Missing Air Force Officer, William Howard Hughes Jr., Found 35 Years After Disappearance
William Howard Hughes Jr., a Kirland Air Force Base officer who had top security clearance and disappeared 35 years ago, has been found living in California.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations said in a statement that he was apprehended at his home after they were investigating his fake identity he had been using for fraud. Federal authorities were interviewing a man of the name Barry O’Beirne as a part of a passport fraud investigation. After challenging his identity’s inconsistencies, he finally confessed to being Hughes.
When he was apprehended, he told the authorities that his time with the Air Force made him depressed and he wanted to leave, which caused his to create a fake identity and run away to California.
He was a single 33-year-old captain when he vanished. During the Cold War, Hughes was a part of classified planning and analysis of NATO’s control, command and communications surveillance systems. He had a specialization in radar surveillance.
The last time he was seen before his disappearance was when he was withdrawing over $28,000 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the summer of 1983. Hughes had just returned from a two-week vacation in Europe.
He had also just completed a stint in the Netherlands, where he worked with NATO officers on the Airborne Warning and Control electronic surveillance aircraft. He was supposed to report back to Albuquerque by August of 1983. The Air Force said they declared Hughes as a deserter on December 9th, 1983.
When friends and family were asked of his whereabouts, they did not have any information. According to The Washington Post, Christine Hughes, his sister, told authorities at the time, “We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily.”
Despite his disappearance, a spokeswoman for the Office of Special Investigations stated that there is no indication that Hughes was partnered with the Soviet Union or that any classified information leaked.
Hughes is currently being charged with desertion and is being held at the Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California.