The mysterious Area 51, the long-rumored, secret Nevada location that has spawned conspiracy theories about aliens, time travel, and government experiments, actually exists, according to newly released declassified CIA documents.
While there is no mention of any supernatural disturbances that might be featured on "The X-Files" or in a science-fiction film, a 400-page document reveals that Area 51 began as a testing site for the U.S. government's U-2 spy plane. The aircraft had been used for Cold War reconnaissance missions around the world, according to ABC News.
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Because the U-2 planes were able to ascend to altitudes higher than other planes at that time, residents often suspected that the spacecrafts were employed by extraterrestrial beings that studied the Earth.
"High-altitude testing of the U-2 soon led to an unexpected side effect — a tremendous increase in reports of unidentified flying objects (UFOs)," the report stated. The Air Force explained such sightings by claiming natural causes.
The report, titled, "Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and Oxcart Programs, 1954-1974," was written in 1992 by CIA historians Gregory Pedlow and Donald Welzenbach. A line on a map even shows the location of Area 51 and Groom Lake — the salt mine on which the base is built — in relation to the Mojave Desert.
The status of Area 51 after 1974 isn't mentioned, allowing for nearly 40 years of unanswered questions.
Declassified under a 2005 Freedom of Information Act request by National Security Archive senior fellow Jeffrey Richelson and released Thursday, the report also includes the names of the pilots who flew the U-2 missions. It acknowledged British participation in the program.
It also includes information about U-2 operations that supported covert CIA operations in the 1958 Indonesian rebellion and the Tibetan rebellion against the Chinese Communist Party.
For decades, the government offered minimal information about the top-secret area, and many sections are redacted in the declassified documents. An aerial gunnery for the Army Air Corp pilots during World War II, Area 51 was later commissioned by President Dwight Eisenhower to the Atomic Energy Commissions Nevada test site and training range.
Area 51 is widely thought to be a secret center for research on aliens and UFOs, and a downed alien spacecraft is rumored to exist there. In popular culture, Area 51 has been turned into a video game and has made numerous appearances in movies, including "Independence Day" and "Men in Black."
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