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Area 51 revealed by U.S. government as spy plane's home

Mark Hachman | Aug. 19, 2013
Area 51 has been firmly embedded in American lore, often as the home of little green men secreted away in the Nevada desert. Now, the U.S. government has acknowledged the existence of the site in a history of the Lockheed CL-282, also known as the U-2 spy plane.

The report continued: "After debating about landing on the old airstrip, LeVier set the plane down on the lakebed, and all four walked over to examine the strip. The facility had been used during World War II as an aerial gunnery range for Army Air Corps pilots. From the air the strip appeared to be paved, but on closer inspection it turned out to have originally been fashioned from compacted earth that had turned into ankle-deep dust after more than a decade of disuse. If LeVier had attempted to land on the airstrip, the plane would probably have nosed over when the wheels sank into the loose soil, killing or injuring all of the key figures in the project."

To make the site more attractive, Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, the leader of the Lockheed "Ckunk Works," referred to the location as "Paradise Ranch". Area 51 was simply the map designation.

A separate note by British author Chris Pocock notes that much of the information found in the report was already known, either by other, declassified documents, interviews with personnel, or just good old-fashioned legwork. One tool, the Declassification Engine, was released this May, with the hope that it will eventually become a shared workspace of sorts to peirce the veil of government secrecy.

Of course, since then, the mystery of sites like Area 51 have diminished somewhat, thanks to leaks, as well as to satellite overflights of virtually the entire world, via sites like Google Maps. But at a time when the world is being rocked by other reports of U.S. spying, it's interesting to see what the government was up to more than fifty years ago.


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