in the company.

I was the chief wardmaster of the clearing platoon, 601st Medical Company and it was not unusual for a meeting to be called on a Saturday or Sunday, particularly if medical assets were needed to respond to some natural disaster. I was not sure what calamity caused this meeting to be called, but I was quite certain it was not a hurricane or earthquake as none had been reported on the news. Usually Phillips would have given me a heads up as to the topic of such meetings. This time, he did not.

My weekend uniform was usually shorts, sandals and a colorful T-shirt, which I quickly from into Army issue tropical fatigues. The familiar battle dress uniform (BDU) that is now worn by soldiers was not yet in the inventory.

I did finish making the pancakes, my specialty, before I left. I kissed my children and wife goodbye, not knowing if I’d be home any time soon, expecting I would not. Being veteran Army brats and a dutiful military wife, the family took my departure in stride as it had dozens of times in the past.

Arriving at the company, I noticed the brigade surgeon’s and company commander’s cars in the parking lot. It was most unusual for the surgeon to be present at an initial pre-deployment briefing. The scene of the commander’s office was somber. The faces that greeted me were not the ordinarily jovial ones exhibited by these professionals. Even when a soldier’s weekend is interrupted by some emergency or disaster, he usually maintains a sense of humor. Obviously some major crisis was brewing.

“What’s up sirs?” I said, addressing my commander, Captain Richard Skinner and the brigade surgeon, Major Victor Burgos.

Burgos was a seasoned Army doctor and an excellent manager. Board certified in Emergency Room Medicine, he was aware of all the standard policies, procedures and protocols and he operated by them. Hell, he wrote some of them. Once, when a tracked vehicle fell from a bridge during a training exercise, gruesomely killing one of its occupants, I watched him adroitly treat one of the soldiers who saw his buddy’s head crushed before his very eyes.

The young soldier luckily had no physical injuries, but he was a psychological mess. Brought into the clearing station on a litter, the young soldier stank from soiling himself. He was shaking so badly, he could not smoke a cigarette unless someone held it for him. The stricken young trooper could not or would not talk. After assessing his condition, Major Burgos told me to admit the soldier to the holding ward, clean him up and get him a bed.

“Don’t you want to send him to Gorgas [Army Hospital] for psychiatric evaluation?” I asked Burgos.

“What’s the philosophy behind treating a psychiatric casualty in combat, Brailey?” he said responding to my question with a question.

“Treat him as close to the front line as you can and get him back to duty as quickly as possible,” I responded. In combat, psychiatric casualties recover better if they are allowed to return to their units and comrades as soon as possible.

“But this isn’t combat, doc; this is a field training exercise,” I said, “Do you think the philosophy applies here?”

“Of course it does,” said the brigade surgeon. “We train like we fight. In a few hours that soldier will be able to hold his own cigarette, will be talking to the other patients in the holding ward and will be eating dinner. By tomorrow morning, I expect I’ll be sending that young man back to duty.”

I wandered back to the holding ward tent later that afternoon. The soldier who was nearly catatonic after witnessing the horrible death of his comrade, was sitting on the edge of his cot, smoking a cigarette. He held it by himself, with little shaking. He still was not very talkative.

A few hours later, the soldier was eating his dinner and telling anyone who would listen about the terrible tragedy that brought him to the clearing company. The next morning, less than 24 hours after his trauma, the young man was anxious to get back to his unit and performing his duties.
I told Major Burgos I was impressed by the recovery of the initially unresponsive soldier. He took it in his stride and asked me if there were any lessons to be learned about human behavior as a result of this tragic accident. His point was well taken. I learned a lot about medicine from this brilliant young physician, but on this November 19, even he didn’t know what we should do, and his bewilderment was disconcerting.

Burgos looked intently at the three men in the room with him. First Sergeant Art Phillips and I went way back. Eight years earlier, he was my wardmaster in an evacuation hospital in Vietnam. Strong of mind and body and as proficient in medical skills as any noncommissioned officer I ever served with, Art continues to this day to be my good friend.

Captain Richard Skinner was the company commander of the 601st Medical Company. He was a no-nonsense Medical Service Corps officer. Very short in stature, Skinner had a serious inferiority complex we all thought was related to his height, but Dick Skinner was one of the most competent and accessible company commanders I ever served under.

