Weird History
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All The Secrets Revealed In 'Area 51: An Uncensored History Of America's Top Secret Military Base'

Updated September 23, 2021 566.8k views15 items

Mysteries, conspiracies, and downright creepy stories surround Area 51. There are rumors about the highly classified Air Force base in Nevada being home to everything from alien life to clandestine military operations. Some conspiracy theories speculate it houses a massive global coalition capable of manipulating governments and economies around the world.

In 2011, journalist Annie Jacobsen published her book Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base, in which she proposes another theory. According to Jacobsen, Area 51, AKA Groom Lake, became the site of several top-secret government weapons technology programs. Jacobsen's work contains extensive research and interviews with former employees, reopening the possibilities of what's inside Area 51.

  • Photo: Elgaard / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    The CIA Allegedly Developed Planes To Fly Three Times Faster Than The Speed Of Sound

    Operation OXCART aimed to develop an airplane five times faster than any craft constructed by the US military. The government awarded the plane's contract to Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in 1959, and their mechanics and engineers toiled for weeks at Area 51. They created a plane called the A-12, an aircraft requiring a longer runway and more fuel, not to mention a fleet of airplanes for training, transportation, and monitoring.

    The CIA allegedly approved the delivery of a dozen A-12 planes to Area 51, where the government expanded the facility's airspace to account for the craft's capabilities. As Area 51 prepared for their arrival, workers stayed on a need-to-know basis. When the A-12 arrived, "the airplane resembled a cobra with wings." Louis Schalk controlled the first test flights. Initial airborne attempts entailed an unsteady plane with parts of the fuselage falling off; the A-12 didn't successfully take off until March 1962.

  • Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Operation OXCART Might Have Taken The CIA To Some Dark Places

    Once the A-12, AKA an Oxcart, entered testing rotation for the Air Force, pilot Ken Collins became responsible for flying it. When pilots experienced problems with the plane, the CIA continued to pool its resources and energy into the project.

    As tensions with Cuba rose, the A-12 was of utmost importance. Pilots had to keep the A-12 classified. The CIA allegedly once attempted to hypnotize Collins so he'd forget about his A-12 crash. Collins recalled scientists injected him with thiopental, and he met with a CIA doctor at the medical facilities at Area 51:

    [The doctor] tried very hard to put me in a trance, only it didn’t work. I don’t think he realized that hypnotizing a fighter pilot was not as easy as he thought it might be.

  • Photo: National Nuclear Security Administration / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Atomic Energy Commission Purportedly Conducted Tests At Area 51

    In 1957, the Atomic Energy Commission began Operation Plumbbob at Area 51. Operation Plumbbob involved the detonation of 29 atomic bombs between May and October 1957, one of the most extended series of nuclear weapon tests conducted by the United States. According to Jacobsen:

    Nearly 7,000 civilians were badged to work at the test site during Operation Plumbbob. Another 14-18,000 employees of the Department of Defense also participated; official figures vary. 

    Despite concerns about contamination and fallout, which led to proposals of canceling the tests entirely, the government assured the American public and the world at large the tests were necessary. The New York Times published a partial schedule of bomb detonations, which gave tourists a chance to see a mushroom cloud on summer vacation. As the tests progressed, viewers could see detonation flashes as far south and north as Mexico and Canada, respectively.

  • Photo: US Department of Energy / WikImedia Commons / Public Domain

    Scientists Reportedly Used Area 51 To Test High-Altitude Nuclear Weapons

    Scientists at Area 51 attempted to develop and test a nuclear rocket capable of launching from space. In 1958, the US government experimented with high-altitude atomic weapons. Operation ARGUS involved shooting nuclear weapons into space from ships in the South Atlantic.

    James Killian ran operation ARGUS, and he believed "a nuclear explosion occurring above the Earth’s atmosphere - but within the Earth’s magnetic field - might produce an electronic pulse that could hypothetically damage the arming devices on Soviet ICBM warheads." However, it never worked.

    According to Jacobsen, Killian announced dropping a bomb from a satellite would prove reckless, and it was too "cumbersome" to put one in space.