More stories from inside Area 51

Last month, I posted about Roadrunners Internationale, a small group of Area 51 vets who were now able to speak about their experiences at Area 51, the shadowy military base in southern Nevada that's a hotbed for black budget aircraft activity, conspiracy theorists, and, of course, extraterrestrials and the humans who love them. In today's Los Angeles Times, five former Area 51 insiders — including a commander of the base in the 1960s, a special projects engineer, and a test pilot — tell their favorite stories from Dreamland. From the LA Times (Wikimedia Commons image):

 Wikipedia Commons 8 87 Wfm Area 51 Landsat Geocover 2000-1
Urban legend has it that Area 51 is connected by underground tunnels and trains to other secret facilities around the country. In 2001, Katie Couric told Today Show audiences that 7 percent of Americans doubt the moon landing happened–that it was staged in the Nevada desert. Millions of X-Files fans believe the truth may be "out there," but more likely it's concealed inside Area 51's Strangelove-esque hangars–buildings that, though confirmed by Google Earth, the government refuses to acknowledge.

"It wasn't always called Area 51," says (Edward) Lovick, the physicist who developed stealth technology. His boss, legendary aircraft designer Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson, called the place Paradise Ranch to entice men to leave their families and "rough it" out in the Nevada desert in the name of science and the fight against the evil empire. "Test pilot Tony LeVier found the place by flying over it," says Lovick. "It was a lake bed called Groom Lake, selected for testing because it was flat and far from anything. It was kept secret because the CIA tested U-2s there."

When Frances Gary Powers was shot down over Sverdlovsk, Russia, in 1960, the U-2 program lost its cover. But the CIA already had Lovick and some 200 scientists, engineers and pilots working at Area 51 on the A-12 OXCART, which would outfox Soviet radar using height, stealth and speed.

"The Road to Area 51"