– Groom Lake, Pittman Station, Paradise Ranch, Saint Elsewhere, Dreamland. While it is known by many names, it is perhaps best known simply as Area 51 and few places in the world have generated as much speculation and interest as this remote base located in the Nevada Desert. On the surface, it looks relatively inconspicuous yet it is one of the most heavily guarded sites in the world with armed guards authorized to use lethal force against anyone who tries to cross its boundaries to look inside.
In UFO circles, the base has long been associated with the retrieval and reengineering of alien technology acquired from UFO crash sites such as the Roswell Incident in 1947. Indeed, witnesses have reported strange objects in the sky around the base and people who have claimed to work at Area 51 tell stories of experimental aircraft based on the alien propulsion systems. The fact that the US government wouldn’t even acknowledge the base’s existence until 2013 has only reinforced the belief by some that something otherworldly is kept inside the well-guarded base perimeter. But, could the truth be a little more down to planet Earth? In recent years, more and more information about the history of the base and its role in the Cold War stand-off between East and West has come to light and could go some way to explaining why the base has garnered such a reputation. From advanced spy aircraft to captured enemy fighters and early research in to stealth aircraft, Area 51 has quietly waged the technology war against America’s enemies for over 60 years. Early History. Groom Lake upon which Area 51 is built is a barren salt flat in the Nevada Desert and had been the scene of intermittent lead and silver mining between the late 19th century to the early 1950s.
The flat and hard terrain made it ideal for use as an airstrip and in 1942 as the US geared up for World War II, a base was established with two crossing unpaved runways named Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field. Indian Springs remained open until 1947 and after a brief period where mining in the area resumed, Groom Lake became barren once again. In the meantime, the Allies who had been victorious during World War II were now staring suspiciously at one another across the so-called Iron Curtain and the Cold War was heating up. Both the US and the Soviet Union began a modernization of their armed forces to face one another and the US needed to know just how advanced and extensive the Soviet weapons program was. Spy satellites were over a decade away and so the US government therefore turned to the Lockheed aircraft corporation to develop a long-range, high altitude reconnaissance aircraft that could spy on the Soviet Union. The design team for the new aircraft was headed up by the legendary aircraft designer, Kelly Johnson who is considered to be one of the greatest minds in aviation history.
His department at Lockheed, known affectionately as the Skunk Works, developed an incredible aircraft that was capable of flying in excess of 70,000 feet, well above what Soviet fighter planes could fly at the time. The project, dubbed Aquatone, was draped in a level of secrecy that was arguably greater than that of the Manhattan Project that developed the first atom bomb. Paperwork surrounding the project was not stamped as secret so that if they were ever lost or misplaced, nobody would know it was a secret document and would likely dismiss it rather than let curiosity at having a secret document get to them and start reading it. The aircraft was also given the designation of U-2 as part of its cover since in the US military, aircraft marked with a U are generally transport or logistic types rather than spy planes.
The unique qualities of the U-2 combined with the required level of secrecy was forever a problem for the design team when it came to finding an appropriate test site. More than fifty sites were rejected before Kelly’s team stumbled across the old wartime strip at Groom Lake. The wartime airstrip was by then in a poor state and so a new runway would have to be built specifically for the U-2. Convinced he had found the ideal place he convinced the US government to purchase the land and it was given a grid reference by the Atomic Energy Commission namely Area 51.
Unfortunately, at that time the US was conducting nuclear weapons tests at the nearby Nevada Test Range and the salt lake was downwind of these tests. This disrupted Kelly’s team as they worked to prepare the site for U-2 testing as they had to shut down work to allow the radioactive clouds to pass. However, tests carried out as late as the 1980’s would show the area had a higher than normal radiation level resulting in a clean-up effort and has led to employees at the base trying to get compensation for radiation-related illnesses. In July 1955, the first U-2 was airlifted to the site and prepared for testing but the U-2’s first flight was not exactly intentional. On August 1st, 1955, Lockheed’s chief test pilot, Tony LeVier, was performing a high speed taxi run when he suddenly realized the wheels had briefly left the ground. Flight testing of the U-2 began in earnest and the following year this incredible aircraft began flying operations over the Soviet Union gathering intelligence on Soviet forces.
