Jonestown (partially found NBC news footage; 1978)
In November of 1978, United States Congressman Leo Ryan led a fact-finding mission to the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project (better known by the informal name Jonestown), a remote settlement in Guyana established by the American new religious movement, the Peoples Temple. The reason for the visit was to discover the truth about allegations that had been made regarding American citizens being held against their will and abused by group leader Jim Jones. Everything initially seemed to be going well, with a celebratory music concert being held at the settlement's main pavilion for Ryan's benefit. However, Ryan and his entourage began to suspect something was seriously wrong by the odd, seemingly rehearsed behavior of the residents. These suspicions were validated when several Peoples Temple members stepped forward and asked to leave, stating that they were indeed being held against their will in "a communist prison camp." Jones, outraged by what he saw as "betrayals" and sensing that Ryan's report when he returned to the United States would spell the end of Peoples Temple, sent some of his most loyal followers to the Port Kaituma airstrip as the Ryan party was leaving to attack everyone there. Ryan and four others were killed. Back in Jonestown, Jones ordered all of his followers to commit what he called "revolutionary suicide" as a statement to the world. Any who refused to take part would be forced to die. In total 918 men, women, and children lost their lives on November 18, 1978. The tragedy was the largest loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
During Ryan's trip to Jonestown, NBC cameraman Bob Brown filmed the proceedings. One hour of footage surfaced in 2014, showing scenes of Jonestown as well as others (not filmed by Brown, who had been killed at the airstrip prior) of the military's walk-through of the settlement after the tragedy. However, more footage is known to be in NBC's possession, including the shootings at Port Kaituma and an hour-long interview NBC correspondant Don Harris conducted with Jim Jones on the final day. How much footage in total was shot is unknown and its whereabouts are a mystery. Pat Lynch, a producer for NBC, has said that she personally reviewed three hours worth of tape from November 18th alone. NBC acknowledged within a few days of the massacre that it had thirteen hours of video from the entire week of the Ryan visit.
Fielding M. McGehee, research director at Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple, submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI for the NBC tapes that were turned over to them in the aftermath of the tragedy. However, his efforts only resulted in "no record" responses. NBC has declined to reveal how much Jonestown footage it may still have in its possession, though snippets appear periodically on the internet.
- Gone from the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural History by John R. Hall, Page 273. Retrieved 11 June '20
- Time article: The U.S. Military Had to Clean Up After the Jonestown Massacre 40 Years Ago. What the Crew Found Was 'Beyond Imagination'; 16 Nov 2018 Retrieved 11 June '20
- The NBC Videotapes: Pathway to Oblivion - Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple; 04 Jan 2020. Retrieved 11 Jun '20
- The FBI's response to Fielding M. McGehee's request; 22 Sep 2000 Retrieved 11 Jun '20