Re: Skunk Works

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Message posted by Peter Merlin on June 13, 2019 at 6:07:14 PST:

Jacobsen's book was supposed to be a history of Area 51 as seen through the Roadrunners' stories. It didn't work out that way.

For a book that is supposedly about Area 51, it is surprising how many pages are devoted to unrelated subjects. Much of this material is, however, used to set up the climactic Roswell finale. The first chapter is devoted to giving credence to the claims of Bob Lazar, and includes Stanton Friedman's take on Roswell. Although the author allows Friedman to disparage Lazar’s claims, Jacobsen seems to imply that she believes that Lazar worked at or near Area 51. Frankly, all the UFO lore is so peripheral to Groom Lake history that it could have been left out entirely without detracting from the narrative.

Without even mentioning Area 51, Chapter Two sets the stage for the ludicrous Roswell tale that is fleshed out later in the book. This section also suggests that, "the crash remains from Roswell quickly fell into the blackest regions of government."

Chapter Three is straightforward history, making it one of the stronger sections of the book. Unfortunately it also contains factual errors that could have been easily checked and corrected prior to publication.

The fourth chapter again drags the reader into UFO territory not relevant to Area 51 other than to suggest that high-altitude aircraft from Nevada were responsible for many UFO sightings. This chapter again raises the specter of Nazis, Soviets, and the Horten brothers who designed advanced aircraft for Hitler during World War Two, along with the specious premise that the Roswell debris was shipped to a secret base in Nevada in 1951. Jacobsen also builds up the forthcoming Stalin UFO hoax nonsense and drags the reader through a primer on Project Bluebook/Sign/Grudge, etc., that would be better suited to a different book altogether.

The fifth and sixth chapters are on firmer ground with a historical narrative but are, yet again, rife with factual errors.

Chapters Seven and Eight are mostly pretty solid, factually, but anyone with knowledge of the subject matter will regret the author’s lost opportunities. There are a few glaring errors, such as saying that Area 51’s runway is "believed to be the longest in the world." Reference material for some information presented in this chapter appears to include articles posted on the Dreamland Resort web site, but there are no footnotes citing sources.

Chapter Nine is satisfactory except for drifting away from Area 51 toward the end and into some nuclear testing history outside of Nevada. This digression seems mostly to be an excuse to dredge up Nazis again through a Wernher von Braun connection.

The next two chapters are mostly pretty good but still plagued with factual errors that appear to be the result of relying on single sources without any effort to double-check or corroborate details. Several myths, now disproven, are repeated for another generation of readers (President Lyndon Johnson supposedly reversing the letters of RS-71 to SR-71 in a speech, for example).

Toward the end of Chapter Twelve, Jacobsen drags up the mythical Horten/Roswell connection again to bolster her source’s claim that the brothers designed an advanced aircraft to simulate an extraterrestrial craft for Stalin’s minions to crash under remote control on U.S. soil.

Chapters Thirteen through Seventeen are everything this book should have been. There are a few minor glitches but no “show stoppers.” The reader is again subjected to factual errors, and Chapter Thirteen contains another lengthy aside on nuclear testing in the Pacific that seems largely unnecessary.

The book goes off the rails in Chapter Eighteen with more misleading statements, factual errors, and a general lack of knowledge on the part of the author regarding the subject matter. This chapter includes some great stories but they have nothing to do with Area 51.

In Chapter Nineteen the reader is introduced to some of the wilder allegations about Area 51. Perhaps this chapter would have been a good place to summarize and debunk all of the conspiracy theories surrounding the secret base and leave it at that. Unfortunately this is the chapter where Jacobsen casts the Atomic Energy Commission/Department of Energy as the villain in a diabolical web of deception and human experimentation, and sets the stage for the most controversial elements of the book.

But first, the author opens Chapter Twenty with, "What happened at Area 51 during the 1980s? Most of the work remains classified and very little else is known." She immediately gives lie to this statement by going on to describe testing of stealth prototypes, foreign aircraft, and unmanned vehicles that took place during the time in question. There are, as usual, factual errors both minor and egregious.

The author’s conspiracy tree finally bears fruit in Chapter Twenty-One. After a lengthy discussion of drones, satellites, and secrecy, Jacobsen hangs her reputation on the most outlandish Area 51 story ever foisted upon the unsuspecting public. Worse yet, it is based on the testimony of a single person whose identity is concealed from the reader. This ludicrous tale, presented as fact despite a paucity of evidence and total lack of corroboration, is a twisted conflation of Cold War paranoia, Communist/Nazi conspiracies, human experimentation, and U.S. government cover-up. It posits an improbable plot to try to cause a panic in America by crashing a fake flying saucer (with fake alien crew of genetically engineered deformed human children) in the most remote part of the southwestern U.S. where the wreckage wasn't found or reported for days. Wouldn't New York or Washington, D.C., have been more logical targets?

Joerg is right. There are many better sources of information if you want to learn about Area 51.

In Reply to: Re: Skunk Works posted by Joseph Buchman on June 11, 2019 at 11:25:19 PST:


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