The US military has apologised for threatening to deploy a stealth bomber on millennials who had been planning to “storm” the Area 51 test base in the Nevada desert.
Over the weekend, an estimated 150 people descended on the highly secretive base, about two hours drive from Las Vegas, which has long been a magnet for UFO enthusiasts convinced that it housed aliens from outer space.
Thousands had been expected after a student created a Facebook page in June called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us”.
The page became a viral sensation with more than three million people expressing an interest in turning up to “see them aliens”.
On Friday, fearing a mass invasion, the Defence Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) - the US military PR arm - posted a picture of service personnel standing by a B-2 stealth bomber alongside the caption: "The last thing #Millennials will see if they attempt the #area51raid today".
In reality, the feared flood of alien-spotters turned out to be little more than a trickle of eccentrics in an eclectic array of costumes who were an irritant rather than a danger to national security.
Last night a DVIDSHUB employee posted a Tweet that in NO WAY supports the stance of the Department of Defense. It was inappropriate and we apologize for this mistake.— DVIDSHub (@DVIDSHub) September 21, 2019
Given the festive atmosphere and small crowd, military chiefs soon realised that their stealth bomb threat was a rather excessive response to a bunch of curiosity seekers whose presence had led to a handful of arrests for such heinous offences as public urination.
DVIDS sought to undo the damage by deleting the offending tweet and posting on Saturday saying that the previous day’s message “in NO WAY supports the stance of the Department of Defence. It was inappropriate and we apologise for this mistake.”
The local police approach to the good-natured invasion had been somewhat more measured, advising those who pitched up to watch out for rattlesnakes and setting out some rudimentary ground rules.
This was not the first time the US military has been obliged to say sorry for posting inappropriate tweets.
On December 31, US Strategic Command, which is responsible for the country’s strategic arsenal apologised for a tweet saying it was ready, if necessary, to drop something “much, much bigger” than the New Year’s Eve ball in New York.