The Soviets struggled to track the aircraft due to the altitude it was flying at and lacked anyway of intercepting it. The US also used the U-2 to spy on British, French and Israeli forces engaged in the ill-conceived Suez War against Egypt in October 1956. British pilots would later arrive at Area 51 for training to fly the U-2 themselves on behalf of the American and British intelligence services. Despite the success of the U-2 in its early operations, it was clear to all that it was only a matter of time before the Soviets developed technology to counter it. As such, research began at Area 51 under Project Rainbow to develop radar absorbent material or RAM which could be affixed to the aircraft’s fuselage.
As the name suggests, this material was designed to prevent radar beams from bouncing back to the ground station and revealing the aircraft’s position by absorbing them in to the aircraft’s body. However, the U-2 could not be made entirely invisible to radar and this was proven on May 1st, 1960, when a U-2 flown by Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union.
A second U-2 was shot down over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. In order to keep gathering intelligence on the Soviets and their client states such as North Vietnam and China, a new aircraft was developed that could fly higher and faster than anything the Soviets had and Area 51 was again at the forefront of the test program. Developed again by Kelly Johnson under Project Oxcart, the new aircraft was designated as the A-12, repeating the misinformation trick they had done with the U-2 since A refers to attack aircraft. The A-12 was assembled and flown for the first time from Area 51 on April 25th, 1962. Curiously, like its predecessor the A-12’s first flight was accidental taking place during what should have been just a ground run. Looking more like one of the wonder machines that Area 51 is famous for, the A-12 was capable of over three times the speed of sound and could fly even higher than the U-2.
The enormous stresses this flight regime imposed on the aircraft were such that the only material the aircraft could be realistically constructed with was titanium but in the early 1960s the only reliable source for titanium was the Soviet Union and it was unlikely they would be willing to sell it to the US for use in their newest spy plane. Therefore, the CIA created a string of fake foreign companies to purchase the titanium from Soviet manufacturers and then secretly transport it back to the US for use in building the A-12.
As well as having astonishing performance, the A-12 was also the first aircraft designed to evade radar. A model of the A-12 was assembled at Area 51 mounted on a stand in front of a radar dish to monitor how effective it was at deflecting radar beams from different angles. While not a true stealth aircraft, the A-12 was an exceptionally difficult aircraft to detect. During its lifetime, the A-12 flew missions over North Korea and then over Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Flying such an unusual aircraft was often difficult and on January 5th 1967, an A-12 crashed on approach to Area 51 killing its CIA pilot, Walter Ray. The A-12 was withdrawn from service in 1968 but was replaced by the SR-71 Blackbird, a development of the A-12 that incorporated all the experience gained in the testing at Area 51. Another peculiar aircraft program that is associated with both Area 51 and the A-12 is the D-21 unmanned drone.
The D-21 was designed to be carried on the back of an A-12 to a launch point just outside enemy territory after which it would separate and then fly through heavily defended enemy territory taking pictures of high priority targets. The photographic film would then be ejected over the ocean for retrieval while the D-21 itself would self-destruct. The D-21 was not a success and its intended role was carried out by the first generation of spy satellites but it did help pave the way for modern drones. Indeed, spy satellites were a growing problem for Area 51 in the 60’s since they threatened to finally break through the base’s once airtight veil of secrecy. The U-2 and SR-71 were therefore tasked with photographing the base from high altitude to assess just what Soviet satellites could see and work out how best they could conceal operations whenever one went over the base. But it wasn’t only American aircraft that were tested at the secret base.
In the skies over Korea in the early 1950’s and then again over Vietnam in the 1960’s, the US Air Force and US Navy began to realize that although technologically inferior to their own sophisticated warplanes, Soviet-supplied fighters were still highly capable in combat. In Vietnam especially, US fighters put up a poor showing against the primitive North Vietnamese aircraft and so the USAF, US Navy and CIA worked to unlock the secrets of these aircraft and develop tactics against them. For that, they needed to get hold of these aircraft for evaluation especially the new MiG-21. During the early 1960’s, the Israeli Mossad intelligence service undertook Operation Diamond in order to recruit an Iraqi pilot to defect to Israel in a MiG-21. On August 16th, 1966, Iraqi pilot Munir Redfa flew his MiG-21 to Israel and the following year the Israelis loaned the aircraft to the US to evaluate.
