Area 51 Black History Month

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Message posted by Peter Merlin (Member since 11/13/2003) on February 16, 2023 at 16:26:26 PST:

Yes, I know, every month is "black" history month at Area 51. Black planes matter!

Seriously though (at the risk of being accused of brining "wokeness" to this forum) it might be good to address something that gets very little attention, the contributions of African Americans to the history of Groom Lake.

Watertown Airstrip was established in 1955. In the early days most black workers at the secret facility were relegated to the culinary and custodial services. Photos from this period show them working in the kitchen or collecting bedding and waste baskets from the housing trailers. There were also a handful of black servicemen in the Air Force contingent supporting the U-2 test and training operations.

In 1959, when Watertown Airstrip was expanded to support Project OXCART, a largely African American workforce built the new runway.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, black workers remained largely behind the scenes at Area 51. The only individual whose name is widely known is Murphy Greene of the REECo culinary services staff. He was fondly remembered by the Roadrunners and was immortalized in a gag photo that shows Murphy standing on the flooded surface of Groom Lake holding a fishing rod.

Before writing this post, I looked at a lot of photos. There is one of the SENIOR TREND Combined Test Force ("Baja Scorpions") taken in September 1985. Out of more than 180 people, only a handful have dark skin. A 1996 image of 35 members of the Bird of Prey test team had no black faces.

I'm not making any judgments here, merely an observation. Mostly, I just wanted to bring attention to a minority that has not yet had a moment in the spotlight with regard to their contribution to the history of Area 51.


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