Annie Jacobsen's recent book Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base would not have gotten the publicity that it did if it hadn't included the alleged secret of the Roswell crash, the nearly legendary occurrence in which an object found in June or July of 1947 near Roswell, New Mexico, was said by some to have contained possibly extraterrestrial occupants. Jacobsen's version is no less unusual.
According to some critics and readers, the book remains fairly credible until Jacobsen reveals what she was told by an anonymous source (then employed by the engineering company EG&G at the time of the reported crash). But that revelation is the sticking point, where those who admire the book and those who dismiss it vary in their opinions most widely. Regarding everything else, the reviews of the book featured on Amazon.com show a lively debate about how well the book's other details are handled.
Jacobsen, among other things a writer for WomensWallSteet.com, had previously made controversy when she wrote a 2004 online piece entitled "Terror in the Skies, Again?", in which she suspected 14 Syrian musicians on a Northwest Airlines flight traveling from Detroit to L.A. on June 29, 2004 of having terrorist plans.
Patrick Smith, a pilot writing on Salon.com that same year, called the article "a story about nothing." Snopes.com evaluated the situation as well, finding Jacobsen's worries dubious and her actions on the plane to be an overreaction (according to federal air marshals).
Her Area 51 book was a challenging endeavor, and it examines an equally unnerving subject. In tracking the necessary details down, there were others Jacobsen got in touch with before she contacted the anonymous source for the claimed Roswell secret. She thanks many in the acknowledgments section of Area 51.... One of them, Edward Lovick, had been important in A-12 aircraft research. This stealth aircraft for the CIA had been code-named Oxcart, and it had been declassified about fifty years after its design. Lovick, a physicist, introduced Ms. Jacobsen to surviving pilots, engineers, scientists and others who had worked at Area 51 — including the unnamed source. So with what she found out from some 74 sources and from documentation she obtained, she reveals in her book some heretofore secret surveillance technologies at which Area 51's staff excelled — as well as the better-known achievements. Famous Cold War spy planes, such as the U-2, were created at Area 51, the Nevada base which does not "exist" even now.
But the apparent flying saucer crash of 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico, stands out in the telling. The proffered explanation for the now-legendary story is that what people have imagined to have been creatures from outer space were actually hideously modified adolescents, short-statured and big-headed with odd large eyes. And the secret craft within which the malformed teenagers were found was — according to the book — actually a plane based upon the blueprints for a radar-resistant Horten Ho 229 bomber (the details of this Horten flying wing having been captured from Germany).
Thus, in this version of the Roswell crash story, Stalin had arranged for the infamous Joseph Mengele to surgically mutilate some children so that they looked like aliens from space. They were then supposedly placed into the remote-controlled craft. But the contraption crashed, and the Roswell legend found its beginnings from this Soviet attempt to fake an alien invasion after the example of War of the Worlds.
(Orson Welles' famed 1938 radio broadcast, adapted from the H.G. Wells novel, figures in as inspiration.)
Because the hypothesis of the fakery is minimally sourced, its presence in the book could be termed problematical.
The anonymous source cited by Jacobsen said that Area 51 got its name because it began its work in 1951 to deal with the Roswell finds.
Jacobsen's is not the only recent media examination of Area 51. The National Geographic Channel broadcast a program entitled Area 51 Declassified on May 28, 2011. It showed photographs from the testing of the A-12 spy-plane's prototype during the late 1950s at Area 51. A known cover-up, of a 1963 A-12 crash, is covered by the program.
Area 51 is a place of fascination, whether the many stories connected to it are true or not.
Janet Maslin, "A Military Post's Secrets: Espionage, Not Aliens," New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/16/books/area-51-by-annie-jacobsen-review.html?_r=1, 5/15/11
"Annie Jacobsen's 'Area 51' Digs Into A Cold War Plan To Fake What May Have Been The Roswell UFO Scare," AOL Weird News, http://www.weirdnews.aol.com/, 5/23/11
"Exclusive Area 51 Pictures: Secret Plane Crash Revealed," National Geographic Daily News, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/05/pictures/110520-spy-plane-area-51-cover-up-crash-cia-conspiracy/, 5/28/11
"Roswell 'was Soviet plot to create US panic'," The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/ufo/8512408/Roswell-was-Soviet-plot-to-create-US-panic.html, 5/13/11
Annie Jacobsen — Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Jacobsen
"The hysterical skies," Ask the Pilot — Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/technology/ask_the_pilot/2004/07/21/askthepilot95, 7/21/04
Terror in the Skies — Snopes.com, http://www.snopes.com/politics/crime/skyterror.asp