Area 51: The Graphic History of America's Most Secret Military Installation. By Dwight Jon Zimmerman. Minneapolis Minn.: Zenith Press, 2014. Maps. Illustrations. Pp. 91. $19.99 paperback ISBN: 987-0-7603-4664-8
Dwight Zimmerman does an excellent job of capturing the unique history of Area 51. He covers its beginning as part of the Nevada Test and Training Range in 1951, through the development and fielding of multiple weapon systems, and finishes by delving into the mysteries of what might be under test today. Greg Scott's dramatic illustrations accompany the writing and give the overall story a wonderful visual connection and often capture an interesting emotional side to these secret operations. It is mostly factually correct.
The book starts with the alien controversy of Roswell and the UFO craze of the 1950s and 1960s. The focus then shifts to President Eisenhower's requirement to gather critical national information after the Soviets detonated nuclear devices. The U.S. had to know what the Soviets were doing in nuclear development, bomber and missile fielding, and overall national defense in light of the ongoing Cold War. As the Soviet Union was a closed country, little actionable information came out through normal means. The President approved the building of the U-2, an aircraft designed to overfly the Soviet Union to collect--hopefully covertly--this critical information. A secret test location was needed that would be away from public scrutiny, secure, remote, and centered in the west where most of the advanced U.S. aviation industry was located. Lockheed had the contract. The company's chief test pilot, Tony Levier, flew over the Nevada and California desert areas in 1954, and identified Groom Lake as a superb location. Kelly Johnson concurred, and the CIA set up Area 51 inside the nuclear test area for additional intrusion protection.
The U-2, A-12, SR-71, F-117, and a whole variety of drones were...