LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3.com) --
After decades of speculation and haunting rumors, the U.S. government is finally acknowledging the existence of Area 51.
The top-secret site -- about three hours northwest of Las Vegas -- played a crucial role in the Cold War, but the government long has fought to keep it private.
That fight for secrecy has sparked many conspiracy theories, including government interaction with aliens.
Some of those theories are explored at the National Atomic Testing Museum
with an exhibit on Area 51.
The acknowledgment only came about because the National Security Archive acquired some CIA documents, spelling out Area 51's role in preventing nuclear war.
While rumors still swirl of alien encounters and the classified creation of weapons, what is known for sure is that the secluded spot served to test spy planes during the Cold War.
Those planes -- called U-2s -- spied on the Soviet Union, snapping pictures of the country’s nuclear productions.
Richard Mingus, a former Area 51 security guard, said he believes the work done there helped end the Cold War.
“I knew what we were doing was extremely important,” Mingus said. “What we learned by spying on the Soviets, we knew how strong they were and how strong they really weren't.”
Now a security guard at the National Atomic Testing Museum, Mingus said he is relieved the government is acknowledging Area 51. Sworn to secrecy for years, he was not able to tell his wife about his work.
Allan Palmer, the museum’s executive director says it's likely there's still plenty of top-secret government activity going on at Area 51. He adds that sometime the government has to stay silent to prevent enemies from knowing national secrets.