You might remember seeing the flood of headlines back in August of 2013 announcing that the CIA had officially declassified Area 51. If you’re not familiar with the story, here’s what happened: The National Security Archive at George Washington University posted a document obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in which Area 51 is mentioned by name, and shown on a map. The document is a CIA report on overhead reconnaissance, and basically details the history of the development of the U-2 and OXCART spy planes from 1954 to 1974. Both planes were developed and tested at Area 51.

Prior to the release of this document, for the most part, CIA and other government documents related to Area 51 redacted the term “Area 51,” and the government maintained the charade that the base didn’t actually exist. But, by releasing a document to the public with the name “Area 51” clearly visible, the CIA essentially “declassified” Area 51.

The media made a huge deal about this “declassification” of Area 51. And it created some excitement within the UFO community as well. Maureen Elsberry and I even reported the story on our show Spacing Out!

But some researchers were quick to point out that this document, which originated in 1992, is certainly not the first government document to reference Area 51.

Two such documents were recently brought to my attention by a good friend of mine who found them while doing research not related to UFOs. These documents just so happen to casually mention Area 51, by name.

The first document is a United States Atomic Energy Commission publication about Project Sedan–an underground nuclear test conducted in Nevada in 1962 as part of Operation Plowshare, which was a program exploring using nukes for “peaceful purposes,” like mining. This publication from the Atomic Energy Commission is the On-Site Radiological Safety Report regarding Project Sedan. It was published on April 29th, 1963, and basically details all of the monitoring and testing that took place following the nuclear detonation. One section states,

On D+4 the inter-area highway from Area 9 to Area 51 was decontaminated and another Rad-Safe check station was established on the road on the opposite edge of the contaminated area. Personnel traveling the road were briefed on radiological conditions at the entrance check station. They were then logged in and the information was relayed to the exit check station via radio. At the exiting check station personnel and vehicles were monitored and decontaminated if necessary. The personnel were then logged out and the information was relayed via radio to the initiating check station confirming that the personnel had left the contaminated area.

That’s the first casual mention of Area 51, by name.

Another section states,

The major decontamination project was cleaning approximately 7 miles of the Area 51 access highway. On July 10, it was determined that by waiting for normal decay it would be approximately 30 days before re-opening of the road would be feasible . . . A radiation survey was made at 0900 hours on July 11, and the road areas officially re-opened for traffic at 1100 hours on July 11.

This is a document that has been out there since 1963. Not classified. Not redacted. It’s a government document that openly mentions Area 51, by name, and even provides driving directions. It’s interesting.

Here is the full document for your review (This one’s a large file. It’ll probably take a while to load):

The second document is a publication from 1992 titled, Assessment of the Facilities on Jackass Flats and Other Nevada Test Site Facilities for the New Nuclear Rocket Program. This document was published by Los Alamos National Laboratory. In one section, it provides a geographic overview of test facilities, stating, “The Nevada Test Site (NTS) is located approximately 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas and is embedded in the Nellis Bombing and Gunnery Range as shown in Figure 1. As shown in the figure, the Nellis Range boundaries encompass what is now known as the Tonopah Test Range, Area 51, the Nellis Test Range, and the Nevada Test Site.”

There it is. Area 51. Plainly stated. Not redacted. Better still, the “Figure 1” referenced here is a map showing the exact location of Area 51.

Area 51

A map of Area 51 and surrounding areas. (Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory)

Here is the full document for your review:

These documents aren’t Earth-shattering. We know there were government documents that mentioned Area 51 by name even before the CIA “declassified” Area 51 in 2013. If you’re interested in more on those, check out John Greenewald’s site, The Black Vault. What’s fascinating about the two documents I just mentioned is how they’ve just been out there. No classification. No redacting. Just there for anyone to see. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of these documents is the sense of “ordinary”–the text is very boring and operational. And there isn’t a sense of anything secret going on. The workers are all aware of operations in the area, and they’re just guys trying to do their jobs and hopefully not have their vehicles contaminated.

I find these documents fascinating. But the question I’m left with is: Why did some government agencies go to such lengths to redact the name “Area 51” from documents for so many years, and even deny its very existence, when other agencies openly published the name, and the location? It’s fascinating. Weird and fascinating.

About the Author

Jason McClellan is an author, podcaster, TV personality, veteran UFO researcher & journalist, bourbon enthusiast, ska and punk devotee, vegan, and animal lover. You might have seen him on NatGeo, Syfy, History, or at conferences talking about UFOs.

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