I was the third person Burgos was looking at. As a specialist sixth class, I was the lowest in rank of the quartet. However, I was a Vietnam War veteran with two tours under my belt and one of only a handful of NCOs in the company with any combat experience. Having served in the 601st Medical Company for two years and four months as of November 1978, I was in charge of the Admissions and Disposition section of the clearing platoon, which was comprised of the emergency room and medical wards.

Burgos told us what little he knew about our mission, which basically was not much. “A bunch of Americans living in the country of Guyana have attempted mass suicide by taking poison… maybe 400 to 500 people: men, women and children. We don’t know what they took. We don’t know how many are still alive, if any. We are going to be part of a task force to go there, assess the situation, assist the survivors, and bring the remains of any dead out of Guyana.”
I looked at Burgos and said, “Sir, we aren’t prepared for this.” Nothing in our combined experience could prepare us for the shocking hell of Jonestown.

A medical clearing company was made up of around 112 soldiers. It had a capacity of 100 patients and the capabilities of most small hospitals: an emergency room (called A & D), wards, a laboratory, x-ray department and operating room. The clearing company was designed to function under combat conditions. Traumatic injuries, not mass poisonings, were the types of casualties this medical unit was set up to receive.

Bullet wounds and broken bones, even multiple cases of certain medical conditions such as cholera and typhoid fever, malaria and heat injuries were old hat for medical soldiers. The protocols for these cases were standard and the soldier-medics of the clearing company trained for such contingencies.

All Army medical facilities were capable of caring for a small influx of poison cases, be they food borne or purposely ingested cases. However, mass poisonings were not commonplace. Aside from the importance of identifying the poison, having the proper medication to treat the condition was essential and no antidotes were normally kept in massive quantities.

The universal antidote for poisoning was activated charcoal mixed in water. We had plenty of water but were not sure we could locate enough charcoal to treat 400 to 500 poisoning cases. Even if we could locate the proper antidotes in an adequate amount, what condition would any survivors be in once we arrived at their remote jungle location some 1450 miles away?

We were being tasked with an unusual and unique mission and we had to do the best we could with limited resources to accomplish it. Major Burgos was determined to put together an antidote kit that could be used to treat any survivors. Selecting a team to provide that treatment and to care for any injuries or other casualties that might occur, incidental to the mission, became my responsibility.

Fortunately, the 601st was blessed with some highly competent soldier-medics to choose from. Sam Bernal was another specialist sixth class practical nurse like me. Although fairly new to the unit, he was a quiet and introspective but demonstrated much talent and skills.

Randy Fielder, a specialist fourth class “mini-charlie” was another team member. A mini-charlie was an experimental medic, one who completed the first half of his practical nurse training and then was assigned to a medical unit where, over time, he would receive the second half. This was to be the Army’s answer to the high attrition rate of Army practical nurses.

The Army had lost “full-charlie” practical nurses to the civilian sector in droves. The short-lived program lasted less than two years, however, the short Charlies just couldn’t replace their more educated, trained and experienced predecessors.

That said, Fielder was a very resourceful soldier. A 19-year-old kid from the ghetto, Randy could drive any vehicle in the Army inventory and he was not afraid of work. He also was quite a schemer, very resourceful at “Midnight Requisitioning,” that age-old method of procuring equipment and supplies in an unconventional and expedient manner. Further, of all the younger soldiers in the 601st, he was one of the more well-liked by higher ranking NCOs and he fit well into the composition of our team.

Mike Sanborn was a specialist fourth class as well. He was a 91A10 combat medic. As big and strong as an ox, Sanborn could be counted on to get the job done, no matter how great the hardship. He reacted well in bad situations, especially the occasional bar fight in the brothels that Panama City were famous for. The more difficult the mission the harder this motivated young soldier worked to accomplish it.

It was decided that Captain Skinner and Major Burgos would also be on the team. The final two soldiers to make up our group were specialists fourth class Eric Vega and Cliff Yoder. They were medical records clerks who would be needed to track the survivors treated by our contingent.
Unfortunately, when we arrived in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital, we were told there were no survivors of what would soon be called, The Jonestown Massacre. Vega and Yoder remained in Georgetown as part of the labor force that unloaded the remains of 914 American citizens from the helicopters that lifted them out of the jungle death camp presided over by Jim Jones.

We quickly assembled the supplies and equipment we would take on the mission, checking each item. If it was a drug, we made sure it wasn’t outdated. We made sure our sterile packs were also in date and undamaged. Everything was palletized and transported by truck to Howard Air Force Base, north of the canal, next to Fort Kobe. By the time that task was completed, it was mid-afternoon. The team members were sent to their respective quarters to pack their personal gear and equipment and say goodbye to their families.

