Newly declassified documents, obtained by George Washington University’s National Security Archive, appear to for the first time acknowledge the existence of Area 51. Hundreds of pages describe the genesis of the Nevada site that was home to the government’s spy plane program for decades. The documents do not, however, mention aliens.
The project started humbly. In the pre-drone era about a decade after the end of World War II, President Eisenhower signed off on a project aimed at building a high-altitude, long-range, manned aircraft that could photograph remote targets. Working together, the Air Force and Lockheed developed a craft that could hold the high-resolution cameras required for the images, a craft that became the U-2. Why “U-2”?
They decided that they could not call the project aircraft a bomber, fighter, or transport plane, and they did not want anyone to know that the new plane was for reconnaissance, so [Air Force officers] Geary and Culbertson decided that it should come under the utility aircraft category. At the time, there were only two utility aircraft on the books, a U-1 and a U-3. told Culbertson that the Lockheed CL-282 was going to be known officially as the U-2.
The next step was to find a place from which the top-secret aircraft could be flown.
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