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UFO Headquarters: Investigations On Current Extraterrestrial Activity In Area 51

UFO Headquarters: Investigations On Current Extraterrestrial Activity In Area 51

4.7 3
by Susan Wright

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The government said it need Area 51 to protect America. They said they needed it for research. Now some say it has all been a terrible lie...

In the annals of UFO controversies there has never been a place like this: sixty square miles of desert and scrub just north of Las Vegas, Nevada. Officially known as a U.S. Air Force testing ground, this area has


The government said it need Area 51 to protect America. They said they needed it for research. Now some say it has all been a terrible lie...

In the annals of UFO controversies there has never been a place like this: sixty square miles of desert and scrub just north of Las Vegas, Nevada. Officially known as a U.S. Air Force testing ground, this area has accounted for more UFO sightings and more inexplicable activity than any other in the world. leading experts to dub Area 51 "Earth's unofficial UFO headquarters."

Now UFO writer Susan Wright seeks to answer the riddle once and for all, delving into previously secret government documents, drawing on eyewitness accounts, and ripping the veil of secrecy off Area 51 and the research that really goes on there. The result is the most shocking and thoroughly documented UFO book you have ever read, a book that demonstrates that for fifty years the U.S. government has had one overriding policy on Area 51: whenever confronted with suspicions, facts, or photographs-conceal, deny and lie...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Something is happening in our skies. To discover the cause, we can only continue to use our eyes to see the world around us, record it faithfully, and work toward the next step in understanding humanity's place in the universe," veteran Star Trek book author Wright concludes at the close of this survey of the complex, confusing and contradictory world of ufology. Covering such topics as the Roswell incident and Area 51; government "black projects"; and sightings, disinformation and abductions, Wright introduces us to some of the field's players and personalities, from Glenn Campbell, who maintains the unofficial Area 51 Research Center, to Bob Lazar, whose sightings in the area are legendary. She quotes extensively from a variety of sources; some seem quite knowledgeable and reasonable, while others obviously are from the other end of the spectrum, although not without their own sort of entertainment value. (Wright straightfacedly writes that "Jarod-2 also claims the aliens speak `a higher form of Hungarian.' ") Making the point, however, that the trust of citizens is damaged by excessive secrecy--leading to rumor and paranoia--this neophyte's guide lightens the field's often murky terrain, though readers will be better and more entertainingly served by Phil Patton's Dreamland (Forecasts, July 20). (Sept.)
Library Journal
This journalistic survey of the UFO phenomenon focuses on the mysterious Nevada test site popularly known as "Area 51." Are captured UFOs being back-engineered here, or is it just an Air Force test facility for Stealth aircraft? Wright points out that many UFO documents remain classified for national security reasons. She questions the rationale for this policy because the government maintains that UFOs are not extraterrestrial and do not pose a threat. Special Access Programs (SAP) such as Area 51 are so highly classified that most members of Congress are not privy to how their money is spent, and a government land-grab issue has also been raised by local residents. Wright briefly covers the reputed 1947 crashed saucer incident near Roswell, NM, examines some published scientific analyses of UFOs, and comments on the treatment of UFOs in popular culture. A selected bibliography lists sources cited, mostly UFO web sites and E-mail addresses for UFO groups and investigators. The section on UFO organizations and resources lists 62 organizations worldwide. Wright's probing questions about government secrecy in the post-Cold War era should make her book more broadly appealing than David Darlington's Area 51: The Dreamland Chronicles (LJ 10/1/97). Recommended for most libraries.--Gary D. Barber, SUNY at Fredonia Lib., Silver Creek
Kirkus Reviews
Despite a misleading title (the book is not about what UFOs are up to these days but about the state of our knowledge concerning UFOS and related phenomena), this is a fine piece of reporting. Do UFOs exist, are extraterrestrial visitations real? On such questions, Wright (author of three books in the Star Trek series; co-author of Destination Mars, not reviewed) is something more than an agnostic but less than a true believer. "Something is happening in our skies," she writes, and she faithfully records the myriad attempts to find out what that something is. She offers detailed reports on individuals and organizations involved in investigating UFOs. Her method is not to dismiss out of hand such activity, but to carefully debunk wild and unsubstantiated claims while reserving judgment on other, more plausible efforts. Central to all she writes is the role of the US government in the study of UFOs. Here she finds a history of secrecy,, duplicity, and evasion that has simply added to the paranoia and suspension of reason (think Heaven's Gate) surrounding the topic. Government policy has been highly inconsistent. On the one hand, for instance, it has denied the existence of UFOs; on the other hand,, it refuses to release documents on government investigations of UFOs on the grounds of national security. If UFOs don't exist, the author wonders, how can they be a threat to national security? The government denies investigating UFOs at all, yet Freedom of Information Act documents show it has done so for years. Itþs this broader theme of the harm government secrecy does to an open society that makes this more than just another UFO book. The author finds UFO phenomena worthy of study,but study in an open, systematic way. To some, this recommendation is itself the height of folly, yet in the end she simply suggests we "use our eyes to see the world around us" and "record it carefully." Not bad advice at all.

