How did Area 51 become associated with aliens?
Where is Area 51 and why is the site associated with aliens? In this Q&A, BBC History Revealed explains more…
How do you explain the numerous mysterious craft spotted near the US Air Force installation in the Nevada desert? Aliens, obviously. But the truth isn’t necessarily 'out there'.
Area 51 refers to a map location. In 1955, during the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, the remote site designated as Area 51 was ideal for test flights of the Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. Whereas other aircraft flew at 10,000-20,000ft, the U-2 maxed out at 70,000ft. If and when people managed to spot the spy plane, they had no earthbound explanation – but the US Government wasn’t exactly going to soil its secrets.
It was this secrecy that fuelled many conspiracy theories about what goes on in the base. One of the most famous claims about the site is that it hosts an alien spacecraft and the bodies of its pilots, after they crashed at Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. Others suspect that the facility harbours extraterrestrial technology.
The government only officially confirmed Area 51’s existence in 2013. What goes on inside the base remains extremely secret, and President Barack Obama was the first US president to mention Area 51 publicly, following the CIA's acknowledgment of the base.