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.
Many of the conspiracy theories around Area 51 deal with aliens, specifically those that allegedly crashed at Roswell in 1947. According to Jacobsen, there were no aliens in 1947. The mysterious disc-shaped aircraft was a Soviet ship created by former Nazi scientists. She speculates the "aliens" in the vessel were child pilots, who were once subjects of Joseph Stalin's experiments.
Jacobsen recounts what the Air Force found when they investigated the crash:
Unusually petite for pilots, they appeared to be children. Each was under five feet tall. Physically, the bodies of the aviators revealed anatomical conundrums. They were grotesquely deformed, but each in the same manner as the others.
They had unusually large heads and abnormally shaped, [oversized] eyes. One fact was clear: these children, if that’s what they were, were not healthy humans. A second fact was shocking. Two of the [child-sized] aviators were comatose, but still alive.
Investigators took everything from the ship to an Air Force base in Ohio, where the materials remained until 1951. When they arrived in Nevada, American scientists studied the advanced technology, using it in many programs over the next several decades.
The Soviet aircraft which allegedly crashed at Roswell in 1947, later making its way to Area 51, was significantly more advanced than anything the US military had developed at the time. Scientists couldn't determine how it hovered or flew. They believed Nazi aerospace engineers Walter and Reimar Horten designed the flying disc. When the US tracked down the Horten brothers in 1948, they confirmed they had, in fact, worked with the Soviets on aerospace technology.
In understanding the perplexing machine, however, Vannevar Bush, a Manhattan Project scientist and former science advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt, proposed a solution. He ordered engineers to dismantle the craft and reassemble the pieces to understand its mechanisms.
The American public would have felt terrified and shocked about Soviet aircraft making its way into US airspace; however, if they knew who supposedly manned the ships, the response would have involved outrage. In Jacobsen's book, she details how Stalin allegedly enlisted former Nazi doctor Josef Mengele to create a group of small, deformed pilots to fly his mysterious discs. Mengele entered into an agreement with Stalin in 1945, shortly before the end of World War II.
According to Jacobsen, Stalin told Mengele if he could create a crew of grotesque, child-sized aviators, Russia would gift him a laboratory to continue his work. Mengele held up his side of the Faustian bargain and provided Stalin with the child-sized crew. Stalin did not. Mengele never took up residence in the Soviet Union.
Mengele later escaped to Paraguay and then Brazil. He assumed the identity of another former Nazi, Wolfgang Gerhard, and died in 1979. His identity remained unverified until 1985.
Jacobsen interviewed one of the former engineers who worked on the remains of the 1947 crash and asked him why President Truman didn't tell the American people what happened. According to the engineer, the priority was advancing science at any cost, including keeping Stalin's machinations a secret.
Housing the Roswell crash's secrets at Area 51 meant the classified facility became home to numerous covert programs. From 1951 forward, the Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of Defense, and the CIA all housed secret programs at Area 51, using the facility and its surrounding lands to conduct tests, push scientific limits, and create potentially controversial technologies.
According to Jacobsen, the almost-5,000 square miles of Area 51 are home to the Nevada Test Site, a 1,350-square-mile swath of land featuring hundreds of underground and surface-level nuclear explosions.