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Ask Molly: What really went on at Area 51?

July 1, 2022

A banner stating, "Ask Molly, Your CIA source on the inside, #AskMollyHale," with a graphic of a woman in a grey hat and outfit.

Dear Molly,

What really went on at Area 51?

~ Truth Seeker


* * * * *

Dear Truth Seeker,

Unfortunately, many of the fantastical rumors swirling about Area 51 over the last 50+ years aren’t true: I’m sad to say there are no aliens in the basements or flying saucers stored in hangers. Still, the real history of Area 51 is every bit as mysterious and awe inspiring, even if it doesn’t include little green men.

Area 51 (also known as “Groom Lake,” “Paradise Ranch,” and several other names) was a secret testing site for CIA’s highly classified U-2 and A-12 OXCART reconnaissance aircraft programs, as well as a training site for the pilots. The CIA, U.S. Air Force, and defense contractor Lockheed Martin worked together at Area 51, which is located in a dry lakebed in the desert outside Las Vegas, Nevada. For security purposes, primary access to Area 51 was by aircraft. A daily air shuttle transported personnel and cargo between Area 51 and Burbank, California. Imagine that as your daily commute! The site was chosen because it was a remote area where the U-2 could be tested safely and secretly.

You can read all about the happenings at Area 51 here, including some fascinating history on its many names.

One tidbit that I found particularly interesting was how it became known as “Paradise Ranch.” Many of the workers and pilots being recruited weren’t exactly enthusiastic about the idea of being assigned to a remote, top secret base in the middle of the desert. So to make the facility sound more attractive to those who would be residing there, Lockheed’s famous aeronautical engineer, Clarence Kelly Johnson, began calling it Paradise Ranch. Many of the workers even referred to themselves as “ranch hands.”

For a unique view of Area 51, check out this 1960s video made for family members of the employees working on the U-2.

As they say, the truth about UFOs might be out there… it’s just not going to be found at Area 51.

Oh, and all those flying saucer sightings in the ‘50s and ‘60s? Turns out, that was (mostly) us! According to CIA investigators, “U-2 and later OXCART flights accounted for more than one-half of all UFO reports during the late 1950s and 1960s.” The rest? #TheTruthIsOutThere

Happy exploring!

~ Molly


Angels in Paradise: The Development of the U-2 at Area 51

Warning: This video below may contain flickering or flashing scenes.

ask molly

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