The aircraft operated out of Area 51 and was given a phony US designation to disguise its identity on official documentation. Under the Have Doughnut program the aircraft was used in simulated dogfights against every major American combat aircraft to work out its strengths and weaknesses. These tests led to the US Navy establishing the Top Gun training school based partly on the experience gained during the evaluation. Area 51 would also see the newer MiG-23 arrive later for similar trials. In the 1970s, Area 51 was the site of testing of yet another radical new aircraft. Built on the research to make both the U-2 and A-12 difficult to detect on radar, work now began on developing an aircraft that was truly invisible to radar.
In 1975, Lockheed’s Skunk Works was awarded a contract to build two technology demonstrators that were intended to prove the concept could work. The two aircraft, built under Project Have Blue, were completed by Lockheed and flown for the first time from Area 51 on December 1st, 1977. These two aircraft would pave the way for the F-117 Nighthawk stealth aircraft that became operational in the early 1980’s and would be used to spectacular effect in the 1991 Gulf War striking targets deep inside Iraq with impunity.
In recent years, it has been speculated that Area 51 continues to be used as a test base for advanced drone aircraft. However, the public perception of Area 51 remains heavily associated with UFOs, crashed extra-terrestrial craft and testing of alien technology. So why is this? Place in UFOlogy With so many advanced aircraft having been tested at the site under an intense cloak of secrecy, it is little wonder that Area 51 has become associated with UFO’s. Most UFO experts agree that around 90% of sightings in and around the base since the 1970’s can now be explained away as the testing of aircraft such as the unusual-looking Have Blue but around 10% remain unexplained and the US government continues to keep silent regarding them.
This has only served to fuel the many conspiracy theories over just what goes on there even though there is often little evidence to support them. Some of the theories put forward the belief that the base has been involved in anti-gravity and even time travel experiments. Rumors of the development of stealth technology has also spurred on the idea that the base continued the work started by the Philadelphia Experiment in which a US Navy warship was supposedly made invisible for several seconds.
Some even believe that with such a high level of secrecy it was the perfect site with which to fake the moon landings. Perhaps the most popular belief regarding the base is that the crashed UFO from the famous 1947 Roswell Incident has been stored there, presumably after having been stored at another base in the immediate years after the crash, along with the craft’s dead occupants. Since then, it has been claimed that several other crashed UFOs have also been housed there such as an egg-shaped craft retrieved by US soldiers from Fort Polk, Louisiana in 1953 or a disc that was recovered from Alabama in 1955 in which an Army helicopter pilot claimed he flew alien bodies to Maxwell Air Force Base.
Even Hollywood has cashed in on the reputation of Area 51 with perhaps the most notable instance being the 1996 summer blockbuster Independence Day. In the movie, Area 51 does indeed have the Roswell spacecraft and was a key plot point in the movie’s climax however this angered the US military’s liaison staff involved in the project who demanded that all reference to the base was dropped. The film’s director, Roland Emmerich, refused because it was crucial to the story and so in protest the US military stopped their support but in doing so only perpetuated the theories of alien craft being stored at Area 51. It is possible that the US military was simply trying to curb interest in one of their most secret aircraft testing sites but if that was the case then they unintentionally achieved the opposite effect.
So, how did the belief that retrieved aircraft and beings are kept at Area 51 start? While rumors to that effect have been whispered in UFO circles for many years, it is widely attributed to a man named Bob Lazar who brought it to the wider public’s attention after giving a startling interview in 1989 to a Las Vegas TV station. He stated that he was a former employee at the base, he made some incredible claims as to just what activity had gone on there and that there was an immense underground facility called S-4 located just south of the above ground facility. He said that he worked at S-4 and was directly involved in the reverse engineering of several flying saucers that had been retrieved by the US government since the 1940’s. He claimed that the engineers there were testing aircraft based on the Alien technology and that were propelled by manipulating gravity waves.
