Area 51 needs no introduction, yet plenty of explaining. One reporter aims to do just that: Annie Jacobsen says there is a good reason the government has never acknowledged the presence of the base, but it's not because of aliens or super mutants grown in a lab. Well, not exactly.
In her new book, Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base, Jacobsen, a contributing editor at the Los Angeles Times Magazine, writes without any mystery about the numerous thermonuclear tests that went on, the secret CIA stealth projects and — shockingly — the often-scrutinized alien hoax. She collected the bulk of her new information by interviewing individuals who used to work at Area 51, a group of people described by the author as a "formerly secret group of scientists, engineers and physicists... with different levels of need-to-know on different projects."
The government ran a series of "safety tests," according to Jacobsen, which covered everything from crashing a plane carrying a nuclear device to detonating nukes in orbit. Objectives ranged anywhere from seeing how humans would be affected in the resulting irradiated zones to testing nukes as a means to power spaceflight. Well, military spaceflight: the government was curious about installing missile installations in orbit and on otherworldly bodies. There's even some stuff in there about the OXCART program, the precursor to America's venerable SR-71 "Blackbird" spy plane.
The real whopper, however, covers the 1947 Roswell UFO crash that launched a thousand conspiracies. Talking with NPR's Terry Gross on her program "Fresh Air," Annie Jacobsen spoke of the kind of flying discs the Nazi party's Horten brothers were working on as early as 1942. After Germany's fall in 1945, the pair was sought internationally by countries including America for their aircraft designs.
Jacobsen tells sources who revealed that not only did one of these flying craft crash in the U.S. in '47, but the Hortens were involved, the flying "saucer" had hover-and-fly capabilities unheard of in any aircraft of the day, and contained two surprise pilots: children believed to be about 13.
And from where did these young pilots come? Not from space.
"The child-sized aviators in this craft were the result of a Soviet human experimentation program," Jacobsen said, making a point that this was information from an eye-witness source and one she trusts completely, "and they had been made to look like aliens à la Orson Welles' War of the Worlds" using "genetic and surgical" procedures.
In the scenario Jacobsen presents, the Soviets were hoping to recreate the mass hysteria caused by the radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, which had Americans on the East Coast actually believing that extra terrestrials had landed in New Jersey. This was an international news story at the time, and was supposedly even remarked on by the likes of Hitler and Stalin.
Jacobsen, on NPR:
"The plan, according to my source, was to create panic in the United States with this belief that a UFO had landed with aliens inside of it. And one of the most interesting documents is the second CIA director, Walter Bedell Smith, memos back and forth to the National Security Council talking about how the fear is that the Soviets could make a hoax against America involving a UFO and overload our early air-defense warning system, making America vulnerable to an attack."
What's worse: that's not even why Area 51 is classified. As in, Soviet-modified children-turned-alien-pilots who crash landed in a saucer isn't atrocious enough. It's secret because apparently American officials saw these tests and decided to conduct human experiments of their own.
Annie Jacobsen is keeping her eye-witness source anonymous, saying he has "nothing to gain and everything to lose" for talking about this. She describes him as the last of five engineers who worked on this "horrific rogue program," says that he knows that it was wrong, but also calls him a hero who has done much for American aviation.
Of course, questions still abound. Were the 13-year-old pilots trained or was the craft on some kind of autopilot? Where did it launch from? Why did flying disks not take off as a more common form factor for aircraft, and how come this hover-and-fly tech hasn't been replicated yet? There's VTOL used by Harriers and the upcoming Joint Strike Fighter, but this sounds fancier than that. (Then again, the saucer did crash, which may take a lot less effort.) The direction the U.S. body modification tests took isn't clear from Jacobsen's interview, either.
Have a listen yourself by clicking this link and give those little hairs on the back of your neck some exercise. I mean, holy hell, this actually makes a lot of sense!
Oh no — did I just turn into a conspiracy theorist? It's Area 51 — we'll never know the truth, right? All this, too, after we discovered what could be another habitable planet.