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UFO Headquarters

Investigations on Current Extraterrestrial Activity

By Susan Wright

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 1998 Susan Wright
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-312-20781-6


At the Border of Area 51

As we pulled up to the border of Area 51, marked with large white signs, a brand-new Jeep Cherokee slowed to a stop on the other side, neatly blocking the dirt road. The windows of the Jeep were nearly black, so with the sun setting in the hills behind them, I could barely see silhouettes of the two men inside.

USE OF DEADLY FORCE AUTHORIZED, one of the two border signs stated in bold red letters. Both cited Federal Regulation #795 as forbidding entrance to the government installation.

Though the signs didn't say it, we were at the eastern border of Area 51, the secret government facility approximately ninety miles due north of Las Vegas, Nevada. From almost any vantage point, the six-by-ten-mile block of land that encompasses Area 51 is hidden behind low mountains.

But the mountains can't hide the aircraft that take off and land on the runways across Groom dry lake bed—said to be the longest in the world at nearly thirty thousand feet. The new stealthy aircraft, such as the mythical hypersonic Aurora, are rumored to be capable of reaching speeds of Mach 8, which means it would take a racetrack half the size of America for it to turn in a circle at top speed.

People are drawn to Area 51 not only to see supersophisticated aircraft, but because of the numerous sightings of flying saucers and UFOs. There is actually video footage of a UFO over Nellis Range that is remarkably like a video of a Brazilian UFO. And there have been strange cattle mutilations as well as reports of abductions by aliens while visitors were in the area.

In a 1989 interview with George Knapp on KLAS-TV, a former government employee named Bob Lazar said that he worked at S-4, just south of Area 51, in a project to back-engineer alien flying saucers. Lazar says our government has obtained nine discs and is trying to decipher the alien technology. He went public, he claims, in order to protect his own life after breaking his security oath.

No one knows for sure which government agency controls Area 51, so I tried to get in by contacting Nellis Air Force Base, which operates the Nellis Range Complex, a bombing and gunnery range that surrounds the Groom Lake area. During one of my phone conversations I was told, "It's dangerous out there—there's bombs dropping all over the place." One of the uses of the Nellis Range is "Red Flag," established in 1975 as a realistic combat training exercise involving the Air Force and its allies. These forces "attack" Nellis Range targets—mock airfields, vehicle convoys, missile sites, tanks, parked aircraft, and bunkered and defensive positions. The Gulf War owed a measure of its success to Red Flag exercises.

The Air Force denied me access to Nellis Range, and Technical Sergeant James Brook sent me a fax of the official Groom Lake Statement (dated 26 October 1994):

There are a variety of activities, some of which are classified, throughout what is often called the Air Force's Nellis Range Complex. The range is used for the testing of technologies and systems and training for operations critical to the effectiveness of U.S. military forces and the security of the United States. There is an operating location near Groom dry lake. Some specific activities and operations conducted on the Nellis Range, both past and present, remain classified and cannot be discussed.

Brook explained that he couldn't talk about anything regarding the Nellis Range, even about his personal feelings, because of security reasons. And he never let the words "Area 51" cross his lips—the secret base is officially known as "the Groom Lake facility." Brook then referred me to a next higher level: to Air Combat Command and the Secretary of the Air Force, Department of Defense.

I sent letters to the Pentagon requesting a tour of the Nellis Range, including but not limited to Papoose Lake and Area 51, but I wasn't surprised when one after another request simply disappeared into the black hole of "black project" secrecy. That's when I asked my congress-woman for help, and the Honorable Carolyn B. Maloney, member of the House of Representatives for the 14th District, New York, wrote several letters to Lieutenant Napoleon Byars, National Affairs Division, urging that my "request for a media tour receive prompt review and every possible consideration."

