Area 51

Area 51 is an American top-secret military facility officially known as Air Force Flight Test Center (Detachment 3), whose purpose is alleged to be the operation, analysis and testing of super high-tech aircraft and weapons systems both foreign and domestic.

Area 51 also known as Dreamland, Neverland, Watertown, Paradise Ranch, The Box and the Container is located at the southern edge of a dry salt flat (Groom Lake) in the southwestern portion of Lincoln County, Nevada. It is surrounded by mountains that hide it from prying eyes; its airspace is jealously guarded by fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles; its perimeter, patroled by private security guards armed with M16s who drive around in 4x4s, is dotted with security cameras, motion sensors and signs that read “use of deadly force authorized.” 

This place is scary, an enigma wrapped in a mystery, a base so cloaked in secrecy that according to U.S. government maps it doesn’t even exist.

They say that from tiny acorns mighty oak trees grow and the same can be said about Area 51. In the early 1950s with the Cold War in full swing and paranoia a natural state of mind, Washington decided that it needed a safe way to spy on the Soviet Union and in a time before the advent of spy satellites the answer was an airplane that could reach altitudes far out of reach of Russian defenses. The U-2 became that plane and secluded Groom Lake was selected by Lockheed as the best location from which to conduct testing, the dry lake bed a perfect takeoff and landing strip.

Conditions at first were extremely primitive, test pilots housed in trailers, planes taking off and landing on the lake bed, a few hangers and a mess hall the only buildings. This was all to change when a proposed agreement to allow each of the superpowers to overfly the others territory fell through and President Eisenhower gave his OK for covert operations to begin. Almost overnight “Watertown Strip” as the early test pilots called it went from a temporary facility to a more permanent and ongoing concern; new additions included a mile long runway, a control tower, a concrete apron and permanent buildings of all types complete with sanitary systems and running water, the number of personnel increasing to about a 150.

The U-2s themselves were manufactured in Oildale, California, then disassembled loaded onto C-124 transports and flown to Groom Lake in the dead of night, where they were unloaded and reassembled before further evaluation.

There was one fly in the ointment during these early years, however, the atomic proving ground located directly southwest began conducting a series of atomic detonations which resulted in frequent evacuations as occasional miscalculations scattered radioactive fallout across the base. With the eventual banning of atmospheric testing the base personnel must have breathed a sigh of relief, life normalizing, schedules finally able to be maintained with some regularity. The fact that almost a thousand acres in Area 13 only seven kilometres to the northwest was covered in plutonium or that radioactive fallout had rained down over a large portion of Nevada and Utah for years seems to have been brushed under the rug. Perhaps the higher echelons in the AEC lived in Hawaii or New England.

Not being ones to rest on their laurels Lockheed’s Skunk Works had begun working on a next generation high altitude reconnaissance aircraft while still developing the U-2. The SR-71 Blackbird would eventually be capable of reaching altitudes of eighty five thousand feet and speeds three times that of sound but first a suitable site was needed for testing the series of requisite prototypes. Groom Lake was selected as the only place within the continental United States that could adequately hide such a secret project but only after a massive upgrade of Watertown. Oxcart (the CIA’s name for the project) required that the base’s existing runway be extended from one mile to 8500 feet (with a new 10,000-foot runway to be built diagonally across the salt flat's southwest corner) and that existing housing adequate for 150 workers be expanded to accommodate 1500. By the time the first prototype A-12 lifted off in 1962, Watertown had been transformed by around the clock construction into a small town boasting a movie theater, baseball diamond, saloon and million gallon fuel-tank farm. Also in 1962, in keeping with the neighboring test site which was divided into numbered zones, Watertown Strip became known in government documents as Area 51. Surrounded by a military preserve, and with intense security measures in effect up to and including “lethal force,” it also found itself the center of an expanded no-fly zone and the owner of yet another moniker when Nellis mapmakers placed the call sign of their enigmatic neighbor’s control tower on their aeronautical charts: “Dreamland.”

Having established itself as the premier research and development facility in its field Area 51 continues to grow and evolve developing new and exotic weapon systems and aircraft. Some such as the futuristic F-117 Nighthawk, along with various unmanned aerial vehicles capable of incredibly sophisticated technological feats, have already been brought into the open and used in places such as the Persian Gulf with remarkable effectiveness; while others such as the mythical Aurora, which supposedly can fly so fast that the sound it makes has triggerd seismic sensors, doesn’t, according to the American government, exist. (A position Jane's Defense Weekly seemingly takes issue with reporting that not only is the Aurora real, it is virtually invisible operating for the most part at night and incorporating the latest in radar-evading "stealth" technology.)

With all sorts of aerial activity going on in the skies over Groom Lake it’s only natural that some of it would eventually be attributed to extraterrestrials, add to this the mysterious and secretive reputation of Area 51 and wild rumors of alien contact and crashed flying saucers were bound to occur, but they remained just that, rumor, unverifiable and speculative. Then along came someone who gave all that enthusiastic speculation a new credibility and for a time at least became the darling of the UFO community.

Robert Scott Lazar is a man of many ifs; if his academic credentials as presented are to be believed; if he really worked at S-4 (sector four), an area separated from Groom Lake by Papoose Mountain (basically a super secret area within a secret area and allegedly the place where aliens and their spacecraft are housed); if he really had read documents revealing who the aliens are, where they came from and why and finally if he really had seen and helped to back-engineer a flying saucer. If all these things are true then Mr. Lazar is the smoking gun ufologists have been waiting for, if not he’s a fraud.

