Separating Fact And Fiction About Not-So-Secret Area 51!

Jul 02, 2021Sonali Pandey

The government’s reluctance to acknowledge the very existence of Area 51 has fuelled conspiracy theories and created a mystery that may or may not be true. But despite hiding the secret for decades, the truth has slowly surfaced. So, if you’re still wondering which facts about Area 51 are true and which are fiction, don’t worry because we've got you covered! In this article, we have debunked some conspiracies and placed some genuine research-based facts so that you can get to know about the real Area 51!

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PROBABLE REASONS FOR THE NAME

Out of all the stuff that we don’t know about Area 51, Encyclopedia Britannica notes that the one for certain mystery about the region is its name. A video published by Business Insider pointed out that the name was derived from the similarity of the venue to the nuclear test sites that were separated into numerically designated zones. Was the reason correct, though?

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WHY THE NAME “AREA 51”?

Area 51 is just the kind of military-bureaucratic jargon that sounds like the basis for a massive conspiracy. After all, where are Areas 1 through 50? Well, in reality, the name comes from the designations on Nevada Test Site maps from the 1950s. The Nevada Test Site is a remote desert area in the northwest of Las Vegas. 

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THE PURPOSE

Although Area 51 has been quite famous for its conspiracy theories, most people still don’t know why it exists. Well, during World War II, the area of land was used as a gunnery range for pilots and ground troops of the Army Air Corps. Then in 1955, the United States Air Force purchased it to test the Lockheed U-2 spy aircraft. 

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EARLY DAYS

Area 51 was a peaceful place initially. It consisted of a cemented tennis court and a bowling alley but no television. Signals only made it at night across the mountains, so workers couldn't listen to the radio during the day. Also, considering it was quite far from civilization, it was really dull in the early days.

Image Credits: Getty Images/Getty Images News/George Frey

RESEARCH SITE

Area 51 rose to fame as an alleged test center for extraterrestrial research technology. It all started in July 1947 when the front-page headline of the Roswell Daily Record shouted "RAAF Captures Flying Saucer On Ranch in Roswell Region." The U.S. military stated that the unidentified crashing object was only a weather balloon. However, a report released in September 1994 indicated that it was an atomic balloon designed to track far-off nuclear tests.

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THE BEGINNING

Richard Bissell, the CIA officer who oversaw the development of the U-2 aircraft, first noticed the location that would become known as Area 51 while on an "aerial scouting mission." Richard, along with three others, including Col. Osmund Ritland and Kelly Johnson, Lockheed Corporation's director of Skunk Works, agreed that the area would make a perfect place to test the U-2 training pilots.

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FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT

According to CNN, Dr. Jeffrey T. Richelson, senior staff at the National Security Archive of George Washington University, had he submitted a Freedom of Information Act request in 2005. The FOIA request was filed for information on the CIA's "Lockheed U-2 plane reconnaissance program."

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CRASHED FLYING SAUCERS

In the late 1980s, a man named Robert Lazar told the Las Vegas television station that he was trying to reverse-engineer crashed saucers at a mysterious location called S-4 near Area 51. Some people believed that Lazar had lied about both his job on the field and his academic background - he claimed to have graduated from MIT and Caltech. But according to a 2020 report, it seems that he was speaking the truth!

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UFO SIGHTINGS

Reported UFO sightings skyrocketed in 1952 when Area 51 was getting busier with aircraft testing. But the CIA investigated every UFO sighting back in the 1950s. They came up with the conclusion that 90% of these were nonsense, but 10% were "a number of unbelievable reports from credible observers."

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WAS MOON LANDING ACTUALLY STAGED AT AREA 51?

In the 1976 book titled “We Never Went to the Moon: America's Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle,” conspiracist Bill Kaysing claimed that NASA scientists never made it to space, and all the footage of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the lunar surface was shot in Area 51. Well, the moon landing was not fake and the Apollo mission brought back 842 pounds of moon rock as a souvenir. However, some space equipment such as rovers and life support devices was tested at a nearby nuclear test site in Nevada.

