What Does The “51” In The Secret Military Base Area 51 Mean? Published June 10, 2011 What is Area 51? On a remote portion of land along Groom Lake in southern Nevada, about 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada, is a top-secret US military installation popularly known as Area 51. Since the military started using the area in 1955, many a conspiracy theorist has scratched their head wondering: What exactly does the “51” in Area 51 refer to?The answer, apparently, has less to do with alien autopsies than with mundane naming conventions . Is Area 51 a secret code name? Since it was established in 1947, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has used code names (sometimes called cryptonyms) to refer agents or highly classified operations they want or need to keep secret. In 1955, the CIA chose the location, now run by Edwards Air Force Base in California, to test the Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance plane—a history that certainly helped cement its storied associations with unidentified flying objects (UFOs). Why this area, which the government only officially recognized in 2013, became designated as Area 51 isn’t exactly known, but diagrams from the 1960s refer to it as Area 51. It’s thought this number was used by the now-dissolved Atomic Energy Commission in its grid naming system for the land. Nearby is the Nellis Air Force Base, which has conducted “safety experiments” designated and numbered as Areas, e.g., Area 13. Why is Area 51 associated with aliens? In its history, many people have reported seeing UFOs around Area 51, though we should note that UFOs doesn’t necessarily mean they are extraterrestrial. But, as a site where the government is secretly researching aliens and flying saucers, we can thank Bob Lazar in 1989, who claimed he worked on an alien spacecraft there and saw alien autopsy photographs. Lazar’s since discredited accounts helped spread popular conspiracy theories associated with Area 51. The hit TV show The X-Files, notably, helped dramatized some of them in the 1990s. So, the truth is out there: the “51” in Area 51 does not refer to the 51st flying saucer found in Nevada.