Published: Mon, June 11, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Missing Air Force officer found 35 years later

Missing Air Force officer found 35 years later

On December 1983, the Air Force declared Hughes a deserter.

Investigators found Hughes' vehicle abandoned at the Albuquerque airport.

William Howard Hughes Jr. allegedly deserted the Air Force in July 1983 after coming back from temporary duty in Western Europe, the Air Force said. In July 1983, Hughes had been assigned to temporary duty in the Netherlands to work with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers "on the operations of Airborne Warning and Control electronic surveillance aircraft" but never resurfaced after leaving for Europe. He was questioned on Tuesday by the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service and maintained that his name was Barry O'Beirne.

"Capt. Hughes claimed that in 1983 he was depressed about being in the Air Force so he left, created the fictitious identity of O'Beirne and has been living in California ever since".

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Hughes "was the "lead analyst" of the Command Control and Communication Surveillance Systems at the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M., which tests new space-related weapons systems", the Times said. He was expected to return to duty at Kirtland on August 1, 1983.

As it turns out, it appears to be exactly what Hughes did.

Instead, investigators said Capt. Hughes went to 19 Albuquerque bank branches and withdrew a total of $28,500 from his account. Meanwhile, his family and friends say that they didn't know about his current status or location.

There was even speculation that Hughes may have been abducted by or defected to the Soviets. Hughes was arrested at his residence without incident June 6 on charges of desertion, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations announced in a news release Thursday. Some believed that the perpetrators were from the Soviet Union.

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Pressed on inconsistencies, the man said his real name was William Hughes.

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

An OSI spokesperson told the newspaper that there was no indication Hughes had given away any classified information. Linda Card from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations elaborated.

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

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The Air Force classified Hughes, who had a "Top Secret/Single Scope Background Investigation" clearance, as a deserter a few months later. 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.

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