While the Pentagon never did answer me, Congresswoman Maloney kindly sent me a copy of her reply from Lieutenant Colonel Patricia M. Fornes, Congressional Inquiry Division. Fornes refused to grant my request on grounds of "policies and regulations relative to national security."

For further inquiries, a phone number was offered. So I called Major Guy Thompson, Public Affairs, and asked, Now that you've acknowledged the existence of the Groom Lake facilities, what would be the harm in allowing in a few select media? You've done it before at supersensitive government facilities, why not here?

Major Thompson was extremely pleasant and interested in my project, but he only replied, "We've had quite a few journalists ask for a tour, but we can't because of issues of national security."

The Department of Energy (DoE) was infinitely more accommodating, as per the dictates of former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary, who took President Clinton's request for openness literally. The DoE gave me an extensive tour of the Nevada Test Site (NTS), a 1,350-square-mile restricted area just west of the Nellis Range. On BLM maps, Area 51 is a small box of land barely connected to the northeastern part of NTS—and technically considered to be under the same land management.

NTS, otherwise known as "America's Nuclear Proving Ground," is a vast complex of underground test tunnels, assembly plants, bomb craters, and nuclear waste storage facilities. On my tour, I viewed the shafts where a warhead and a small amount of plutonium were going to be detonated 980 feet underground in June 1997. While eating lunch on Rainier Mesa, I had a fantastic view of the runways and the northernmost half of Groom Lake.

A few days later, at the eastern border of Area 51, I couldn't see the base, although I was physically much closer than I had been at NTS. With the narrow road blocked by the security Jeep, we were boxed into a narrow ravine where two mountain buttes overlapped. The two men didn't budge.

There were two cameras on the butte to the left, tracking our Dodge Diesel (equipped with two scanners and a CB radio). The sophisticated camera setups had video uplinks, parabolic dish reflectors, and yagi antennae. Near the white warning signs, another surveillance camera was tied to a yucca tree, an unsettling cyborg of ancient flora and silicon chips.

Ironically, this electronic Berlin wall was erected across what used to be known as Freedom Ridge, appropriated by the Air Force in a much-publicized "land grab." In April 1995, the border of Area 51 was pushed outward, eliminating the last two easily accessible vantage points to view the Groom Lake facility.

The name "Area 51" wasn't even acknowledged by the government until legal suits were filed against the Department of Defense, the Secretary of Defense, and the Environmental Protection Agency. These suits were filed by a group of Area 51 employees and their families because of alleged exposure to toxic wastes burned in open pits at the Groom Lake facility. This lawsuit finally forced the Department of Defense to release their 1994 "Groom Lake Statement," which tersely admits, "There is an operating location near Groom dry lake."

The waste lawsuit, meanwhile, trundled on in the court of appeals in San Francisco, after being dismissed by a federal district court judge in Las Vegas. On January 8, 1998, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that state secrets privilege invoked by the Secretary of the Air Force makes discovery and trial on the claims of enviromental crimes "impossible."

Area 51 on the Internet

The government apparently intends to keep everything about Area 51 a secret. Jonathan Turley, attorney for the workers in the hazardous waste lawsuits, realized how serious the Department of Defense was when he tried to introduce as evidence an alleged Groom Lake/Area 51 security manual. The government retroactively classified the document and the judge sealed Professor Turley's offices at George Washington University.

Turley was simply using the document to illustrate the types of buildings at Groom Lake—such as a vehicle maintenance shop, which presumably dealt in everyday materials such as battery acid, antifreeze, and fuel oil that can be hazardous when burned. Yet the defense attorney for the government said that public exposure of the security manual could "endanger the national security."

Anyone is free to go on the Internet and download their very own "secret" copy of the Area 51 Security Manual. Glenn Campbell and Mark Farmer each received the manual from anonymous sources, and Campbell posted the text on his extensive website, Ufomind.

In the security manual, the section on "Field Sensor Guide" describes the "electronical sensors" planted throughout the ranges. These sensors look like little pots, and are marked "Government Property"—though they don't say which part of the government! These sensors are able to monitor vehicles or individuals entering or exiting the BLM land next to Nellis, which is in itself an illegal use of public land.

