Walter and Reimar Horten when they were Luftwaffe designers for Hitler. After the war, the Hortens were snubbed for Project Paperclip. In 1947, seeking information about a "Flying-saucer Type Aircraft," U.S. Army G-2 Intelligence launched a European manhunt for the brothers. Once captured, they admitted "contacts with the Russians." (Collection of David Myhra)

Groom Lake, circa 1917. Once little more than a dry lake bed in the southern Nevada desert, what is now known as Area 51 has become one of the most secret facilities in the world. (Special Collections, University of Nevada-Reno)

This atomic explosion during Operation Crossroads was the opening shot of the Cold War. Stalin watched, and plotted. Colonel Leghorn piloted the aircraft that took this photo, note aircraft's wing. (Collection of Col. Richard Leghorn)

Alfred O'Donnell became a member of the Manhattan Project after the war. He wired the two atomic bombs exploded during Crossroads, and nearly 200 others at the Nevada Test Site and the Pacific Proving Grounds. (Collection of Alfred O'Donnell)

Inside a fabled hangar at Area 51, sits the U-2 in pieces. (CIA/Laughlin Heritage Foundation)

 

The Nevada Test and Training Range, a federally restricted land parcel slightly smaller that the state of Connecticut. Area 51 and the Nevada Test Site are located inside. (Copyright Annie Jacobsen)

The original U-2 hangars at Area 51 in 1955. (Collection of Bob Murphy)

The U.S. Air Force had the first contract to fly Area 51 workers in and out of the secret base. A deadly crash in November of 1955 changed that arrangement; everyone on board the C-54 transport was killed. (CIA/Laughlin Heritage Foundation)

CIA Director Allen Dulles gave Area 51 the code name "Watertown." (CIA/Laughlin Heritage Foundation)

A U-2 pilot undressing after a test flight at Area 51 (CIA/Roadrunners Internationale)

Richard Mingus keeping guard at Area 51. (CIA/Laughlin Heritage Museum)

Richard Mingus (far right) guarding President John F. Kennedy at the Nevada Test Site in December of 1962. (Department of Energy)

Even before Gary Powers was shot down over Russia in a U-2, the CIA had begun designing its billion dollar, Mach 3 airplane code named the A-12 Oxcart. An early model flies over Area 51 in 1962.(CIA/Roadrunners Internationale)

The NERVA facility next door to Area 51, at Area 25. This is where TD Barnes worked on the nuclear-powered rocket ship, designed to take man to Mars in the astonishingly short time frame of 124 days. His office was underground. (Department of Energy)

Charlie Trapp was chief of Rescue and Survival at Area 51 from 1962 to 1967. Trapp located the body of Oxcart pilot Walt Ray and his top secret airplane after a fatal crash. (Collection of Col. Charles E. Trapp)

The CIA closed off a section of Lake Mead, in Nevada, so that A-12 Oxcart pilots could practice water landings and rescue protocols. (Collection of Charles E. Trapp)

A Russian MiG 21 sits inside a hangar at Area 51. The CIA borrowed one from Mossad so EG&G Special Projects could reverse engineer it. (Collection of Roadrunners Internationale/U.S. Air Force)

 

Area 51 from overhead in 1968. (U.S. Geological Survey/FAS)

Richard Mingus in weapons training at the Test Site. (National Nuclear Security Administration)

The Air Force flight tested the F-117 stealth bomber at Area 51 and Area 52. (U.S. Air Force)

America's first stealth surveillance drones were flight tested at Area 51. Now they carry missiles. Here, the Predator sits on the tarmac at Creech Air Force Base, thirty miles south of Area 51. (U.S. Air Force/Steve Huckvale)

Known as "The Beast of Kandahar," Lockheed Martin's RQ-170 Sentinel is the newest, 21st Century stealth drone to be tested at Area 51. It looks like a Horten Brothers' flying wing. (artist's rendering/public domain)

Walter Horten holding a scale model of the Horten 10B in Baden-Baden, Germany in 1987. (Collection of David Myhra)

Yucca Flat, above Area 10, is the most atomic-bombed-out place on earth. The largest crater, called Sedan Crater, is 1,280 feet wide and can be seen from outer space. (National Nuclear Security Administration)