Area 51 is a secret military installation in the Nevada desert. It started as an atomic test site. Some of the most ill-advised and horrific nuclear tests occurred in Area 51. Then Area 51 came to involve secret testing of projects including the U-2 spy plane and the much later moon landing.
Along the way, Jacobsen describes the people involved. She delineates the egos, the fights for power among people like air force General Curtis LeMay and the CIA's Richard Bissell. Their conflicts might have affected the outcome of military actions like the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Area 51 begins and ends with conspiracy theories. Many of the UFO rumors involve Area 51. Jacobsen says the covert projects gave ample opportunity for there to be UFO sightings. She cites claims that Russia launched an actual UFO-like object with mangled alien-looking children onboard.
At one point she writes: "As creative as conspiracy theorists can be when it comes to Area 51, it is surprising how they have missed the one underlying element that connects the three primary conspiracy theories about the secret facility to the truth. For conspiracy theorists, in the captured-aliens-and-UFOs narrative, the federal agency orchestrating the plot is the CIA. In the lunar-landing conspiracy the agency committing the fraud is NASA. In the underground tunnels and bunker plot, the evil operating force is the Department of Defense. And yet the one agency that plays an actual role in the underlying facts regarding all three of these conspiracy theories is the Atomic Energy Commission."
In other words, the AEC encouraged the rumors to cover up its own complicity in what was happening at Area 51.
So what did I think of this book? Is the book accurate? I doubt it is in every detail. Much of what Jacobsen writes about is still hidden in classified documents.
My monthly book group chose to read Area 51 this month.