Image Credits: Getty Images/The LIFE Picture Collection/NASA

FLYING TO WORK

The government does not want locals to suspect anything unusual, so most of the base workers are flown to a Las Vegas airport. They then travel 90 miles to reach Area 51. Well, Area 51 has its own runways, but considering the number of conspiracy theorists, the identity of the employees must remain secret.

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AFFILIATION

Area 51 is officially a part of the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR), a Nellis Air Force Base affiliate. As per the Air Force, the NTTR is the largest area for both land and air peacetime military activities in any democracy in the world. It occupies a total of 1.2 million hectares and 12,950 square kilometers of restricted airspace.

Image Credits: Getty Images/George Frey

TIGHT SECURITY 

Area 51 is a small region, with fences along its border monitored by armed security guards. They’re known as “Camo dudes” because that’s what they wear on the job. However, the guards might be the ones who are most affected by the military silence that surrounds the site. They have sought compensation for respiratory issues they claim they’ve suffered after being exposed to harmful chemicals from the burning of coatings intended to protect aircraft from radar.

Image Credits: Getty Images/Getty Images News/George Frey

PARADISE RANCH

During Area 51's heyday as a testing place for the U-2 and other secret technologies, engineer Kelly Johnson came up with a bit of rebranding, by naming Area 51 as "Paradise Ranch." In reality, it was just a tactic to encourage government officers and their families to pick up and relocate near the alien testing site in the middle of the desert. Well, if you prefer desert scrubland and temperatures that frequently reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) in summers, then yes, it is a paradise!

Image Credits: Getty Images/Getty Images News/George Frey

TESTING GROUND

The Nevada Test and Training Range (which also includes Area 51), is used for training aircraft crews in combat scenarios, live ammunition training, and carrying out operational tests. In the past, this region has also been used for testing new drones, helicopters, and other confidential military technologies.

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SPY PLANES

According to NBC News, Area 51 remained a testing ground for other spy planes, such as the Lockheed A-12 Oxcart and the D-21 Tagboard, after the U-2 aircraft program. Surprisingly, this site is still in use today to carry out military testings! Google Earth views show neatly maintained runways and a tiny, organized cluster of houses, and in some views, there is proof of new development over the past decade.

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EXECUTIVE SECURITY

Former President Bill Clinton signed an executive order protecting Area 51 from any sort of examination and exempted it from the law. The documents stated that this decision was taken to protect national security. Also, according to the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1951, any trespasser was allowed to be killed if they entered the site.

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THE IMAGE THAT BROUGHT UP SEVERAL CONTROVERSIES

Area 51 was not allowed to be photographed and the CIA had even released a memorandum about it. But some rookie astronauts aboard Skylab photographed the Nevada site in 1974, which led to the acknowledgment of the secret area almost 40 years before the CIA officially did so. Today, however, satellite pictures are not prohibited. In fact, the picture you see above is a recent satellite image of Area 51.

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PROJECT AQUATONE

When the Cold War was at its peak in the early 1950s, the CIA wanted to create a surveillance plane that could fly high enough to avoid Soviet radar detection. The result was the U-2 aircraft which was built under the codename "Project Aquatone." Till today, this aircraft is regarded as one of the most outrageous spy plane projects of Area 51.

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NO ALIENS?

In a “Jimmy Kimmel Live” interview, Bill Clinton adamantly denied the presence of aliens on Area 51. Instead, he said that it’s simply a place where stealth technology has developed. Clinton admitted that when he was first elected as the president, he wondered if aliens were present in Area 51. He had even asked his aides to look into it, but they didn’t find anything.

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CYBERSECURITY

It’s believed that the government has developed its own intranet. Well, that would probably clarify why hackers are unable to break into the system, and the top-secret area has never suffered from internal leaks. In other words, Area 51 is not connected to the internet as we know it.

