Area 51 has long been a topic of fascination for conspiracy theorists and paranormal enthusiasts, but newly released CIA documents officially acknowledge the site and suggest that the area served a far less remarkable purpose than many had supposed.
According to these reports, which include a map of the base’s location in Nevada, Area 51 was merely a testing site for the government’s U-2 and OXCART aerial surveillance programs. The U-2 program conducted surveillance around the world, including over the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Area 51, about 125 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is synonymous in popular culture with government secrecy, and many have theorized that it holds the answer to one of the greatest questions plaguing mankind: Are we really alone in the universe?
Government acknowledges Area 51 in declassified spy plane documents
WASHINGTON — The government has finally recognized the existence of Area 51, according to the National Security Archive, which published recently obtained declassified CIA reports detailing and mapping the previously unacknowledged area in Nevada.
The National Security Archive at George Washington University published a report, “The Secret History of the U-2,” on the spy planes that the Central Intelligence Agency relied on during the Cold War.
The Archive obtained declassified documents about the history of the U-2 — which reference Area 51 on numerous occasions — through a Freedom of Information Act request filed in 2005.
The origins of Area 51 are tightly bound up in the history of the U-2, for which the CIA needed a reliable and secret test facility in the U.S.
They found it in Groom Lake on April 12, 1955, according to “The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance,” an internal CIA history of the U-2 and OXCART programs written by Gregory W. Pedlow and Donald E. Welzenbach that was declassified in fulfillment of the National Security Archive’s FOIA request.
The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and Oxcart Programs, by Gregory W. Pedlow and Donald E. Welzenbach (History Staff, Central Intelligence Agency, 1992)
- Cover pages, table of contents, forward and preface
- Chapter 1 : Searching for a System
- Chapter 2 : Developing the U-2
- Chapter 3 : U-2 Operations in the Soviet Bloc and Middle East, 1958-1968
- Chapter 4 : The Final Overflights of the Soviet Union, 1959-1960
- Chapter 5 : U-2 Operations after May 1960
- Chapter 6 : The U-2’s Intended Successor: Project OXCART, 1956-1968
- Chapter 7 : Conclusion
- Appendices, Bibliography