Captain Skinner instructed me to insure each member of the team received a .45 caliber side arm and a standard issue of ammunition. Since Sanborn was our arms man and was a single soldier, living in the barracks, I tasked him with the mission of preparing to issue the weapons before our formation at 1800 hours.

We didn’t know how long we were going to be gone, but it was a safe bet we would not be spending Thanksgiving with our loved ones in Panama. Although soldiers are notorious for missing holidays with their families due to official duties, this was my first major one away from mine in the seven years we had been married.

I went home for a while to catch a bite to eat and say one last farewell to the wife and kids. They were melancholy but not surprisingly stoic. Mai and I were raising them right, trying to make them be independent. I suppose you could say since they were all the offspring I had, I was a feminist and wanted them to never have to depend on a man for anything.

My oldest daughter, Suzanne, was born in Hue, Vietnam, during my second consecutive tour there. The other two girls, Jennifer and Deborah, were born at Fort Dix, New Jersey, exactly 364 days apart, on February 21st 1974 and February 20th, 1975. Suzy’s birthday is February 18, 1971, so group birthday parties were the rule and celebrated on Valentines Day until the girls became old enough to negotiate their own individual birthday party contracts.

The food for our family Thanksgiving feast was already in the house. First Sergeant Phillip and his wife said they would look after our families health and welfare while we were away, as was most Army units’ tradition when some of their soldiers were away on a mission. The Army did take care of its own.

After stowing some toilet articles and other items I neglected to pack earlier, I kissed the crew goodbye one more time and made my way back to the company. Weapons were issued, a short accountability formation was held, duffle bags inspected and my team was loaded on a deuce and a half utility vehicle and transported to Howard Air Force Base. We were quickly loaded onto one of three C-130 cargo aircraft for the five hour flight to Timheri International Airport, Georgetown, Guyana.

The C-130 was a flying workhorse. On aircraft configured to carry passengers and cargo together, the passengers usually sat in red, nylon strap seats and the cargo, palletized materials, jeeps and the like, was stowed down the middle of the aircraft.

Many people who had difficulty sleeping on commercial aircraft, especially in coach, had no trouble sleeping in the netting of a C-130. The hammock-like seat, the constant loud drone of the aircraft’s mighty Pratt and Whitney or Boeing engines all worked better than Sominex to put me to sleep. Even today, traveling around 12,000 air miles a month in business class, I find the memories of those long C-130 flights when I was in the Army, very fond memories indeed.

There really isn’t much of anything else to do on one of those long flights in a military aircraft. The loud engines make conversation next to impossible unless you can read lips or know American Sign Language. Reading is difficult without the convenient overhead light on a passenger airliner. Sleep is the next most logical option.

The cloudless night sky courtesy of the dry season which was just being ushered in, made the twinkling stars overhead look like the ceiling of a planetarium. The entire contingent of men and women on the aircraft were understandably anxious, however. The fact that we were embarking on what turned out to be one of the most unusual missions in the annals of military history added to our uneasiness.

We knew the stars were out there. We saw them when we embarked on the aircraft. Now, nothing could be seen outside the cabin but darkness. I guess this was one of the few times in my military career I truly felt like a mushroom: kept in the dark and fed bullshit. Only this time, we didn’t even have the B.S.

The sun was a thin red line on the eastern horizon as we landed at Timheri Airport. Even though we were experienced and acclimated tropical soldiers stationed in Panama, the stifling humid heat of the South American country was overwhelming as the Air Force crew opened the huge back hatch of the aircraft. Unlike the weather we left on the Isthmus of Panama, Guyana was in the middle of its rainy season.

Upon disembarking from the Hercules C-130, we were assembled in what was an old and obviously long unused terminal building. One look across the expanse of crisscrossing tarmac runways, about a half mile away explained why: there was a gleaming new terminal on the other side.

I don’t know if we were purposely segregated from the civilian population of Georgetown, but I suspect we were. So there would be no ambiguity, the Task Force Commander, US Army Colonel William Gordon, told all the troops, “Anyplace in this country except where you are now standing is off limits. That means you leave this hangar and you are wrong.”

