Area 51 - A Personal Account
by V.L. Custer - Part 1
Transcript of V.L.'s Custer, South Dakota Meeting in August, 1995. This is a transcript from a tape of a talk that he gave regarding his 12 years at Area 51.
I spent from June of 1965 to August of 1977 directly on the Nevada Test Site, worked there full time. I was Radiation - Health and Safety. Most of the time I worked there, I either worked for Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, Lawrence Radiation Laboratory out of Livermore, Berkeley rather, California or Sandia Corporation out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. All those testing laboratories have since changed their names. Lawrence Radiation Laboratory is now the Lawrence National Laboratory, they don’t use the word radiation. In my job we had responsibility for and access to all of the areas of the Nevada Test Site which encompasses about 1800 square miles. It begins north of Las Vegas at Indian Springs where the bombing and gunnery range starts and goes all the way to Beatty, Nevada. It’s an area that has armed guards around it, surveillance devices, it’s a restricted air space, you can’t fly over it. If you’re caught on it, things happen to you. I had a top secret clearance and I think there probably wasn’t a square mile of that test site that I haven’t been on or seen, part of which is Area 51. One of the things I’d like to tell you folks right now is that there’s certain things that I cannot and will not talk about. When you quit out there, quitting what used to be the Atomic Energy Commission, it’s now the Department of Energy, it’s kind of like quitting the Central Intelligence Agency. You never quit. They never let loose of you.
There are certain things that I saw and was part of that I will take to the grave with me without talking about. However, there are a lot of things that I can talk about. And I think the news media has titillated public interest in a very dishonest way because 95% of what’s at Area 51 is totally uninteresting, it’s very mundane. The Federal Government tests aircraft at Area 51 that they want to keep secret. To give you an example, when I was out there, during the later years I was out there, they tested the stealth fighter and the stealth bomber, the Blackbird, SR-71 flew in and out of there on a weekly basis. The reason the government uses Area 51 is because it has a 10 mile long runway, absolute secrecy, you can’t see anything that’s worth seeing from the air or the ground. And that hill that sits away from Area 51 where everybody goes up and looks, all they can see... we used to sit there and look back at people and do this (wave) because all you can see is administration buildings. That’s all you can see. The government knows that people are out there looking into the area and because of that a deliberate effort has been made that there’s absolutely nothing to see right there. Now if you go a few miles north, there’s a lot of things that people might want to see but never will.
The Dept. of Energy now has yearly tours on the test sight, once a year the families of employees, that belong to certain classifications of workers, are allowed to take bus tours through part of the test site. It’s a very small area that they let people see, it’s Frenchman Flat, the flat where the old air bursts, where atmospheric tests were performed. But you can’t get within 40 miles of Area 51. As I told Paul Strassels on the radio the other day, there were things I saw and have seen in Area 51 that would make one wonder where they came from. I’ve also seen things out there that violate most of the laws of physics. My degree is in physics, and we , on a routine basis, used to observe... because we worked at night, it was a 24 hour a day, 365 days a year operation out there. And I worked all three shifts, graveyard, swing and days. I worked at night a lot out there. I’ve seen things that most aircraft or no aircraft that I know of could do, do. So the news reports that you hear are accurate to the extent that someone is testing either weapons or various vehicles that go through the atmosphere that use technology that we’re not really in possession of. Now, if that sounds a bit odd, I would say this. The Federal Government is afraid. . . . in fact we had a whole division of public relations people to feed the public information that was cleansed. The Federal Government is afraid that if the population of the United States knew some of the things that we have done and have seen and have found, people would panic. And that’s all I can say about that. The other thing is that while we were testing nuclear weapons out there, the last year I was out there, the last full year I was out there, in ‘76, we had 53 or 54 underground nuclear weapons tests. We announced 2 of them to the public. The reason for that was strictly political.
There was a ground swell movement to eliminate nuclear weapons testing, the government didn’t want people thinking they were hopelessly contaminating part of Nevada for all times, which they have, it’s too late now, it poses no real threat to us, anyway. So they didn’t announce those things. I use that as an example of part of which isn’t told to the public. There was nuclear weapons testing I was involved in, I should hasten to say that most of that was stockpile testing. We would take a nuclear device out of stock pile and test it, see if it worked. It’s as simple as that. Nuclear weapons tend to deteriorate when they sit around for periods of time. Degrade is the term. We haven’t tested at the test site now since 1992. Probably never will again. There’s a massive clean-up effort out there, that will take a long time.
