Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

US Air Force Nabs Deserter After 35 Years

US Air Force Nabs Deserter After 35 Years

William Howard Hughes, Jr., who was going by the name Barry O'Beirne, admitted his true identity after becoming the subject of a passport fraud investigation during an interview with the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service on June 5.

At the time of his disappearance, the 31-year-old office had top secret security clearance, working on "classified planning and analysis of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command, control and communications surveillance systems", U.S. military journal Stars and Stripes reports.

He was last seen withdrawing more than $28,000 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the summer of 1983 after returning from a two-week vacation in Europe.

The reason he did this, he said, was because he was "depressed about being in the Air Force" - so he left, created a fictitious identity in California and never came back, investigators said.

He has been living in California under a fake identity ever since his defection.

Hughes is charged with desertion and awaiting pretrial confinement at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif.

At the time of his "abrupt" disappearance, Hughes specialized in radar surveillance.

Storm chances and heat to finish out the weekend
Temperatures will only fall into the lower 70s tonight before rebounding into the upper 80s to low 90s again Sunday afternoon. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has placed that part of the state under a marginal risk of severe weather today .

He was last sent overseas, to the Netherlands, on July 18, 1983, to work with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) officers.

Based at at Kirtland Air Force Base, Captain Hughes was 33 when he vanished, according news reports at the time of his disappearance.

The US Air Force Office of Special Investigations announced on Tuesday that Captain Hughes had been discovered earlier this month living in California.

But AFOSI spokeswoman Linda Card said there are many more questions to be answered as the investigation continues.

TaskandPurpose reported Hughes' vehicle being found at the Albuquerque airport and a search of his home in the 1900 block of Chandelle Loop NE revealed notes of planned activities and books to read upon his return. The Air Force officially declared him deserted in December 1983. Hughes's Cold War-era disappearance prompted concerns and theories that the Air Force officer had been abducted by the Soviet Union or had defected to the USSR.

Although in the past, some believed that Hughes had leaked highly confidential information to the Soviet Union, officials believe that no such leak took place. His sister Christine said, "We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily", detailed the Albuquerque Journal.

Mr Szulc also said an intelligence officer told him Capt Hughes was "worth his weight in gold to the Russians in terms of future "Star Wars". "He was very pleasant", said neighbor June Dayao, 60, a retired teacher who recognised her neighbour's face in a photograph released by the Air Force.

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