nwsource by Erik Lacitis - After nearly five decades, guys like James Noce finally get to tell their stories about Area 51.
Yes, that Area 51.
The one that gets brought up when people talk about secret Air Force projects, crashed UFOs, alien bodies and, of course, conspiracies.
The secrets, some of them, have been declassified.
Noce, 72, and his fellow Area 51 veterans around the country now are free to talk about doing contract work for the CIA in the 1960s and '70s at the
arid, isolated Southern Nevada government testing site.
Their stories shed some light on a site shrouded in mystery; classified projects still are going on there. It's not a big leap from warding off the
curious 40 or 50 years ago, to warding off the curious who now make the drive to Area 51.
The veterans' stories provide a glimpse of real-life government covert operations, with their everyday routines and moments of excitement.
Noce didn't seek out publicity. But when contacted, he was glad to tell what it was like.
"I was sworn to secrecy for 47 years. I couldn't talk about it," he says.
Stories about aliens
About the aliens.
Noce and Barnes say they never saw anything connected to UFOs.
Barnes believes the Air Force and the "Agency" didn't mind the stories about alien spacecraft. They helped cover up the secret planes that were
On one occasion, he remembers, when the first jets were being tested at what Muroc Army Air Field, later renamed Edwards Air Force Base, a test pilot
put on a gorilla mask and flew upside down beside a private pilot.
"Well, when this guy went back, telling reporters, 'I saw a plane that didn't have a propeller and being flown by a monkey,' well, they laughed at
this guy — and it got where the guys would see [test pilots] and they didn't dare report it because everybody'd laugh at them," says Barnes.
Noce says he quite liked working at Area 51.
He got paid $1,000 a month (about $7,200 in today's dollars). Weekdays he lived for free at the base in admittedly utilitarian housing — five men
assigned to a one-story house, sharing a kitchen and bathroom.
Something that all Area 51 vets remember about living at the base, he says, was the great food.
"They had these cooks come up from Vegas. They were like regular chefs," Noce remembers. "Day or night, you could get a steak, whatever you
Lobster was flown in regularly from Maine. A jet, sent across the country to test its engines, would bring back the succulent payload.
On weekends, Noce and other contracted CIA guys would drive to Las Vegas.
They rented a pad, and in the patio plumbed in a bar with storage for two kegs of beer. It was a great time, barbecuing steaks and having parties,
Noce has two pieces of proof from his Area 51 days: faded black-and-white snapshots taken surreptitiously.
One shows him in 1962 in front of his housing unit at Area 51. The other shows him in front of what he says is one of two F-105 Thunderchiefs whose
Air Force pilots overflew Area 51 out of curiosity. The pilots were forced to land and were told that a no-fly zone meant just that.
Noce worked at Area 51 from early 1962 to late 1965. He returned to Vancouver and spent most of his working life as a longshoreman.
Noce remembers once in recent years talking with fellow retired longshoreman pals and telling them stories about Area 51. When they didn't believe
him, he says, "Well, there was nothing I could do to prove anything."
Mary Pelevsky, a University of Nevada visiting scholar, headed the school's Nevada Test Site Oral History Project from 2003 to 2008. Some 150 people
were interviewed about their experiences during Cold War nuclear testing. Area 51 vets such as Barnes also were interviewed.
The historian says it was difficult to verify stories because of secrecy at the time, cover stories, memory lapses and — sometimes —
But, she says, "I've heard this cloak-and-dagger stuff, and you say, 'No way.' Then you hear enough and begin to realize some of these stories are
In October, Noce and his son, Chris, of Colorado, drove to Las Vegas for that first public reunion of the Area 51 vets. He and his old buddies
remembered the days.
"I was doing something for the country," Noce says about those three years in the 1960s. "They told me, 'If anything should ever come up, anyone
asks, 'Did you work for the CIA?' Say, 'Never heard of them.' But [my buddies] know."
Area 51 Veteran Talks: 'No Aliens'