As far as Area 51 goes, I have a lot of friends that work at the test site, still. Area 51 is the most secured area in the United States. Area 51 happens to sit in a place where, as I said, security has to be absolutely tight because it’s nothing but desert, government public lands, it’s secured public land. A lot of what goes on in Area 51 goes on at night so the Russian satellites can’t see what’s going on. That’s why people from time to time see things. It’s a fascinating place. If any of you have questions of me I’ll either answer them or I won’t but I’ll tell you up front whether I can tell you about it or not. I saw some things in Area 51 that, objects, that were strange, didn’t seem to be something that, at the time, we had the capability of manufacturing. I don’t know where they came from, I don’t know much about them. But I saw what I saw with my eyes. I did ask, on 2 separate occasions, one of caretakers, that’s what we called them, and I was told the first time - don’t ask. Now, remember, I had to have a Top Secret clearance, I had a "need to know". Our group, 80 of us, could go anywhere. We could ask any questions because of what we did. But that was one subject that I was told, don’t ask. The second time I asked, I was warned that if I asked again, some rather dire things might happen. So I never asked again. I’m familiar with the Roswell incident in 1947 in New Mexico. I have every reason to believe that the Federal Government found something there. I have every reason to believe the Federal Government will never tell what they found there. We have so much paranoia of humans, anyway, if there was any leak that some sort of life form had visited this planet, the Federal Government is convinced that people would panic and that anarchy might prevail for awhile. That’s about all I can say.
The government is telling people that they’re dismantling Area 51. I always found that curious because there’s actually nothing to dismantle out there. Everything that’s out there has been brought there from somewhere else. Right next to Area 51 is the Nellis/Indian Springs AFB bombing and gunnery range and that’s where all the armored experiments go on. So it’s all kind of part of the same area. There were no nuclear weapons tests that were performed in Area 51. That’s an area that has been kept pristine, for very good reasons, mostly the other different parts of the test site have starting with Area 1 and ending with Area 26. Every area out there is numbered. Area 51 somehow got a designation of 51. There is no 27 through 50. But somebody decided to do that, it’s just like all of our nuclear weapons, they all have names. Every one had a name. That name was a code as to what size it was. The largest, I can say this without fear, the largest underground weapon I ever participated in was a five and a half megaton device, buried 5500 hundred feet below the desert floor, that we set off. That’s equivalent of 5 and a half million tons of TNT. And that was the biggest device ever exploded in the United States. A larger device than that exploded underneath Amchitka Island in Alaska some years later. There was a nuclear device set off in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I don’t know how many of you people knew that, that was done in the 60’s. We’ve had a number of accidents out at the test site the public never knew about. I’m not really at liberty to talk about that except it may be interesting for you to know that I now live in South Dakota, I don’t live in Nevada anymore. And I will never live in Nevada. I personally have 2 body burdens of plutonium 39 in me and if I live long enough and become old enough, I will die of bone cancer. But I’m not worried about that because I knew what the risk was when I got into the business.
A lot of the friends and people I worked with are dead now. It’s a very risky, it’s a very high hazardous job. Nuclear weapons are something that are, well, there are so many of them that... the hazard that a nuclear weaponry poses isn’t blasting people off the face of the earth. We could have a war with Russia and they could have one with us and China and everybody could get involved in it, it still wouldn’t wipe out the human race. The problem comes after the bomb goes off because of what’s called fission products. And that’s the contamination that ensues. It’s getting to be a real big problem because of the reactors. The fire reactors create fission products and debris that we’re having a hard time figuring out what to do with. Probably most of that debris and waste will end up at the Nevada test site and that will be an area that for thousands and hundreds of thousands of years, no one will never be able to live there or, it will be a closed area. We’re developing the technology now, and I don’t mind talking about it because Popular Science came awfully close to the truth here a few months ago in one of their issues and I don’t think they even knew it. The Air Force in cooperation with the Department of Defense is developing an aircraft now that will go in speeds in excess of speeds of 10,000 mph which is almost fast enough to achieve orbit without boosters. And that is a nuclear powered thrust system. Whether or not that will ever become public or not, it’s hard to tell, because nuclear engines are very dirty - very dirty.
The only other things I can tell you about Area 51 is that there will never, in our life times, be any information let out about some of the things that are out there. I will say that it has become a storage area for oddities. That’s where, other than Kirkland Air Force Base, the Roswell debris was supposedly taken. All I can say is sometime, during my tenure at the Nevada Test Site, there was debris from Roswell, New Mexico stored away at Area 51. I was lucky enough or unlucky enough to see some of it. I don’t take any pleasure in that knowledge because it puts a constrain on me I don’t like to have.
Question: Could you describe what you saw concerning the Roswell debris?
