Air Force Officer Missing For 35 Years Found Living In California

An Air Force officer who deserted the military in 1983 has been located in California, where he was living under a false name, according to authorities. Hughes had been claiming to be an individual named Barry O'Beirne but admitted that he was actually named William Howard Hughes, Jr. and that he had deserted the air force, the OSI said.

Hughes was 33 years old and worked on classified planning and analysis of NATO's control, command and communications surveillance systems during the Cold War. Hughes, now 66, was last seen after returning from a two week vacation in Europe and withdrawing more than $28.5K from 19 different locations in Albuquerque.

Hughes has claimed that he was depressed about his time in the Air Force and so made a decision to leave. The Air Force didn't say where in California Hughes had lived under the O'Bierne name, or what charges he faces.

He is now being held at Travis Air Force Base in California, faced with charges of peacetime desertion, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

"On June 5, during a passport fraud investigation, the US Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service interviewed an individual claiming to be Barry O'Beirne".

William Howard Hughes Jr. was arrested without an incident at his home in California.

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. Also, a raid of his home in 1900 block of Chandelle Loop in Albuquerque revealed to-do lists and books he planned to read upon his return. That would be "totally out of character for the Bill we knew", she said.

In 1986, journalist Tad Szulc wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece that at least some intelligence officers "believe that Hughes was either captured by Soviet agents or voluntarily defected to the Soviet Union".

While working at his permanent duty station at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, the Air Force assigned Hughes to a temporary duty station in the Netherlands in July 1983.

Nevertheless speculation persisted that Hughes may have been abducted by or defected to the Soviets.

"After the Air Force formally declared Hughes a deserter in December 1983, his family said in an Associated Press article printed in the Journal on January 20, 1984, they believed he had been abducted".

His family did not appear to know about his disappearance with the Albuquerque Journal reporting that his sisters said at the time that they thought he might have been abducted. An OSI spokesperson told the newspaper that there was no indication Hughes had given away any classified information. Those officers suggested Hughes may have been linked to possible sabotage of some failed US and French rocket launches. "Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story".

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