But there were UFOs at Area 51, according to Barnes.
"We were the UFOs," he says. "We were, to a great extent, the sightings being reported."
The flying objects in question include the family of spy planes known as Blackbirds, technological marvels that could fly at heights of 90,000 feet (or about three times the altitude of DC-9s more commonly seen in that era) and speeds near 2,500 mph (think ten football fields in a second), figures that decimated prior records and enabled U.S. reconnaissance photography that arguably tipped the balance of power in the Cold War. Also of note: Although conceived in the 1950s, the sleek jets would not look out of place in the latest George Lucas offering.
So it's little wonder that they were unidentifiable.
Says Barnes, "This posed a great problem to investigators having to explain a sighting without revealing it to be a super secret CIA or Air Force project."
Barnes and company were forced to conceive all manner of cover stories.
Now, with the declassification, he can tell the truth.
Currently President of the Area 51 alumni group Roadrunners Internationale, Barnes has started a website dedicated to the legacy of OXCART and the ensuing Operation Black Shield. "I am trying to make it possible for a lot of people who never got to tell their stories to do so now that the Oxcart project has been declassified," he told me.