“A few years back, we couldn’t say anything about this at all,” said Roger Anderson, an operations officer & support pilot for the CIA and U.S. Air Force. “It was kinda’ difficult, because we had families that lived here in Las Vegas.”
The men speaking at UNLV are veterans of the A-12 program in the 1960s, which developed the CIA’s supersonic spy plane.
“The A-12 airplane was – at the time it was built and flying – the fastest thing around,” said CIA pilot Frank Murray. “There’s still nothing as fast as that airplane that breathes air in its engines.”
Former Special Projects engineer T.D. Barnes referenced the UFO phenomenon at Area 51, which is located at Groom Lake.
“We flew 2,850 missions out of Groom Lake with the A-12,” he said. “Of course, it didn’t officially exist, and this accounted for a lot of UFO sightings at the time. We would leave a very heavy sonic boom, and thank goodness for the Navy at Fallon. They took the blame.”
The brilliant minds at Area 51 also had some laughs at the spying Russians’ expense.
“We would draw a shape of some kind of exotic plane out on the tarmac,” Barnes said. “Just as satellites were coming over, we’d put a couple shop heaters in the rear of it – like the engine – give it a heat signature to make them think we had something crazy out there.”
CIA chief historian Dr. David Robarge also joined the panel.
“We weren’t allowed to talk about it for many, many years, and that tends to breed conspiracy theories and a lot of fantastical stories,” he said. “In many ways, the truth is both more interesting and less interesting than the fiction that developed around it.”
The government went to great lengths to inform its Area 51 personnel of their top secret assignment. Anderson says he waited months for his orders. He finally received them in 1965, when he was told to report to a trailer park off Boulder Highway.
While these veterans opened up about their experiences at Area 51, the tales of flying saucers and impossible events are likely to live on.