Monday, April 2, 2012


      So maybe it just takes the curiosity and questioning nature of an old journalist, but I've got to wonder what the federal government, or at least a sliver of it, is up to with the legendary and notorious Area 51.
      BACKGROUND: The National Atomic Testing Museum,an
affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is a first class and 
highly informative museum. (Link to it above to see that is so.)  
      It deals, in detail, with the history of American nuclear development and testing.  It is a credible, balanced and historic record, done in an accessible and even entertaining way. I've been there before and urge all visitors to Las Vegas to leave the strip and the usual Vegas past times for something very special. Yes I know telling Vegas visitors and habitue's to visit a science museum is a kind of odd duck drill, but I persist none the less. It is of course next door to where the testing was done, so despite the Vegas address, it is a serious place and good for the public record.
     NOW THE CURIOSITY: As you see above Aliens are hanging around the somewhat staid and straightforward museum. It is part of a brand new AREA 51 MYTH OR REALITY exhibition.  
     Here's the teaser video.

If you'd like to read more, here are a couple of links.
Huffington Post piece by Lee Spiegel
A Dateline Zero post by D.E. Paine
     I think the exhibit is a bit on the hokey side, but it also
contains some surprising documentation and data about 
the air base, facilities, history and air craft of Area 51, Groom Lake Airbase. 
     The exhibit is a blend of serious and silly.  The tone of the display is Men in Black, but inside are documents, records, displays and video pieces that weave an intricate fabric of
flight research, reverse engineering, investigative journalism, testing programs, schematics of the compound, 
maps of the runway, including what is perhaps one of the world's longest, the government's flip flop on the infamous Roswell incident and campy culture, plus more.  
      It is this curious mixture of pop culture, UFO conspiracy ideas, military flight experimentation and serious science that has raised my curiosity.  There is a more open acknowledgment of Area 51 history, fact and achievement than I have seen in decades. And that the museum and the cooperating government agencies mix it with the popular lore of the Area 51 myth is even more curious.
      A couple of the stronger video elements include an 
interview with the director of the SETI-Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, program and an appeal by a former Air Force General and scientist saying it is time to allow the military and science to consider UFO's and aliens in a serious way that does not damage reputation or credibility.
       So I ponder, what is the real message here?
       But then again, it is Las Vegas, and maybe this all should stay there.  What do you think?

   My buddy Jim is standing next to the cut out of the actual
Miss Atomic Bomb of 1957.  And for those of you with visual problems, her cover up is indeed the mushroom cloud.  
   As a kid, I had nightmares about the mushroom cloud, especially on those days we'd see a film strip of nuclear blasts and then do a "duck and cover" drill beneath our desks.  
   I remember Mrs. Rogers threatening to give me a "paddling if I didn't get under my desk like all of my class mates."  I protested that if a nuclear bomb was to hit anywhere near Muncie Indiana, the desk would be scant protection, so what was the point?  I'd rather watch the windows blow in than get under the desk. 
     However, I might have been less anxious if I had seen a film strip of Miss Atomic Bomb. It's all in the spin isn't it?
     See you down the trail.


  1. I remember walking home from Lincoln School with my pal Dick Johnson after spending last period in the AV room watching a film on atomic bomb testing. They used to build all kinds of buildings at various distances from ground zero to see how the blast would effect them. The film that day showed a "typical" school. It looked just like Lincoln and it was wiped out. As we walked home, I turned to Dick and said, "Wouldn't have done much good to get under the desks would it?" Dick agreed. Mr. Labelle our principal got pissed when I brought it up the next day.

  2. And later we both probably helped broadcast, Emergency Warning alerts on radio, which I also used to question the value of. Guess were early to being realists.

  3. Yes, Remember the sets of warning cartridges sealed in the packets, the ultimate recording was "Attack Emminent". A newsman I worked with early in my career did the recording of the carts for KNOX. On the 'Attack Emminent" cart he signed it off with "this is Chuck Bundley, Thanks for listening."

  4. I miss all of the wonderfully awful Sci-Fi movies inspired by atomic blasts: Them, Tarantula, the giant octopus that attacked San Francisco.

    1. The pop culture elements of the Atomic Museum would be of interest to you. It is well curated.

  5. Back in the early days of the Cold War, I think only the physicists, scientists and engineers involved with the Manhattan Project understood the terrible power unleashed with the production and development of nuclear weapons. I do believe that Harry Truman and Ike fully understood the awful responsibility that came with the power to obliterate a target off the face of the earth and most life under it. The Cuban Missle Crisis was the closest we came to assured mutual destruction, specifically October 27th, 1962. Apparently even the Kennedy brothers and Jackie and Ethel knew how close things were to nuclear war, declining to leave Washington, D.C. I remember in the few days leading up to that week sitting in my sixth grade classroom at Whiteland, Indiana elementary practicing "duck and cover". I remember reading the front page of "The Indianapolis Times" featuring a front page showing the rings and timeline of destruction if a nuclear bomb was detonated over the Circle. My home and school were 18-miles of the simulated "ground zero". It was the first time I really felt that I was going to die, that it was out of my hands and so forth. The conventional wisdom was that because of the strategic value of Fort Benjamin Harrison as the Army Finance Center, any first wave attack would be on Indianapolis with at least 100-megatons of hydrogen bomb power. We practiced fire drills and other type of "Civil Defense" procedures, but the teachers, the principal (David Dinn), and every adult I encountered in those days were grim, closed-mouthed and monitoring the TV (C.B.S. and N.B.C.) for updates while we were in the big group classroom watching the Indiana classroom instructions programs broadcast by the Purdue flying transmitter classroom circling over Montpeilier, Indiana on Channel 3. Last year, I finally watched the movie "Failsafe" on Turner Classic Movies. The emotion captured by the P.O.T.U.S., played by Henry Fonda, in a room with a telephone with an Air Force officer played by a very young Larry Hagman, shows the strain of the era. Unfortunately, too many people do not realize the danger of the proliferation of these weapons. I fear that someday, perhaps sooner rather than later, someone will over-react and unleash the horror on the planet. I hope I am absolutely wrong.

    1. Jed,
      Thanks for the gripping telling of those memories. Indeed we were so much closer to the brink than many today can begin to imagine. I remember my father telling us if something were to happen that my brother and I should attempt to run home as quickly as we could, so the family could at least be together. Frightful memories indeed.

  6. Having been a SAC missileer I have an interesting perspective on the process . . .

  7. I remember when I worked for NACA at Edwards AFB in the earley 1950's, when there was above ground atomic bomb tests. we coule faintly see the cloud on the horizon and after an elasped time hear the presure wave as it arrived at Edwards.

    1. Sorry I could not get the dam thing to add my name so I published a Anonymous.
      James Battles

  8. I suppose that the "duck and cover" drills that we remember now were serious back then although I guess I didn't think so back in Bedford, In. However, If Jim gets any closer to Miss A Bomb he might not be able to remember why.

  9. Yes, the situation could get explosive!