Answer: No. I’ll tell you why, folks. I don’t know if any of you have been to Leavenworth, Kansas or not but that’s where the federal prison is. It’s hot, it’s humid and I have no desire whatsoever to go. I still have a real, legitimate respect for the Department of Defense security. When you leave out there they debrief you. And the debriefing lasted quite a few hours, the better part of a day and the bottom line was - don’t talk or else. That was the bottom line. And they gave you a list of things not to talk about. I have not violated any of those this afternoon. Since I left out there, I don’t believe I ever have. I’m very careful about it.
Question: I lived near an Air Force base and I used to see unusual things flying about. Are these things terrestrial or extraterrestrial?
Answer: Well, a group of fellows and I were on our way to work one night to the test site. We saw something that to this day.....this was an aircraft of some sort, aircraft being defined as an object in the atmosphere that is moving around. There were 6 of us, we were all trained observers, we were not the type of people who see things go bump in the night, I’m pretty skeptical about things, generally. That aircraft that we saw land, which was next to the test site, did some things that with the technology we had then and probably with the technology we have now, were impossible to do. We saw it, I saw it, the 5 other fellows with me, we stopped the car and got out and watched it for 15-20 minutes. I have no idea what it was. I had access to and was privy to a lot of classified information, for instance, the SR-71 was a common place aircraft to us and yet the general public knew nothing about it. But it came in and went and it made a lot of noise, that’s the only thing I didn’t like about it. It came in hot and it left hot. It came in over the speed of sound and it left at the speed of sound. So it was always making this horrible noise. That was a very common thing to see. Some of the other things I saw were uncommon.
Question: Who’s the boss, how did you get hired?
Answer: That was a mundane process. I went out there....
Question: Was it the Department of Defense?
Answer: At the time it was the Atomic Energy Commission when I was hired. And then it became the Energy Research and Development Administration and then it became Department of Energy, the government keeps changing the name. I was there during the visit of two presidents of the United States, Lyndon Johnson was one of them, Gerald Ford was the other one. Neither one of them were shown certain things. The President does not have Top Secret Clearance.
Question: Do you agree or disagree with that?
Answer: That’s a tough one. We live in a republic, a democratic republic, supposedly. I don’t trust most politicians, however, not because they’re dishonest, necessarily. Nuclear weapons are a very terrible thing. I’m ambivalent about it. I don’t know. The time when Lyndon Johnson came out there we tracked him through an area that was hot, none of us had anti-contamination clothing on, we had no instruments, we were dressed just like this, we let him walk through a contaminated area because it wasn’t supposed to be contaminated. That’s all I can say about that.
Question: These things you can’t talk about, in your opinion, do you feel it would cause mass hysteria? You seem calm.
Answer: No, it doesn’t bother me, I have this belief. We have already been to the moon, okay? Big deal. It’s not going to be too many more years until humans will be to Mars and beyond. It’s a matter of propulsion systems, it’s a matter of getting people to the point where they can live in space for long periods of time, either suspended animation or whatever, so they don’t come apart, mentally or physically. We have the technology to literally explore the solar system right now, the planets that are in the vicinity of us. And so it’s not a big thing. It doesn’t take much of a leap, quantum physics tells you accurately that the speed of light is not a speed which beyond it you cannot go. That old theory is gone. Quantum physics says that you may go faster than the speed of light. If that’s true, which it is, then travel to the nearest stars is possible. If we, who are barely out of the primeval mud as beings can do this, it doesn’t take much, it’s very logical to assume that there are other life forms out there somewhere. We’re not unique. Good Lord, if we are, it’s not much of a testimony is it? There are other life forms, certainly....nothing that I saw surprised me. What surprises me is the government’s paranoia about what the government knows. Consider the fact that the Federal Government won’t even tell you the truth about the budget process let alone anything else.
Question: There are some who believe we are already on Mars.
Answer: Well, I don’t think so.
Question: Go back to the question who’s the boss.
Answer: Well, during the time I was out there, one of the bosses was Edward Teller. Edward Teller is the father of the hydrogen bomb. He worked for Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, he’s still alive and he’s as close to being a "god" in the scientific community and the nuclear weapons community as anybody on this earth. Edward Teller was held in far higher esteem than the President or anybody else. Might be interesting to note and this is not classified, during the time I was out there, the Soviet Union had an exchange program with us. It was not unusual to see Soviet scientists out at the test site on a regular basis. We shared a lot of information with them. I came to the conclusion, having talked to a lot of them over the years, that they were really not our enemies anywhere near to what the politicians wanted you to believe they were. We showed them... I showed them things that I couldn’t believe we were showing people from the Soviet Union. And I asked about that and was told that we had an exchange program and they were able to see things and become aware of things that I certainly wouldn’t have shown them.
Question: Did they see certain things that you couldn’t see?
Answer: No, they couldn’t go to Area 51.
Question: Why were we told they were so bad?
Answer: It’s always helpful to a nation to have an enemy.
Part 2 -->