These orders were not unusual, and once we realized the international, political, social and cultural implications of what happened in Jonestown just two days earlier, these rules made perfect sense. Interestingly and unbeknownst to us, hundreds of journalists from around the world were camped out at the new terminal. They were forbidden to venture to our side of the runway.

That didn’t stop some enterprising tabloid photographers from aiming their long telephoto lenses in our direction and snap away until they run out of film. A pulp magazine from New York City quickly drafted a “special edition” about what it termed the “Jonestown Tragedy. It appeared to be quickly slapped together and published within days of the event. A very grainy photo of myself walking with Bernal, Sanborn and Vega adorned its cover.

We arrived just before dawn, the 20th of November. The victims of the murder/suicide had lain where they fell or were placed after ingesting the deadly potion that killed them for about 36 hours.

The tropical heat is not kind to formerly living tissue and after this length of time in the sun and its stifling heat, Jonestown was undoubtedly a very unpleasant place to be. This was the main topic of discussion as we ate our breakfast of C-rations and waited in the early morning sun to see what our next move would be.

Colonel Gordon was the G2, Intelligence Officer, for the United States Army Southern Command. Although I was unaware of it at the time, the temporary task force he commanded consisted of officer and enlisted men and women of every branch of the Armed Forces and US Coast Guard.

There was a contingent of mortuary specialists from Fort Lee, Virginia. A clearing platoon from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, similar to my unit in Panama, set up a medical treatment facility at the airport.

Green Beret soldiers from the 3/7th Special Forces Group at Fort Gulick, and infantrymen from the 3/5th Infantry Battalion at Fort Kobe, aviation fuel specialists from Fort Clayton, all in Panama were part of the task force. Air Force communications specialists and fixed and rotary wing aircraft from various Army and Air Force facilities in the States and overseas, rounded out the troops Gordon commanded. He also had staff officers from The Coast Guard and Navy, making the Joint Humanitarian Task force to Guyana a truly multi-corps entity.

The colonel was an old soldier of about 60 years of age in 1978. His demeanor was always professional without appearing aloof. He was easy to talk with and obviously enjoyed leading soldiers, not a common task performed by a staff intelligence officer. Unquestionably he was a good leader as well, who enjoyed all the perks and mantels of being in charge. Gordon was jovial, when he wanted to be, which was most of the time and he was effectively stern when he needed to be, which gratefully was not often. When he talked, the soldiers he commanded listened and reacted appropriately.

Mrs. Gordon and I were members of the Ancon Theater Guild back in Panama. Colonel Gordon and I knew each other socially but this was my first opportunity I had to be in his chain of command.

One play Mrs. Gordon and I were in together was Night Watch, an old mystery suspense drama that starred Elizabeth Taylor in the film. Mrs. Gordon did not have the leading role and mine was very minor. Since we had time on our hands, she and I made a habit of trying to make the leading lady laugh in the same scene every night.

The actress would look out a window. In the script, she was to see a murder and scream. For two weeks we tried nearly every piece of slapstick and stupid silent humor to make her crack and laugh instead of scream. Nothing seemed to work. Finally, on the final performance, we accomplished our goal. But it took me, a goofy 29-year-old NCO, necking and petting out of the view of the audience, but definitely in the actress’ line of sight, with this matronly colonel’s wife to do it.

I assumed Gordon was privy to all of the intelligence information being provided by the United States government about Jonestown and what happened there. Maybe Major Burgos was also briefed and knew almost as much as the colonel did. It is probable that even Captain Skinner was in the loop, at least to some degree. I do know that none of the enlisted personnel, including myself, received one official briefing about what occurred in Jonestown on November 18. We didn’t even know what conditions were like there at the moment and I for one would enter Jonestown in a few short hours.

After lounging around the empty old terminal for a couple of hours, we were finally told our medical team would leave soon. Bernal, Sanborn, Fielder, Captain Skinner, Major Burgos and myself would be going forward to Matthews Ridge, the closest air field that could accommodate large military aircraft. It was 20 miles south of Jonestown.

A Guyanese commercial airlines plane that normally holds about 30 passengers had been configured to carry cargo. By that I mean, all of its seats save for the pilot’s and co-pilot’s had been removed. None of the Huey Army helicopters we brought from the Canal Zone had been assembled yet. The big Air Force “Jolly Green Giant” helicopters being shuttled to Timheri Airport had yet to arrive.

Anyone who served in Vietnam or the Gulf Wars holds a fond memory of these beautiful, big, loud helicopters. Their sole mission was to rescue downed aircraft crews and GIs on clandestine ground operations behind the lines.