In 1989 Bob Lazar appeared on a television show called "UFOs: The Best Evidence" and dropped a bombshell claiming that he was an engineer working at Papoose Lake whose job was the reverse engineering of alien spacecraft. Lazar described how after being hired he was flown to Area 51 then transferred by blacked-out bus to Papoose Lake (S-4) where he was handed documents which described aliens (Grays), their physiology and place of origin (Zeta 2 Reticuli), along with details of a long-time relationship between alien and mankind which included the genetic alteration and modification of both early and present day humans. Following this he proceeded to describe, in some detail, the extraterrestrial spacecraft (one of nine in the government's possession) that he had personally worked on nicknaming it the “Sport Model.”

In order to determine Lazar’s veracity, background checks were performed with results that were often ambiguous and inconclusive. MIT and Caltech, which he claimed he had attended, had no record of him nor did Los Alamos National Laboratory where he claimed he had worked. (A 1982 lab phone book did list his name but according to the phone book designation he worked for a vendor not for the lab itself.)

Stanton Friedman, well known ufologist, was only able to verify that Lazar attended Pierce Junior College (Los Angeles). His profession listed as a self-employed document photo processor.

Lazar's answer to all the haziness: It was a conspiracy to make him "look non-existent." Both his past and present were being erased or changed.

That Robert Scott Lazar is an intelligent and knowledgeable person is irrefutable
but as to his truthfulness or lack thereof that’s decidable by you.

The Little A'Le'Inn is a Mecca for UFO enthusiasts coming to visit the Holy Grail of ufology: Area 51. Before being purchased by Joe and Pat Travis it had led a rather non-descript life with names such as the Oasis, Watering Hole and Rachel Bar and Grill. Some of its previous owners had declared bankruptcy, unable to wring a living from Route 375 whose major claim to fame seemed to have been its lack of traffic. For the first year or so after 
Joe and Pat
's entrepreneurial leap, things at the Rachel Bar and Grill were much as they always were, slow. Then Bob Lazar stunned the UFO community with his pronouncements of aliens and flying disks. The new notoriety proved a godsend, with business taking a definite upturn, as the faithful arrived, in their RVs, ready to peruse the night sky for strange lights and the surrounding countryside for exotic and alien life forms. The name change was a stroke of genius.

In 1993 a Boston expatriate named Glenn Campbell arrived in a truck camper parked in the Inn’s parking lot and set up business in the dining room. After writing the "Area 51 Viewers Guide" he quickly became an authority on the base and its environs. His excursions into the surrounding region, by himself, in the company of characters such as aviation expert Jim Goodall and reporter Stuart F. Brown, as well as some very fit (to say nothing of brave) tourists wishing to see the enigmatic base up close and personal, have along with scuffles with the local constabulary, cammo dudes 
and Blackhawk helicopters, elevated him, in the minds of many, to a figure of almost cult-like stature. He has become for better or worse an integral part of the very folklore which he espoused. [1]

Claims and counterclaims about what goes on at Area 51 run rampant and separating the wheat from the chaff can be an exhausting business, stories about underground tunnels throughout the Southwest, a five square mile roof covering the base, or the moon landings being a hoax filmed entirely at Area 51 are commonplace. For his part Campbell seems to have taken a more modest approach concerned mainly about government misuse of power, military land grabs and bureaucratic waste and mismanagement all hidden from the prying eyes of the American taxpayer by an impenetrable wall of secrecy.

In 1994 various contractors and contractor's widows, seeking compensation, filed a class action suit against the United States Air Force and the Environmental Protection Agency alleging they or the disceased had sustained skin, liver and respiratory damage due to unknown chemicals being illegally burned in open trenches within Area 51 while also seeking information about the alleged toxic chemicals they or the deceased had been exposed to. The results, as Lee H. Hamilton a United States Congressman (at the time) told 60 Minutes, were that “the Air Force is classifying all information about Area 51 in order to protect themselves from a lawsuit.”

In fact it was the United States government, citing state secrets privilege, that petitioned a United States District Court (Nevada) to disallow disclosure of documents and examination of witnesses on the grounds it would threaten national security. When the District Court rejected the government’s argument, Bill Clinton, then president, issued a Presidential Determination, exempting “The Air Force's operating location near Groom Lake, Nevada, from environmental disclosure laws.” The District Court was consequently forced to dismiss the lawsuit due to lack of evidence, an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was rejected and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear it.

In 1995 the United States Air Force, citing security concerns, increased the size of the buffer zone surrounding Area 51 effectively barring both the media and public from accessing the vantage points at Freedom Ridge and White Sides Mountain

Things are changing, however, Lincoln County, Nevada, is not quite the back of beyond that it once was and perhaps the old saying “what goes around comes around” might be applicable, because whether the government likes it or not Area 51 has become part of American pop culture and with the internet, computer games, television documentaries, talk shows, movies and even the renaming of Route 375 to “The Extraterrestrial Highway” it is now firmly entrenched in the world’s psyche a bastion of secrecy completely surrounded by ever growing numbers of tourists busily watching its every move..

[1] Whether disillusioned, tired of the constant fight with government and military agencies or simply in need of new challenges Mr. Campbell has now moved to Las Vegas and refashioned himself somewhat via his website.

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