Missing Air Force officer found 35 years later

Air Force

Ex-Kirtland AFB officer missing since 1983 found

A news release via The Air Force Office of Special Investigations told of Kirkland Air Force Base officer, William Howard Hughes Jr. being apprehended at his home following a fraud investigation involving a fake identity the man had been using.

In a news release, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) said the Department of State was investigating a man named "Barry O'Beirne" in connection to a passport fraud inquiry.

In retrospect, William Howard Hughes, Jr. was maybe not the kind of guy you wanted to guard your national security.

Hughes was unmarried at the time, but had three sisters.

"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", the Air Force writes.

OSI agents assigned to Travis AFB in northern California went to his home and arrested the fugitive captain without incident.

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Captain William Howard Hughes Jr, now 66, was last seen withdrawing $28,000 from a bank in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the summer of 1983.

Hughes was involved in classified planning and analysis of NATO's control, command and communications surveillance systems during the Cold War.

He was supposed to return back to duty in Albuquerque by August of that year only to never show up. The Air Force declared Hughes a deserter in December 1998.

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.

A spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations told the Albuquerque Journal there's no sign Hughes leaked classified information or was involved with the Soviet Union, but that investigations are underway.

Hughes reportedly returned to New Mexico on leave in July 1983.

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

"We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily", his sister, Christine Hughes, said in a 1984 Associated Press article, according to USA Today.

"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". Hughes also had top security clearance and deserted his post on July 25, 1983.

"They (AFOSI investigators) said at this point there's no indication that he had any classified information or that he gave any classified information", Card said.

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

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