The precision arrival at the border by the "Cammo Dudes" (as Campbell nicknamed the security guards) made it clear they knew we were coming—and it wasn't just from the trail of dust we left in our wake driving down the long dirt road. The sensors had caused our scanners to squelch regularly, every half mile.

Glenn Campbell's website, Ufomind, turned out to be a goldmine of information on Area 51. The maps in his"Area 51" Viewer's Guide got us to the border, and the frequencies he listed allowed us to eavesdrop on the encrypted squelches as the two Cammo Dudes lifted their radios and reported back to their main base.

Glenn Campbell has run the Area 51 Research Center since 1993, releasing information on the secret base and actively raising awareness on civil issues such as the Air Force land grab and the designation of the Extraterrestrial Highway running along the northeastern edge of the Nellis Complex. Campbell also produces The Groom Lake Desert Rat, a World Wide Web newsletter that "walks a careful line about what may be out there at Papoose and Groom Lakes, trying to avoid speculation, but arguing that the secrecy here is excessive given the end of the Cold War."

Before coming out to the border of Area 51, we went to Rachel, Nevada, to visit the Area 51 Research Center, a single-wide trailer with all kinds of junk piled in front that has fallen out of the sky—pieces of aircraft and radar targets. Rachel is literally a handful of trailers in a vast empty desert valley, with several establishments devoted to selling alien-related merchandise.

As reports of UFO sightings in the area continued to increase, so did Campbell's reputation as the man to contact if you wanted a "native" guide to Area 51. By the end of 1994, Campbell had been interviewed by virtually every major media outlet in the country, from CNN, NBC, and ABC News to The New York Times Magazine —everyone wanted to see the secret base that had no name.

What's in a Name?

To this day no one knows where the term "Area 51" came from, but it could have originated in the Department of Energy, which currently operates the Nevada Test Site. Many of the sections of NTS are referred to by number—Area 15, Area 10, and Area 9 are near Area 51.

When I checked with the DoE database of declassified documents housed at the Coordination and Information Center (CIC), there were a number of documents recording radiation levels and structural examinations dating back to 1969 that referred to the Groom Lake area as "Area 51."

Despite the government's attempts at secrecy, the term "Area 51" has been in the popular vernacular for decades. George Knapp located official maps that show Area 51 in the region of Groom Lake. And the most damning evidence came from the defense contractor Lockheed, which flight-tested the U-2 spy plane and the F-117 stealth fighter. Lockheed black-and-white film footage shows aviation pioneer Kelly Johnson pointing to a blackboard that clearly states: "move out to Area 51."

On the drive up to Area 51, there were other more obvious indicators of a secret base hidden somewhere in the Nellis Range. Running along the narrow two-lane U.S. 93 were large power lines—three wires with six insulators each, in excess of 200,000 volts. Going where? Not to the tiny roadside towns of Aztec and Rachel, the largest population centers in Lincoln County, which totals 3,800 people.

Just south of Alamo, the power lines cross U.S. 93, sending a surge of static over both scanners and opening all forty channels of the CB. Then the power lines veer from the highway and head due west, directly toward Groom Lake.

Between the power lines and the sophisticated equipment scattered through the desert—underground transformer stations and fenced generator substations with propane tanks, not to mention double dump trucks with U.S. Government license plates and signs on the cab saying SANDIA NATIONAL LABORATORIES, LOS ALAMOS—I wondered how the government thought they had been hiding Area 51.

The Nellis Range was established as the Las Vegas Bombing and Gunnery Range in 1940, but the Groom Lake area wasn't utilized as an airstrip for at least another decade. It's not likely that any structures existed on Groom Lake before 1952, when Kermit H. Larson, chief of the Alamogordo section of the Atomic Energy Commission, wrote to Dan Sheehan asking if he and his colleagues could "stay in the Cabin" at Groom Mine again: "Four of our survey group have another assignment to do over in your territory, west of Groom Lake to the Water Tank and to the northwest of the Tank...."

The DoE database holds a series of memos and letters between the Sheehan family, who worked Groom Mine overlooking Groom Lake, and the AEC, which was shaking things up in the area beginning with its 1951 series of nuclear bomb tests. Friendly relations soon turned sour, and Sheehan was reduced to writing to the director of the Test Division in August 1955 to request compensation for the damage done to the family's road and for the time lost when they had to evacuate their claim.

