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Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base Hardcover – May 17, 2011

3.6 out of 5 stars 484 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Cauldron-stirring. [AREA 51] is not science fiction. It is an assertive account, revelatory ... Ms. Jacobsen has put together a set of strong allegations about Area 51's covert history ... Her research into the world of 'overhead,' the aerial espionage that needed to be developed in extreme secrecy, is compellingly hard-hittting ... the book is noteworthy for its author's dogged devotion to her research."―The New York Times

"A compelling narrative of 50 years of covert operations by the CIA, the U.S. military, and the mysterious "Atomic Energy Commission".... Her meticulous research makes for a fascinating read, as it intersperses the accounts of secret government projects with anecdotes from the people who made those projects happen."―Rachel Larimore, Slate

"An informative history...about the creativity, political acumen and courage of the high-flying Cold Warriors who sought to protect the free world in the decades after World War II."―Andrew Dunn, Bloomberg

"Jacobsen's take veers from the standard conspiracy narrative in just about every imaginable respect."Earl Swift, Popular Mechanics

"What Jacobsen believes happened in the New Mexican desert is more frightening than UFO conspiracies..."―Elizabeth Bair, Dallas Observer

About the Author

Annie Jacobsen was a contributing editor at the Los Angeles Times Magazine and is the author of the New York Times bestseller Area 51. A graduate of Princeton University, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (May 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316132942
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316132947
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (484 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #556,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm through the first four chapters of the book and I can already see that the author got an "F" in science. She may be a good reporter and a skilled writer, but she should have the book reviewed by a knowledgeable science consultant before publishing. The mistakes are so obvious that they destroy all credibility.

Here are some examples. On page 21, the author refers to the panic caused by the radio broadcast of the "War of the Worlds". She mentions that the public was "sensitized" due to recent technological advances, and she cites the jet engine, the radar and the microwave oven. None of these devices were known to the general public in 1938. Experimental jet engines were being developed in the UK and Germany, but were virtually unheard of in the USA. Radar was also in an experimental phase, and shrouded by a great deal of secrecy because of its military potential. The secrecy was so great that even the German military was not aware about the progress made in the field in the USA and UK, lets alone general public. Finally, the heating effect of microwaves was not discovered until 1945.

Then on page 29 the author says that the nuclear blast travels at 100 mph. As with any explosion, the shockwave travels at the speed of sound (approx. 700 mph).

On page 33 she refers to Peenemunde as the fabrication site for German V2 rockets. V2 was produced at Mittelwerk in the Kohnstein. The initial production line built at Peenemunde was destroyed in a RAF bomd raid. Peenemunde was the test site for V2 rockets, not a production site.

On page 34, the author refers to V2 as a "winged missile". V1 was the winged missile (a precursor of today's cruise missiles), while the V2 was a ballistic missile without wings, only small control surfaces in the tail.
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Format: Hardcover
From: td-barnes.com/blog/?p=105 "Stolen Valor" By one of Jacobsen's sources:

Today is Memorial Day 2011, a day for remembering the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. For many of us who listened to Coast-to-Coast radio last night, it is a day that we Roadrunners of Groom Lake, a.k.a. Area 51 realize that our valor has been stolen by an author who refuses to repent her literary crimes and errors described herein.

Many members of our Roadrunner association fought in World War II, Korea, Viet Nam, and the Cold War. For years on end, we worked in secrecy, leaving our homes on Monday morning and returning on Friday night, unable for almost half a century to tell our families where wefd been or what we did. Over the past few years the Roadrunners nudged the edge of the security envelope as we sought to establish the legacy of our proud U-2 Aquatone and A-12 Oxcart sacrifices and contributions to our nations security and survival of the Cold War. In 2007, the CIA declassified our identities in the projects, which enabled us to publish our individual participation for the benefit of history, family, and friends. We circled the wagons and as a band of brothers told our stories and contributed to stories establishing the legacy of those already departed on their final flight. For this their families and friends were very grateful.

Approximately two years ago, Annie Jacobsen, an established author and contributing editor for the LA Times wrote an excellent article entitled The Road to Area 51, which described the beginning of our Project Oxcart. Because of the success of the article, Mrs. Jacobsen undertook to author a book about the projects and Roadrunner participants, which we embraced with open arms.
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15 Comments 325 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Finished the book, and I did not care for it for a few main reasons. I cannot believe how much attention this is getting. The parts about the U2 and A12/SR71 were for the most part pretty good, but much had been already written there.

For an article showing her previous embellishment see this. She has a history of misrepresenting things. They won't let me post a link but look on Snopes and search for Annie Jacobsen. You will see how she operates.

The first sign that there were issues was in her own article promoting the book. She wrote in an article shortly before the book came out this statement: "one of the NERVA tests, which allowed a Mars-bound nuclear rocket to overheat to 4,000+ degrees Celsius until it burst, sending radioactive chunks as large as 148 pounds into the atmosphere". Do a search for this phrase and you can find the article on the web. This statement is completely false. The really annoying thing is her book doesn't even say this. She is much closer to the truth in the book itself that a reactor (not a rocket) was detonated on the ground as part of a planned test. They never launched a mars-bound rocket from the NTS and she knew this but willingly exaggerated in her promotional article. I have a problem with an author who can't even reference HER OWN MATERIAL accurately. What does that say about the rest of the book?

Overall the three major flaws with this book are as follows:

1. She talked a lot about the Nevada Test Site and clearly had not done much research on it as many statements were factually wrong. She greatly exaggerates the nuclear rocket test stories and Project 57 and makes them sound far worse than they are.
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