Book Review: Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military

Area 51
An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base
Hardcover | Kindle
Written by Annie Jacobsen
Little, Brown and Company
Release date: May 17, 2011

Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base is an interesting read, as it provides an abundant history of the invention of nuclear weapons and spy planes, most of which took place at a military base that technically never existed: Area 51 in Nevada.

Annie Jacobsen provides fascinating insight and thorough history into the motives of the world’s most powerful men before, during and after the Cold War, that ends in the present day by explaining how unmanned drones save the lives of our many service members in the Middle East and, ultimately, every one of us back home on relatively safe ground.

Okay, so now we know the truth: The United States government does things we don’t know about in places that don’t officially exist. Revelation! Not so much. I’m sure by 2011, most Americans are aware that our government engages in all manner of secret shenanigans in the name of national security. And that sits just fine with me; I don’t have a “need-to-know” about exactly how the CIA, the U.S. Armed Forces, and all the President’s men (and women, but, let’s face it, mostly men) keep one step (and hopefully more) ahead of anyone who may wish to do us harm any more than I have a need-to-know about which fabric softener my favorite rock star uses. But way back in 1951 when Area 51 was created, though certainly not the first top secret government playground, the public had unlimited trust and faith that their leaders always told them the truth. Thanks to Watergate, of course, now we know different.

The highlight of the book for me was learning the purported truth about Roswell, NM, as told to Jacobsen by the only living witness and one of only five engineers with access to what actually fell from the sky in 1947 that sparked the nation’s favorite myth that the government had aliens and spaceships in cold storage somewhere and not telling us about it.

*Spoiler Alert*

Some of us spend a lot of time wondering about and even searching for UFOs and proof that we’ve been visited by extraterrestrial beings. What happened in Roswell in 1947 was no such event. Like the United States, after World War II, Russia made ample use of the giant, inhumane brains of some of the Nazi scientists who performed unfathomable experiments. Not all of them involved human beings. Some of them were quite ingenious inventions, such as a flying disc. All I will say this: the next time you happen to catch something unusual passing through the night sky above you, think human, not alien.

*End Spoiler*

That’s all I really want to spoil here. You’ll have to read the book to learn the details. In fact, I think every American should read this book. Anyone who feels we’ve become a nation of uninventive couch boobs should know there are at any given moment in time here in these United States top secret teams of scientists, engineers, and great thinkers hard at work in undisclosed locations actually developing technology far beyond even George Orwell’s and Steven Spielberg’s wildest combined imaginations.

If there is any bone I could pick with regard to the storytelling here, it would be that I found the timeline a bit confusing. While each chapter seems to move forward in time, as a history should, the author constantly reaches back into the past so that the reader is at times unsure when some events actually happened. There are a lot of names and incidents noted throughout the book and it’s understandable that there should be some repeated information to remind the reader who each person was, but I found it daunting.

I learned a lot from this book. Area 51 is chock full of interesting details about the Manhattan Project, scientific triumphs, and hard-to-imagine ginormous government screw-ups, such as, “oops, we forgot to clean up all that radioactive stuff left over from testing all those nuclear bombs” and “oops, we almost broke the atmosphere.”

Annie Jacobsen has done an excellent job here. Her extensive research is commendable. That she managed to produce a suspenseful page-turner out of tons and tons of facts is extremely impressive. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know the other history of America — the one that won’t be taught in classrooms any time soon, if ever.

1 Comment »

  1. Excellent Review!!!
    One of the only such reviews of this book that has proper perspective. Good Job!

    Comment by Dark Eagle — December 11, 2011 @ 10:45 am

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