The facility on Groom dry lake was known as "Watertown" during the years of the U-2 program, until at least 1960. An unclassified press release from July 29, 1957, was unearthed first by Paul McGinnis, describing how a pilot landed his "small private aircraft" on the "Watertown air strip within the restricted air space over the Nevada Test Site." The release pinpoints the location as "in the Groom Lake area at the northeast corner of the Nevada Test Site."

The first mention of Watertown comes from an unclassified memo in October 1955 from Colonel Calfred Starbird, USAEC (U.S. Atomic Energy Commission), Washington D.C. Starbird writes in response to a Las Vegas Review Journal request for a "progress report on Watertown Project." The approved release said,

Construction at the Nevada Test Site installation a few miles north of Yucca Flat which was announced last spring is continuing. Data secured to date has indicated need for limited additional facilities and modifications of the existing installation. The additional work which will not be completed until sometime in 1956 is being done by the Reynolds Electrical and Engineering Company, incorporated under the direction of the Atomic Energy Commission's Las Vegas Branch Office.

Tom Mahood, one of the Interceptors and webmaster of the Blue Fire website, believes REEC was working on the infrastructure, like the roads and power lines, while Lockheed Skunk Works was actually building the facilities on the sly to test their U-2. In Ben Rich's book Skunk Works (1994), the search for a testing facility is described—how Kelly Johnson and a representative of the CIA visited Groom Lake and decided that it was sufficiently remote and secure enough.

As a cover story for the CIA, the official government press release on Watertown in 1957 stated that NACA, the precursor agency to NASA, along with support from "the Air weather Service of the U.S. Air Force," was developing an aircraft that could "make weather observations" at unusually high altitudes. The U2 at Watertown was even painted in NACA markings.

It seems likely that there was no authorization for the covert facility between 1955 and the land withdrawal in 1958. Glenn Campbell found Public Land Order 1662, which went into effect in June 1958, withdrawing about sixty square miles of Groom Lake from public use and allocating it to the Atomic Energy Commission for use by the Test Site. As Campbell explains:

I have yet to find any evidence that the land was part of the LVBGR [Las Vegas Bombing and Gunnery Range] prior to this—at least from the Federal Register. Such authority must have existed, I assume, I just can't find it. (In other words, I have found the withdrawal for most of the LVBGR, but it does not cover Groom Lake.)

To find out what the Watertown facility was like, I consulted another 1957 DoE document addressed to William Fairhall, manager of the Engineering Department at REEC The 1957 nuclear test series, Operation Plumbob, included twenty-four nuclear detonations, so a lot of structural safety checking was done. The NTS headquarters at Mercury, Nevada, requested "information on the following structures at Watertown." Along with a battery shop, "Trailer 98," and the control tower, there was also a "Base Theater" and "Building 104 (Base headquarters)."


Excerpted from UFO Headquarters by Susan Wright. Copyright © 1998 Susan Wright. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

"This book provides a fascinating and entertaining overview of the Area 51 controversy, placing it in its historical and sociological context. Wright has done a fine job of pulling out some of the more intriguing aspects of real and imagined government and military involvement with the UFO mystery. Whether your interest is in UFOs or the people who chase them, this fascinating book is well worth the read." --Nick Pope, author of Open Skies, Closed Minds and The Uninvited

"Well-researched information on UFOs and surrounding controversy. UFO Headquarters is an enjoyable read that encompasses the extremely topical and fascinating subject of UFO sightings and government involvement." --Kary B. Mullis, author of Dancing Naked in the Mind Field

Meet the Author

Susan Wright is the author of four Star Trek books, and most recently, a book entitled Destination Mars. She has been published in Cosmopolitan and Redbook. She lives in New York City.

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UFO Headquarters: Investigations on Current Extraterrestrial Activity in Area 51 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I want to visit area 51
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
wookietim More than 1 year ago
I have to say - this is a really interesting book... Be warned, there are some really boring parts to it. But here's the thing - this book has been so well researched and remains so well rounded in it's objectivity it more than makes up for it. I could have done without the recap (In yet another book) of the history of UFO's, but that is par for the course in pretty much any book like this. And while the book is a slog in the first half it loosens up a bit in writing style in the second half and becomes a quick read.