When you hear the name Area 51 – what do you think of first? Do you think about aliens and alien spaceships at the secret base or do you think about how the base was used to develop the U-2 spy plane in the 1950s? Annie Jacobsen takes the reader on a discovery of what Area 51 is and isn’t in the book Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base. In the first chapter Jacobsen discusses how Area 51 first came to the attention of the public, with the interview of Bob Lazar on a local television station where he talked about aliens and alien spaceships being backwards engineered for use by the US military. Up until that time, Area 51 was not known by most people outside of a few within the military.
Area 51 falls just outside the area in Nevada where the US detonated some of the first atomic bombs that were developed and adjacent to the Nellis Air Force Range. Area 51 was utilized for the U-2 spy plane development because of Groom Lake, which is in the center of the area. Groom Lake is a dry lake bed which makes it ideal for a landing strip. At the time, the U-2 spy plane was under the direction of the CIA because the US government could deny all knowledge of U-2 spy plane operations since the pilots would be wearing civilian and not military clothing.
Jacobsen has extensive notes and interviews with those that worked at Area 51 in the early days. One interesting fact that she includes in the book is that the crash at Roswell, NM in 1947 was not actually an alien spacecraft but a Soviet aircraft that crashed and was able to evade US radar systems.
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