Area 51

If you have heard of Area 51, I suspect it has something to do with aliens and UFOs.  It’s a real place 75 miles north of Las Vegas.  It is one area outside of the abandoned Nevada Test and Training Range. Officially, the U.S. government has never acknowledged that it even exists and so it has become the basis of conspiracy theories, and speculation about aliens and spaceships.

For real, more than 100 atmospheric bomb tests were conducted in the 1950s there.  The Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of Defense and the CIA did use the area for controversial and very secretive research on aircraft and even space-based missile systems.

After I heard journalist Annie Jacobsen on the NPR program Fresh Air, I picked up a copy of her new book,  Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base.  (You can listen to the interview online.)

What I have read so far is straight-ahead reporting – not fringe science.  Most of it is pretty scary because the precautions taken with the nuclear testing during the 1950s seem pretty poor. They even tested a “dirty bomb” test with a simulated plane crash with plutonium contamination to see what would happen if an aircraft with a nuclear weapon were to crash. The result was that the fallout and structural damage made much of the land uninhabitable. The area was not cleaned up until the 1980s.

Area 51 played a role in the new space program and our competition and concerns with the Soviet Union. It was also the site for training pilots in surveillance planes designed by the CIA to travel three times the speed of sound at 90,000 feet to spy on the Soviet Union and Cuba.

But the secrecy has led to theories about what was really done there. Jacobsen interviewed 74 people who had firsthand knowledge of including many who lived and worked at Area 51.

The part many people would be interested in from the book occurs at the end when it gets into the UFO mania that actually started in the summer of 1947.

Jacobsen points to two Nazi aerospace designers named Walter and Reimar Horten who supposedly had created an actual flying disc. After WWII, they become involved with the Russians. When one of their flying discs crashes near Roswell, New Mexico, that’s the start of one of the most famous UFO stories.

Her evidence shows that one did crash in New Mexico, was transported to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and then in 1951 it was transferred to Area 51 (so named for the year).

Jacobsen definitely believes her source, but the story is out there.

The pilots were alien-looking, child-sized but surgically or genetically altered humans (age uncertain). And their origin goes back to Nazi experimenter Josef Mengele who left Auschwitz in 1945, disappeared for a while, and may have ended up working for Stalin in the Soviet Union.

What was their plan? To perpetrate a hoax on an American public which was ripe for UFO stories and thereby create panic and preoccupy our defense systems. One reason they thought it could work was because of the reaction to Orson Welles’s “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast in 1938.

Published by


A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

Add to the conversation about this article

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.