This would seem to explain some of the sightings reported around the base of objects moving at very high speed only to immediately change direction or come to a stop without slowing down as a conventional aircraft would. In the 1989 interview, he added that the fuel for these craft was an as then-undiscovered element known simply as Element 115. This element was finally synthesized in Russia in 2003 and was named Moscovium and is still the subject of research. He even provided detailed descriptions of what one of the alien craft was like inside emphasizing that the chairs on which the aliens sat were quite small and unsuitable for adult humans. Perhaps his most startling claim however is seeing reports that aliens had been directly involved in human affairs for over 10,000 years. In the initial interview, Lazar had his identity concealed but then later came forward and spoke openly about his experiences working at Area 51. When asked why he waved his anonymity he responded by saying that it was in an effort to protect himself from the US government who would no longer be able to silence him without encouraging unwanted interest in the goings on at Area 51.
Lazar’s claims generated a lot of media attention but investigations in to his past, especially his qualifications, failed to stand up to scrutiny. He claimed he had studied at MIT and CalTech, but reporters who checked up on this failed to find any evidence and no one could remember him being at either institution. Lazar responded by saying that the US government had proven adept at erasing people’s histories and probably threatened the families of students and staff who might admit to remember him. His credibility took a blow in 1990 when he was arrested in connection with aiding a prostitution ring and he continues to have occasional run-ins with the law such as in 2006 when he was charged with illegally transporting restricted chemicals across state lines.
But to prove he was telling the truth, Lazar took three lie detector tests not long after going public with his identity. The examiner who conducted the test stated afterwards that in his opinion, Lazar was not being deceptive, meaning he at least believed what he was saying was true. Nevertheless, many academics have dismissed his claims, including leading UFO researcher Stanton Friedman. Despite this, he still has a committed following who believe him. Whether his claims are true or not, Lazar has to be given credit for bringing the story of Area 51 being home to crashed UFOs to the public’s attention.
But he is by no means the only person to have made such claims. Just a few years later, in 1996 SKY TV produced a documentary about Area 51 entitled Dreamland as part of that summer’s UFO craze thanks to Independence Day’s release. The producers interviewed a 71-year old man who claimed to be a former mechanical engineer at Area 51 who not only worked on Alien technology but actually interacted with an alien being known only as J-ROD. The engineer claimed that his job was to build a simulator for US pilots to train to fly a disc shaped craft under J-ROD’s supervision. Less than a year later, on May 23rd, 1997 radio DJ Art Bell was hosting his daily show when a man phoned in claiming to have worked at the S-4 facility at Area 51. He only referred to himself as Victor and claimed he was the one who leaked a video commonly known as the Alien Interview which allegedly took place at Area 51.
The video has been debunked by most experts and it is possible the man was trying to simply generate interest in it but then on September 11th of the same year, another man phoned in to Art Bell claiming to be another Area 51 employee and that not only were alien ships and beings being kept there but that there was a frightening global alien conspiracy at work. The man was clearly disheveled and terrified, growing more upset as the call went on which made people believe that the man felt there was a genuine threat to whomever was calling but if that wasn’t creepy enough the radio broadcast suddenly went silent because of a mysterious malfunction to which Art Bell couldn’t explain.
This led to people believing the government was trying to silence the caller. On April 28th, 1998, Art Bell spoke to another caller claiming to be the frightened Area 51 employee only this time he was calm and collected claiming the first call was a hoax and part of a number of wacky characters he created to call in to the show with. The man would only give his name as Brian but while he admitted that his call was a hoax he couldn’t explain the interruption of the signal during the broadcast and said that he went to bed that night freaked out that maybe he had gone too far and upset the wrong people. On September 9th, 2014, almost 17 years to the day of the first call, comic book writer Bryan Glass publicly admitted that he was behind both calls. However, some listeners to the broadcasts have claimed that that the second caller could not have been the same person as the first because of differences in mannerism and tone but Glass maintains he was responsible for both. The next significant figure to emerge in the story of Area 51 is Dr.