The Air Force had deployed two squadrons of H-53s to Indochina. One was stationed at Da Nang, South Vietnam and the other at NKP, Thailand. Together they made over 2600 “combat saves.” While rescuing the fortunate 2600, the two gallant squadrons sustained the loss of 65 of their own crew members.

Until our own aircraft could fly, we had to rely on the Guyanese government for long distance air transport. The small yellow and white Guyanese Airways aircraft taxied over to where our pallets of tents and materials were sat on the hot black tarmac. I noticed the number “747” on the side of the plane, but the only resemblance it bore to the huge aircraft produced by the Boeing Aircraft Corporation was that it had wings.

After loading our pallets into the aircraft, we were told to get in ourselves and find floor space to sit anywhere we could. This was the first time I ever rode a fixed wing aircraft without out a seat belt. Hell, we didn’t even have seats.

We had placed our cargo along the floor of the plane and it appeared to be evenly distributed. Neither the Guyanese pilot nor his co-pilot asked for our weights or the weight of our pallets. When I asked if they wanted that information, which I did have, they declined and said, “Not to worry.”

The aircraft seemed to take forever to get airborne. I was seriously concerned that we were incredibly overweight and this evening’s news in the USA would have a report about the six soldiers from Panama that died in an overweight aircraft that crashed as it tried to go to Matthews Ridge from Timheri Airport. After we successfully landed at the airfield at Matthews Ridge, to a man, each of us voiced the same concern going through our minds at the same time.

Matthews Ridge was a small bauxite mining community about 20 miles southeast of Jonestown. The accessible bauxite ore had long been extracted from the mines around the previously bustling frontier town, so by November 1978, it was in severe decline.

The quaint little town did boast a well-maintained tarmac airstrip about three miles away though. This was to be our base for the next eight days.

We landed at the isolated airstrip just before noon. After the mighty Guyanese Airway 747 landed, it taxied to the end of the runway where a Guyanese Defense Force outpost was located on a small mesa.

We offloaded our supplies and equipment and carried it about 40 yards up a small hill to another flat area below the outpost. It was an ideal place to pitch our tents. After exchanging introductions and pleasantries with some of the Guyanese soldiers, we decided to eat one of our C-ration meals for lunch. This gave us a chance to meet some of the local citizens of Matthews Ridge and share our meal with them.

C-rations were the staple food for the American fighting man since World War II. They came in a case that contained 12 individual meals. Each was in its own cardboard box, which contained individually sealed items in cans. The meals were opened with P-38s, small can openers. Several came in each case and soldiers often war them on the necklace their ID, or dog tags were on.

The official US Army Quartermaster’s description of Vietnam War Era C-rations read The Meal, Combat, Individual, is designed for issue as the tactical situation dictates, either in individual units as a meal or in multiples of three as a complete ration. Its characteristics emphasize utility, flexibility of use, and more variety of food components, that were included in the Ration, Combat, Individual (C-Ration) which it replaces. Twelve different menus are included in the specification.

Each menu contains: one canned meat item; one canned fruit, bread or dessert item; one B unit; an accessory pack containing cigarettes, matches, chewing gum, toilet paper, coffee, cream, sugar and salt; and a spoon. Four can openers are provided in each case of 12 meals. Although the meat item can be eaten cold, it is more palatable when heated.

Each complete meal contains approximately 1200 calories. The daily ration of 3 meals provides approximately 3600 calories.

Meat choices included beef steak, ham slices, ham and eggs, turkey loaf, beans and wieners, spaghetti and meatballs, beefsteak with potatoes and gravy, ham and beans, meatballs and beans, chicken and noodles, meatloaf, spiced beef, and my personal favorite, boned chicken. Fruits included fruit cocktail, applesauce, peaches and pears.

There was also an assortment of crackers, peanut butter, jams, cheese spreads, fruit cake, pound cake, pecan roll, white bread and cookies. Candies, made up of solid chocolate discs, colloquially known as “John Wayne Bars,” cream chocolate, coconut chocolate, and cocoa powder rounded out the gastronomical delights known a C-rations.

While American soldiers were constantly complaining about the bill of fare served in the field and would often bring all sorts of tasty condiments to “soup up” their meals, the residents of Matthews Ridge never had tasted such food and enjoyed the American meals immensely, especially the John Wayne Bars.