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NO ENTRY

Reaching Area 51 is not easy. First of all, you’ll have to go to the center of the Nevada desert and once you’ve reached there, you’ll be met with a gate, a fence, a stop sign, and two warning signs telling you not to enter the place. And even after you make it past these obstacles, you’ll be spotted by the security cameras long before you enter the base.

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EXTRATERRESTRIAL HIGHWAY

Nevada State Route 375 was nicknamed “Extraterrestrial Highway” because of the high amount of UFOs and “alien encounters” in the area. In 1996, though, the state of Nevada made the name official. This road runs alongside Area 51. However, despite a bit of tourism due to Area 51’s fame, not many people actually drive down this highway.

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A-12 OXCART

A-12 Oxcart was a spy plane project that was launched in 1957 and is renowned as one of the fastest and highest-flying aircraft in U.S. history. The A-12 had two jet engines, a long fuselage, and a unique cobra-like appearance. However, this wasn’t the only interesting Area 51 plane project. You’ll come across more of these planes further down this list!

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KEEPING SECRETS

Although Area 51 was selected as an aircraft test site in 1995, the government didn’t accept it officially until 2013. Thanks to Jeffrey T. Richelson, a senior fellow at the National Security Archives, who was granted access to the latest documents showing that Area 51 was acknowledged.

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THE AIRCRAFT WITH BULLET SPEED

With a sleek tapered design and black radar-absorbing paint, SR-71 was one of the most exciting spy plane projects in Area 51. At 400 feet per second, this plane was literally faster than a speeding sniper bullet. However, it retired after three decades of service in 1990. But even today, SR-71 remains one of the world’s fastest planes. 

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AREA 51 IS STILL EXPANDING

Area 51 has been expanding, something that can be attributed by true believers to the need for more UFO parking spaces. Business Insider points out that Area 51 satellite imagery shows substantial development, including new runways and hangars, within the area between 1984 and 2016. BI argues that this could mean that the B-21 Raider stealth bomber is being tested at the site - “or this is what they want us to believe.”

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HIDDEN MISHAPS

Many former workers who were once sworn to confidentiality on what happened in Area 51 are now free to share their experiences. James Noce, a veteran of Area 51, recalled managing several mishaps that were mistakenly revealed to the public eye. He also reported that the site had never seen any alien activity. Besides, he mentioned that there was no official paperwork indicating that he worked in Area 51 and that his salaries were paid in cash.

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FIGHTER JETS 

Besides researching new aircraft technologies, Area 51 was also used to evaluate the international fighter planes that the US received covertly during the Cold War. According to the now-declassified records, the Air Force acquired "Fishbed-E," a Soviet MiG-21 jet fighter that was loaned to the US after an Iraqi pilot used it to defect to Israel.

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BEST SPOT FOR UFO-SIGHTING

According to a person who claims to have worked in Area 51, there was a specific place where he could bring people to see scheduled UFO flights. And that was “The Black Mailbox,” a pair of mailboxes that were apparently a hotspot for alien activity. Originally, it was just a single black box for owner Steve Medlin's mail, but as people started to ruin it, Medlin was forced to place another "Alien" mailbox under it to divert the visitors and protect his own mail post.

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"STORM AREA 51" EVENT

You all know by now that Area 51 is a restricted area, so you can't just venture into the place. There have been some enthusiastic attempts in this respect even then, such as the recent case of “Storm Area 51,” which eventually turned into a festival. Well, you’ll be amazed to know that the “Storm Area 51” event was supported by almost two million people!

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"HAVE BLUE" PROJECT

Area 51 witnessed the development of the nation's first stealth bomber when Lockheed's Skunk Works designed F-117 Nighthawk under the code name “Have Blue.” With a faceted, diamond-like surface built to interrupt radar beams, the F-117 could almost be mistaken for the boomerang-shaped UFOs that had been a fixture in the public imagination as far back as the 1940s.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon II

OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT ROSWELL INCIDENT

There were claims that the US army had recovered debris from flying saucers in Roswell. Unsurprisingly, a quick link was established to Area 51 due to its popularity as an "alien site." The US Air Force released a report, claiming that the wreckage recovered in Roswell, New Mexico, in July 1947, also referred to as the “Roswell Incident,” consisted of a shattered portion of the balloons, sensors, and radar reflectors from a secret government project named “Project Mogul.”