Dan Burisch. Burisch was a noted psychology and biology academic being the youngest person to ever be admitted to the Los Angeles Microscopical Society and had links with Dr. Edward Teller who was known to be linked to Bob Lazar. In 1990, Burisch was employed by the US government as a bio-warfare specialist during Operation Desert Storm where it was feared the Iraqi forces would use biological weapons against US and coalition troops. Burisch claims that in 1994 he was offered a position at Area 51 to work on a Project known as Aquarius. Having gained his security clearance, Burisch said he flew to Area 51 from Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport aboard one of the so-called Janet airlines Boeing 737s that provide transport services to employees of the base. He said that on the flight the Neil Diamond song “Coming to America” was repeatedly played as part of an indoctrination to what they could expect there as the song is about immigrants looking for a better life in the US only in this instance the immigrants were aliens.
After landing at Area 51 he was then transported to the huge underground S-4 facility where Lazar had claimed he worked. Curiously, Burisch said that one of the options available for getting to S-4 were the military Mi-24 Hind-D helicopter gunship. Before entering S-4, Burisch said he had to undergo a vigorous security check to make sure that he was not carrying any hidden recording equipment. This included him stripping naked and having his body checked. Once inside S-4 he claimed to have seen numerous alien and human-alien hybrid technology craft before meeting the alien known as J-ROD. Under Project Aquarius, Bursich and J-ROD worked on cloning and researching alien viruses although perhaps the word alien is inappropriate. According to Burisch, J-ROD’s people were actually from Earth but 50,000 years in our future where a major catastrophe saw them escape across space and time. The work was carried out under the authority of the mysterious Majestic 12 organization but Burisch said J-ROD became extremely ill and he had to care for him before helping to send him back in to space through an ancient device similar to a Stargate.
Understandably, these extraordinary claims have been the source of much debate. Like Lazar, Burisch’s credentials have been called in to question with his supporters claiming that he too has had his history tampered with to discredit him. Others claim that his story is little more than an amalgamation of previous stories including ones that have been debunked. Some of his employment history seems to contradict his education claims and he is known to have a history of financial difficulty so would benefit from going public with such a story. Burisch himself has even suffered physical attacks over his claims but his supporters simply claim that the infamous Majestic 12 organization is succeeding in clouding the truth. But, while both Lazar and Burisch have been called in to question regarding their authenticity, in recent years another person came forward to claim that he knew of the existence of alien beings and technology at Area 51 and he was far more difficult to discredit.
His name was Paul Hellyer and he was the Canadian Defense Minister between 1963 and 1967. He claims that during his time in office he was shown proof that various aliens do exist and that many of them are visiting Earth on a regular basis. Regarding Area 51, he has said that one of Canada’s former Chief of Emergency Measures, although he has not yet named which one, was invited to tour the Area 51 facility and saw the retrieved UFOs. The Canadian official was also given a briefing on what to do should a UFO crash on Canadian soil. So, how likely is it Hellyer is telling the truth? He seems resolute in his belief of extra-terrestrials visiting Earth risking his reputation in order to inform people of his belief that many of these extra-terrestrials are concerned about the way we are damaging our planet and ourselves such as with war and pollution.
Also, during the time he was in government the US and Canada had extremely close defense links due to the Cold War so it is possible that Canadian officials would have been invited to tour Area 51 or the S-4 facility if such a place exists but until more witnesses come forward or documents are released corroborating the story we have only his word. In 2013, a video was released on YouTube of an elderly gentlemen who apparently did not have long to live and who claimed to be ex-CIA. In the video he confessed to having seen alien bodies and craft at Area 51 but again there is little to corroborate the authenticity of the confession. Indeed, finding evidence of genuine UFO activity at Area 51 is especially difficult because of the level of security around the base but in May 2017 an impressive piece of footage was released by the UFO hunting group SecureTeam 10.
