Missing Air Force Officer Found 35 Years Later In California

  • Missing Air Force Officer Found 35 Years Later In California

Missing Air Force Officer Found 35 Years Later In California

A high-ranking Kirtland Air Force Base officer with top security clearance who disappeared 35 years ago has been found in California.

A news release via The Air Force Office of Special Investigations told of Kirkland Air Force Base officer, William Howard Hughes Jr. being apprehended at his home following a fraud investigation involving a fake identity the man had been using.

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", United States military journal Stars and Stripes reports.

"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".

Hughes apparently lived in California under the assumed identity of Barry O'Beirne. Hughes, now 66, was arrested by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations the next day.

William Howard Hughes, Jr. was apprehended at his home in California without incident and is now awaiting pre-trial confinement, the OSI said. CNN reports that it remains unclear what charges he will face.

Air Force Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr. started at Kirtland in 1981, working on NATO's command, control and communications surveillance systems.

It is unknown whether family had been in contact with Hughes or knew of his whereabouts following his 1983 disappearance.

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.

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

Later in 1986, a Los Angeles Times article also speculated that Hughes had defected to the Soviet Union.

"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". An OSI spokesperson told the newspaper that there was no indication Hughes had given away any classified information. The news of Hughes' disappearance made headlines the following year, with a front-page Albuquerque Journal announcing "Kirtland Launches Search for Officer Missing 5 Months" on January 17, 1984.

After several rocket ship failures in the U.S. and France, including the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986, Los Angeles Times journalist Tad Szulc theorised Capt Hughes may have been to blame.

"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.