Missing Air Force officer found 35 years after going missing missing

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

Before he mysteriously disappeared and landed on the Air Force Most Wanted list, Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr. phoned home to tell his mother and father that he was going to the Netherlands.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations said in a news release this week that it had captured William Howard Hughes, Jr., at his home after a fraud investigation involving a fake identity he had been using. He was last seen withdrawing more than $28,000 in Albuquerque in summer 1983 after returning from a two-week vacation in Europe.

According to the USAF, his duties included "classified planning and analysis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command, control and communications surveillance systems".

He is being held at the Travis Air Force Base in California. He was officially declared a deserter by the Air Force on December 9 of that year.

He had a Top Secret/Single Scope Background Investigation clearance, which meant he had access to US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secret information.

An Office of Special Investigations spokeswoman told the Albuquerque Journal that there's no indication Hughes was involved with the Soviet Union or that any classified information was leaked.

An undated picture of Capt. William Howard Hughes, Jr.

Card said Hughes' family has been notified of his apprehension, but it is unknown whether they had been in contact with him or knew his whereabouts.

The veteran specialized in radar surveillance. He told authorities that he had been depressed about being in the military and had fled to California, creating the fictitious identity.

Hughes apparently lived in California under the assumed identity of Barry O'Beirne.

In 1986, three years after his disappearance, journalist Tad Szulc wrote a piece published in the Los Angeles Times that referred to Hughes' "apparent defection" to the Soviet Union. The family have now been notified. He faces up to five years of confinement, forfeiture of all pay and dishonorable discharge from the Air Force.

After several rocket ship failures in the USA and France, including the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986, Los Angeles Times journalist Tad Szulc theorised Capt Hughes may have been to blame. "Among his responsibilities was the training of range officers in charge of destroying rockets malfunctioning after launch".

"He is worth his weight in gold to the Russians in terms of future 'Star Wars, ' if we have them", Szulc quotes an unidentified intelligence officer as telling him.

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

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