Roswell NM (Aliens in Roswell?)
Roswell NM (Aliens in Roswell?)
It's been an American obsession for more than 60 years. It's provided a shadowy backdrop for shows like "The X-Files" and movies like "Independence Day." The place: Area 51, a remote patch of desert some 83 miles north-northwest of Las Vegas, next to a salt flat at the foot of a mountain.
This military outpost — and what's happened inside it — is so top-secret that its very existence was disputed until 2013. In short, Area 51 was created during the Cold War to help America peek in on the Soviet Union. But, because of its clandestine beginnings and cutting-edge tech, many Americans came to associate the base with extraterrestrial ships and little green men.
What's area 51?
So, what is Area 51 really? What do we know for sure? How did a Cold War espionage operation become associated with theories of deep-state cover-ups of crash-landed aliens? Here's what we know for sure… and what secrets are yet to be revealed.
The U.S. Air Force uses the 38,400-acre area of desert as a training site. Sometimes called the Nevada Test and Training Range, the base is located next to a salt flat called Groom Lake and is home to some of the longest runways in the world. The closest town is Rachel, Nevada, population 54. The airspace above the base is extremely off-limits. And the land around it is peppered with warning signs to would-be trespassers.
We also know that workers aren't commuting there by car. Air traffic control audio out of a private terminal at Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport suggests that government-owned passenger jets flying under the name "Janet Airlines" make daily flights to and from… somewhere in the Nevada desert.
If you ask air traffic control, that "somewhere" is Homey Airport (KXTA), otherwise known as Area 51. Through the years, the base has also been called Dreamland, Watertown, Yuletide and Paradise Ranch.
In March 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was worried that America's lack of knowledge of Russia's military developments might leave America vulnerable to attack. So Eisenhower recruited a panel of experts to figure out how the United States could use science to thwart a potential Russian attack.
One thing was clear: The U.S. would need eyes in the skies over the Soviet Union. And once America had a blueprint in the works for a cutting-edge surveillance plane, a secure location would be required to assemble and test it. A scouting group flew over Groom Lake. From above, they could see it was remote, unassuming, and it already had an airstrip. It was perfect. That's how Area 51 was born.
In the early days, Lockheed engineer Kelly Johnson nicknamed the base Paradise Ranch. This was Johnson's way of making the arid patch sound more appealing to potential staff. Despite the lack of cultural attractions, nightlife or vegetation, workers embraced the moniker and began referring to themselves as "ranch hands." Area 51 quickly became a favorite location for the CIA's classified airborne espionage ops.
But as projects became more technologically complex, the bare-bones facility needed major upgrades. By 1964, Area 51 was transformed into a fully functional spy-plane factory.
Contractors poured a new asphalt runway to accommodate faster planes, replacing the old, 5,000-foot one with one that stretched 8,500 feet. Workers delivered disassembled Naval housing units and plane hangars to Groom Lake. Construction crews dug a new water well and erected recreational facilities. They added all the necessary warehousing, shop space and fuel storage.
Through the years, the CIA and Air Force developed several types of surveillance and attack aircraft at Area 51. The first plane that was built at so-called Paradise Ranch was the U-2 spy plane. Subsequent projects included the Lockheed A-12, the SR-71 Blackbird and the stealth F-117 Nighthawk attack aircraft. During the Vietnam War, the base was the headquarters for a project to reverse-engineer a Soviet-built MiG-21-F13 plane that a defector pilot surrendered. Of course, those are just some of the declassified projects we know about.
You'll notice that there hasn't been much talk yet of extraterrestrial autopsies or UFOs. That's because those stories hadn't emerged yet… but they were about too. In the late 1950s and early '60s, calls and letters about UFO sightings trickled in to air traffic control and the Air Force. These reports were, in large part, coming from airline pilots flying from east to west at dusk. They reported seeing fiery disks, flying saucers, at altitudes "too high" for any man-made plane.
At the time, as far as the public knew, even the most advanced military aircraft flew below altitudes of 40,000 feet. The U-2 spy plane that the CIA was testing at Area 51 flew above 65,000 feet.The Air Force began a program in 1952 to investigate UFO reports. Operation Blue Book, as it was dubbed, checked the details of each UFO report against the CIA's top-secret flight logs.
Once all the notes had been compared, civilians were told they were witnessing a "weather phenomenon." This only fueled the rumors that aliens were joy-riding in the skies above America. Decades later, one man's unsubstantiated claims would solidify what many people already suspected.
THE ROSWELL UFO INCIDENT
Early on 8 July 1947, a press release issued by the 509th Bomb Group based in Roswell, New Mexico revealed to the world’s media that something incredible had happened: a UFO had crashed in the area, and the United States Army Air Forces was now in possession of a “flying disk”.
The news was issued by 1st Lt. Walter Haut, the public information officer at the base, at the behest of base commander and close personal friend, Colonel William Blanchard. By day’s end, the information was retracted and a new press release was issued claiming a mistake had been made and that the UFO was, in fact, a crashed weather balloon – a turn of events that made Haut a figure of public ridicule.
The United States Armed Forces maintains that what was recovered was debris from an experimental high-altitude surveillance balloon belonging to a classified program named “Mogul”; many UFO proponents maintain that an alien craft was found and its occupants were captured, and that the military then engaged in a cover-up. The incident has turned into a widely known pop culture phenomenon, making the name Roswell synonymous with UFOs. It is the most publicised and controversial of alleged UFO incidents.
The incident was forgotten and almost completely ignored, even by UFO researchers, for more than 30 years. Then, in 1978, physicist and ufologist Stanton T. Friedman interviewed Major Jesse Marcel who was involved with the original recovery of the debris in 1947.
Marcel expressed his belief that the military had covered up the recovery of an alien spacecraft. His story spread through UFO circles, being featured in some UFO documentaries at the time.
ROSWELL: THE FIRST WITNESS
ROSWELL THE FINAL VERDICT
But was it? Reports in the 70s and 80s suggested the military were involved in Martian autopsies and recovering alien spacecraft. UFO supporters insist that the Roswell disc was an extraterrestrial craft of which the passengers were captured before the Army covered it up.
Intriguingly, Lieutenant Walter Haut who was the officer involved with both press releases in 1947, left a sworn affidavit to be opened after his death. He asserted that the weather balloon was a cover story and he describes seeing a craft in a hangar and bodies about 4ft tall with large heads. Perhaps Haut was having one final laugh but with billions of star systems and galaxies, is it naive to think we are the only ones in the universe? The truth is no doubt out there.
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