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12 June 2018, 04:59 | Glen Norman
US Air Force Nabs Deserter After 35 Years
The U.S. State Department was investigating Hughes - who claimed to be "Barry O'Beirne" - for possible passport fraud when he revealed his true identity. This is the last time he was seen as William Howard Hughes until last week.
This undated photo released by the U.S. Air Force shows Capt. William Howard Hughes, Jr., who was formally declared a deserter by the Air Force Dec. 9, 1983.
Hughes was unmarried at the time, but had three sisters.
Interviews with Hughes' friends and associates and inquiries with law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and overseas failed to locate him, the statement said, and he was formally declared a deserter on December 9, 1983.
"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".
Air Force Officer Wanted For Desertion Found After 35 Years On The Run
Captain William Howard Hughes Jr was last seen on 25 July 1983, when he withdrew a total of $28,500 (£21,300) from 19 bank branches around Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he was stationed following his return from service in Europe. He was in charge of highly classified operations involving NATO's command, control and communications surveillance systems, Task & Purpose, a news outlet run by and for veterans, reported.
Special agents from Travis Air Force Base took Hughes into custody at his California home Wednesday and he is being held at the base, the Air Force said.
He was supposed to be back in Albuquerque by August of that year.
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.
As it turns out, it appears to be exactly what Hughes did.
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But more than 30 years after he dropped off the grid, Hughes was caught.
Later in 1986, a Los Angeles Times article also speculated that Hughes had defected to the Soviet Union.
"He is worth his weight in gold to the Russians in terms of future 'Star Wars, ' if we have them", one intelligence officer told the Times.
His sister, Christine Hughes, maintained that her brother would never defect or disappear without leaving a note, she told Associated Press in 1984.
USA deserters can face a number of charges once they are found, including prison time, being dishonourably discharged and losing pay.
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