Friday, July 22, 2011

Too many secrets

I used to be a fan of "The X-Files." Not that I believe 'conspiracy theories' in general, mind you, but it makes for pretty good entertainment (although I liked best the episodes that didn't deal with shadowy plots). Still... it makes you wonder sometimes, you know? So maybe I was already primed to enjoy Annie Jacobsen's new book Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base.

Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military BaseFor the record let me state that I do not believe in UFOs or little green aliens from outer space. I would guess that most "sightings" were actually military aircraft. However, if there is intelligent life on other planets I think they would look just like us, based on what I've read in the scriptures (see Moses 1:33 and 2:27, Psalms 8:3-4, and Genesis 1:27). But really, it's not something I spend time thinking about. And that's just fine because for the most part, Annie Jacobsen doesn't write much about it either.

Area 51, she explains is a smaller part of the Nevada Test and Training Range in the desert north of Las Vegas. I think it's long been common knowledge that the government performed numerous nuclear bomb tests out there, many of which were of questionable value and very lax safety standards (I vaguely recall news of lawsuits against the government by "downwinders" when I was young). And I don't think it should surprise anyone that the government also tested top secret aircraft there - spy planes such as the U-2 and A-12 Oxcart (the forerunner of the famous SR-71 Blackbird). I remember a news story when the "Stealth Bomber" (B-2) and "Stealth Fighter" (F-117 Nighthawk) were revealed, that mentioned there had been many UFO reports in the area during the years they were being developed and tested in the Nevada desert. The book says there were lots of planes flown and tested at Area 51, like unmanned drones (such as the Predator and Reaper now being used in the Middle East) and Soviet MiGs, among others. I've also read enough to know that the US took great interest in the work of Nazi scientists and engineers, even putting many of them to work here after the war. And this is what most of the book is about; nothing that I found all that controversial or hard to believe, but all of which was surprisingly interesting. (And well over 100 pages of this book are devoted to references and citations.)

But that's not what most people think of when they hear "Area 51," and they usually tie it to a supposed UFO crash in Roswell, NM. And Mrs. Jacobsen doesn't skip over that, although she withholds most of it until the end. I won't spoil it except to say her explanation was interesting... as well as disturbing. Believable? Perhaps. Controversial?  Apparently yes.  But again, it's not something I spend much time worrying about. I just thought it was a fascinating bit of history.

An SR-71 Blackbird at the airshow at Edwards Air Force Base in 2009.

Looks like a UFO to me!  
A B-2 Stealth bomber flew around at the same airshow but they sure don't make it easy for you to get a good look at it.  It almost always came from behind where the large hangers were.

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