From the illegal dumping of toxic waste to financial cutbacks, we count fifteen facts you didn’t know about the elusive Area 51!
15 – Accidental Disclosure,
- Area 51 is the best-known secret military base of operations in the world. But a 1967 government memo is the only reason we know of its existence at all.
- Protocol meant all references to Area 51 had to be redacted from all documents but, curiously, in this memo, which was sent by CIA director Richard Helms and concerned the deployment of surveillance aircraft in Vietnam, one slipped through.
- The mistake didn’t reach the public, but the question stands: was this leak really accidental?
14 – U2 Spy Plane Involved in First Area 51 Operation,
- Area 51 first began as a testing ground for the Lockheed U2 spy plane, a famous aircraft developed after World War II that was designed to carry out surveillance over the Soviet Union.
- Practice flights took place on Area 51’s runways, which were built on a dried-out lake bed. A cover story was whipped up for its first operations over Eastern Europe. It was, like, totally a weather research plane; there was definitely no spying going on …
- The most famous U2 incident occurred in May 1960 – and I don’t mean the time Bono drank too much and lectured everyone about global warming. An Area 51 spy plane crashed over the Soviet Union during an intelligence-gathering flight. Awkward.
13 – US Army Accused Of Using Toxic Substances at Area 51,
- Some reports suggest the military took advantage of the secrecy surrounding Area 51, and the confidentiality agreements required of its workers, to dump large amounts of toxic waste at the site.
- When some workers died, their widows revealed evidence of large drums of hazardous waste being dumped in trenches and set on fire.
- The ensuing court case was dismissed because of national security considerations. There were also claims that other military sites’ toxic waste was illegally disposed of at Area 51 because its location was so remote.
- Apparently, the base is exempt from any environmental laws.
12 – First Drone Test Flight,
- The first recorded test flight of an unmanned drone occurred in Area 51 in 1964.
- Nowadays, drones are commonplace – the US military openly uses them and there’s one weirdo in every neighbourhood using them to spy on his neighbours – but their development actually began several decades ago.
- The first drone was the D21 and was intended to be used for surveillance. It took a couple of years to become capable of independent flight, but, by 1966, the D21 model had flown to heights of 90,000 feet.
- However, during its fourth test flight, something went wrong when the drone was set free from its carrier plane. Both aircrafts were destroyed and one crew member died. Of course we’re only now hearing about it ’cause cover-up!
11 – Foreign Aircrafts were Present at the Base,
- The United States used the Area 51 site to test captured technology sourced from enemy nations’ aircrafts.
- The first foreign plane to arrive was a Russian-built MiG-21, which had been captured by Israeli forces in 1966 when a member of the Iraqi air force defected.
- The purpose of the investigations was to identify weaknesses in performance and design so that US forces could exploit them during combat. In 1970, further Area 51 examinations commenced – this time on secretly acquired Soviet radar systems.
- Some speculate this manner of examination continues with the intergalactic spacecraft supposedly being kept somewhere within the compound.