Air Force Captain AWOL For 35 Years Is Arrested In California

Air Force

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations said in a news release this week that William Howard Hughes, Jr., was apprehended at his home after a fraud investigation involving a fake identity he had been using.

Investigators said this week that Hughes had returned to the United States and begun living under an assumed name.

Air Force Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr. started at Kirtland in 1981, working on NATO's command, control and communications surveillance systems.

He had been sent to the Netherlands July 18, 1983, to work with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers and was due back in Albuquerque on August 1, the Air Force said.

Hughes was unmarried when he disappeared, but the Seattle native had three sisters.

Last week, almost 35 years after he went missing, the Air Force finally found Hughes living in California under the fictitious name "Barry O'Beirne".

He has been living in California under a fake identity ever since his defection.

He told authorities after his capture Wednesday that he was depressed about being in the Air Force and chose to leave.

Pictured, William Howard Hughes Jr.in 1983.William Howard Hughes Jr. why did he disappear and where did he go? He deserted in July 1983 after a temporary assignment in the Netherlands, and was last seen around Albuquerque, N.M., withdrawing $28,500 from 19 different bank locations.

He had just returned from a temporary assignment in The Netherlands, where he worked with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers on the Airborne Warning and Control electronic surveillance aircraft.

Hughes was due back in Albuquerque in August at the time he vanished, and on December 9, 1983, the Air Force formally declared him a deserter.

Hughes is awaiting pretrial proceedings for his desertion case at the Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif. Others speculated that he had defected -possibly to the Soviets - with the highly classified information, a notion that fomented conspiracy theories for years.

There was speculation in the 1980s that Hughes, who specialized in space-launch command, control and communications for satellite surveillance systems, had defected to the Soviet Union, the Los Angeles Times reported in a July 1986 article.

But more than 30 years after he dropped off the grid, Hughes was caught.

He faces a maximum sentence of five years confinement, forfeiture of all pay and dishonourable discharge for his desertion.

"Szulc quoted an unidentified intelligence officer who told him, "[Hughes] is worth his weight in gold to the Russians in terms of future 'Star Wars, ' if we have them".

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.

"Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story", she told the newspaper.

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