Air Force Officer Missing For 35 Years Found Living In California

Ex-Kirtland AFB officer missing since 1983 found

A U.S. Air Force officer who went missing in 1983 was found last week, living in California.

"After being confronted with inconsistencies about his identity, the individual admitted his true name was William Howard Hughes Jr., and that he deserted from the U.S. Air Force in 1983", the AFOSI news release read.

At the time of his disappearance, the 31-year-old office had top secret security clearance, working on "classified planning and analysis of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command, control and communications surveillance systems", U.S. military journal Stars and Stripes reports.

He was last seen withdrawing over $28,000 in Albuquerque in the summer of 1983 after returning from a stint in the Netherlands. He allegedly told investigators that he became depressed while serving in the Air Force so he left and created a new identity for himself. Hughes was single when he disappeared and said he had lived in California as O'Beirne since.

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Special agents from Travis Air Force Base took Hughes into custody at his California home Wednesday and he is being held at the base, the Air Force said. He was questioned on Tuesday by the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service and maintained that his name was Barry O'Beirne.

William Howard Hughes, Jr. was apprehended at his home in California without incident and is now awaiting pre-trial confinement, the OSI said. If convicted, the officer could face reduction in rank, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, confinement in a military prison for up to five years and a dishonorable discharge, FindLaw.com reports. That would be "totally out of character for the Bill we knew", she said.

At the time of his "abrupt" disappearance, Hughes specialized in radar surveillance.

Hughes was supposed to travel to the Netherlands in July 1983 to work with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers on the operations of AWACS electronic surveillance planes.

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Capt Hughes worked at the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center in Kirtland, New Mexico.

Later in 1986, a Los Angeles Times article also speculated that Hughes had defected to the Soviet Union.

Upon launching its investigation into Hughes, the Air Force did not immediately rule out defection as a possibility, according to 1984 newspaper accounts in the Albuquerque Journal in which a public affairs officer said it is one "option". "We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily", his sister, Christine Hughes, said. "Among his responsibilities was the training of range officers in charge of destroying rockets malfunctioning after launch".

But Card said no classified information leaks are suspected, nor is there an indication that Hughes was involved with the Soviet Union, but the investigation is ongoing.

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