The footage appears to show a UFO flying over the base and recorded by base personnel sometime in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s. SecureTeam 10 claim the video was leaked to them and proves that Area 51 is involved in the research and operation of alien technology. Another bizarre event occurred at the base in 2012 when a couple driving near the base recorded bizarre smoke clouds from inside the perimeter. They were unable to see what was causing the smoke since it was emanating from behind a hill parked on top of which was a security vehicle making sure no one got too close. Although filmed in 2012, the couple didn’t release the footage until 2016. Other Area 51’s. If we were to assume that at least some of the claims are true and the base really is being used in the retrieval and reverse engineering of alien technology, is it possible that there are other such bases that carry out a similar function? The Tonopah test range is a satellite base to Area 51 located 70 miles away and like its neighbor is highly restricted base.
It is known that some of the captured MiGs were tested there as was the F-117 but some speculate it has also been used to test captured alien technology. In the early 1980’s, Albuquerque businessman Paul Bennewitz claimed he started detecting radio emissions between alien spacecraft and a US military installation located in Dulce, New Mexico. In 1990, UFOlogist John Lear claimed to have evidence of such a base but it has since been speculated that Mr. Bennewitz was in fact detecting encrypted communications between underground USAF bases housing Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. It would also therefore be possible that other countries have their own Area 51-type facilities. In 1974, the Berwyn Mountains in North Wales was reportedly the scene of a UFO crash and conspiracy theorists believe that alien bodies were recovered from the site and transported to the Ministry of Defense’s facility at Porton Down where research in to biological weaponry takes place.
In 1946, the former Soviet Union established a secret base at Kaputsin Yar in Astrakhan Oblast located between Volgograd and Astrakhan. The base was intended to be a secret location with which to develop and test rockets based on captured German research. However, it has been claimed that in 1948 a UFO crashed near the town of Dalnegorsk in the eastern Soviet Union in what is remembered as the Height 611 Incident or alternatively as Russia’s Roswell. Almost mirroring the claims regarding Area 51, conspiracy theorists believe that the craft and its occupants were transported to Kaputsin Yar for study and that an underground base was established there for that purpose. It’s true the base has a long history of UFO sightings including a number of triangular shaped objects landing and taking off vertically but like it’s American counterpart, the base’s full history remains classified.
In recent years, there has been speculation amongst some UFOlogists that even Nazi Germany had their equivalent to Area 51 during the Second World War. Located at the Wenceslas Mine in Poland, the site was supposedly the scene of research in to an advanced bell-shaped device known as the Die Glocke the purpose of which remains up for debate even amongst those who believe in its existence. Some believe it was an anti-gravity device while others think it was a weapon since at least five scientists were supposedly killed during testing.
Perhaps the most outlandish theory is that it was a device for looking through time but regardless of which is true, if any of it is, the question has to be asked just how did the Nazi scientists unlock this technology? Some have theorized that in their quest for furthering the Aryan race they made contact with a group of Aliens known as the Tall Whites or Nordic types because of their northern European look. Some Alien conspiracy theorists have put forward the idea that this group of aliens, who Burisch claims is one of a number of Aliens who developed on Earth in the future like J-ROD’s species, gave the Nazis the technology necessary to start their research but that the project was not complete before Nazi Germany fell to the Allies. They speculate the Die Glocke was destroyed while others claim it was smuggled to a South American country.
Conclusion. For a base so shrouded in secrecy it is easy to see how it can fuel the imagination and until the base’s full history is finally revealed there will always be speculation, rumors and unfortunately hoaxers. However, this aspect of the base’s story should not overshadow the important role it has played in history particularly during the Cold War. Stories of alien technology aside, it is likely many new types of drone aircraft are being tested there, the sightings of which only further the base’s association with UFOs.
Commercial satellite imagery from sources such as Google Earth taken over several years reveal that the base has actually expanded since the end of the Cold War implying that it remains a key part of America’s defense and intelligence operations. Whatever the truth of Area 51 is, this fascinating site still remains well guarded and despite the US government finally acknowledging its existence it is unlikely to give up all of its secrets anytime soon meaning it truly does earn the name, Dreamland. .