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MONEY SPENT IN RESEARCH

According to CNN, financing for the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, the Pentagon’s secret UFO office, ended in 2012. It was reported that over five years, the office spent $22 million in researching and analyzing what they deemed "anomalous aerospace threats."  

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CITIZEN SUIT

Remember we told you that Area 51 staff had complained about the disposed waste in the base?  Actually, a citizen suit was filed between the former workers of Area 51 and the Department of Defense on March 6, 1996. The former employees alleged that the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act was violated “in the storage, treatment, and disposal of hazardous waste at the operating location near Groom Lake.”

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BOEING YF-118G BIRD OF PREY

Boeing YF-118 Bird Of Prey made its first flight from Area 51 in the year 1996. And before completing the U-12 aircraft program in 1999, it made a total of 38 flights. Several years later, it was declassified, and Boeing donated the aircraft to the National Museum of the US Air Force, though it managed to keep most of the plane’s mysterious aspects under wraps.

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NO SNEAKING, OKAY?

Considering the extreme nature of its secrecy, it comes as no surprise that Area 51 is heavily guarded. Pilots who intentionally fly into the restricted air zones can face heavy punishments such as court-martial and a dishonorable discharge. So, don’t even dare to enter this place without permission from the concerned authorities. Okay?

Image Credits: Getty Images/Getty Images News/George Frey

OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT 

In 2013, the CIA published the declassified documents, publicly admitting for the first time that Area 51 is a secret US military site. The declassified documents were related to the past of the OXCART U-2 and A-12 aerial surveillance programs developed and tested in Area 51. The documents stated that the classified status of the site was a way of retaining information from the Soviets instead of covering up an alien encounter.

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ARRESTS IN AREA 51

In 2019, two Dutchmen were detained at the National Security Site in Nevada near Area 51. In their defense, the men told the police that they had seen the “No Trespassing” sign, but they wanted to take a look at the facility. Later, they pleaded guilty to trespassing and unlawful parking.

Image Credits: Getty Images/Getty Images News/Mario Tama

“RAID” AT AREA 51?

More than 150 people arrived outside the Area 51 gates in 2019 for the “raid” on the facility. According to the Lincoln County Sheriff, two people were arrested in this matter. One of the arrests was related to liquor while the other arrest was made on account of indecent exposure. A woman was also briefly detained, but she was released later. 

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POISONING OF EMPLOYEES

Former Area 51 workers sued the government in 1996, alleging that they were routinely exposed to hazardous chemicals - which also resulted in two deaths. Tests were conducted on the samples but it was not accurately confirmed that chemical substances affected the employees.

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NO VISITING WITHOUT “FOGGLES”

If you ever get permission to enter Area 51, be prepared to wear “foggles,” glasses that block a significant portion of the wearer’s field of vision, allowing them to see only what is in front of them directly. Actually, this is done to ensure that visitors cannot see ultra-secret technologies and gadgets present within the Area  51 premises.

Image Credits: Getty Images/Getty Images News/George Frey

A BOOK ON AREA 51

A book was published on Area 51 on May 17, 2011. According to CNN, the book was written by a journalist named Annie Jacobsen and it was titled “Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base.” Well, if you feel this article made you more curious about Area 51, you can always grab her book for more information!

Image Credits: Pexels/Rahul Shah/For Illustrative Purposes

Well, we hope this article helped you to some extent in separating the fact and fiction about the not-so-secret Area 51. But if you know some interesting facts too, don’t forget to hit us up in the comments! And, if you liked the article, don’t forget to share it with your friends! See you next time. Until then, keep reading!

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