An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base
This "compellingly hard-hitting" bestseller from a Pulitzer Prize finalist gives readers the complete untold story of the top-secret military base for the first time (New York Times).
It is the most famous military installation in the world. And it doesn't exist. Located a mere seventy-five miles outside of Las Vegas in Nevada's desert, the base has never been acknowledged by the U.S. government — but Area 51 has captivated imaginations for decades.
Myths and hypotheses about Area 51 have long abounded, thanks to the intense secrecy enveloping it. Some claim it is home to aliens, underground tunnel systems, and nuclear facilities. Others believe that the lunar landing itself was filmed there. The prevalence of these rumors stems from the fact that no credible insider has ever divulged the truth about his time inside the base. Until now.
Annie Jacobsen had exclusive access to nineteen men who served the base proudly and secretly for decades and are now aged 75-92, and unprecedented access to fifty-five additional military and intelligence personnel, scientists, pilots, and engineers linked to the secret base, thirty-two of whom lived and worked there for extended periods. In Area 51, Jacobsen shows us what has really gone on in the Nevada desert, from testing nuclear weapons to building super-secret, supersonic jets to pursuing the War on Terror.
This is the first book based on interviews with eye witnesses to Area 51 history, which makes it the seminal work on the subject. Filled with formerly classified information that has never been accurately decoded for the public, Area 51 weaves the mysterious activities of the top-secret base into a gripping narrative, showing that facts are often more fantastic than fiction, especially when the distinction is almost impossible to make.
Even the most prosaic explanation of the oft-mythologized conspiratorial epicenter known as Area 51 can't resist flights of bizarre speculation, to judge by this wildly inconsistent expos . L.A. Times contributing editor Jacobsen (whose articles on Area 51 appeared in the paper's magazine) identifies the main business of the super-secret patch of Nevada desert as aerospace research, especially the development of the U-2 and A-12 spy-planes. A cross between The Right Stuff and The X Files, her absorbing history of the site shows us brilliant engineering, harrowing test-flights and crashes, paranoid security protocols, and vicious Air Force-vs.-CIA turf battles. Her rambling narrative often wanders away to other secret locales, including the Nevada Test Range and Area 52, where atom bombs and other infernal devices underwent trials. Drawing on interviews with ex-Area 51 staffers, the author's account of Area 51 and environs is thoroughly researched, lively, and quite sensible: she suggests that the base's odd-looking, high-flying, fast-moving experimental airplanes were the likely cause of associated UFO sightings. Unfortunately, Jacobsen then demolishes her own credibility by proposing a novel conspiracy theory sourced mainly to a nameless engineer, it links the Roswell UFO incident to Soviet-built flying saucers and a grisly hoax cooked up by Stalin in which the "aliens" were human children created by Josef Mengele based on his gruesome human experimentation at Auschwitz. Her account makes Martian-invasion scenarios look downright plausible. Let the reader beware. Photos.
Compelling but flawed
95% of this book is a compelling and apparently well-researched look at the history of America's classified stealth program (from the U-2 to the Reaper drone) and its nuclear testing program. It covers a lot of technical and historical ground while still being an interesting read (I finished it in a day). Unfortunately, it is marred by what seems to be a hastily-added section on a (non-alien) Roswell theory that is not only conjecture but also doesn't stand up to logical analysis. Had the author simply presented the known facts about Roswell and left it at that I would have rated the book 5 stars. As it stands, however, the Roswell section (which comes at the end of the book) seems to have been added just to boost sales. (Incidentally, the book is a lot shorter than it seems...the last 35% or so is references and photos.)
Interesting and apparently well researched. Then comes the Roswell/Soviet part that ruins the perception of objectivity. Obviously B.S!
Good only for beginners
This book really let me down, especially after the review on NPR. I enjoy reading about the development of high technology and some of the most interesting achievements have been kept secret for obvious reasons. Some interesting facts are unearthed in this book but to me it is just a pulp designed to grab the attention of readers who are new to the subject matter. Hints are not so subtly dropped in each chapter about an enormous conspiracy that was conducted at Area 51. And when you get to it at the end you are left baffled. Did Jacobsen get duped by an insider or was this simply a case of greedy publishers trying to make a buck off the gullible public?
I'm glad I got the electronic version so my friends don't see it on my shelf.