Air Force Captain AWOL For 35 Years Is Arrested In California

Air Force Captain AWOL For 35 Years Is Arrested In California

A United States air force captain who vanished without trace 35 years ago has been found living in California under a new identity.

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.

He had been involved in classified planning and analysis of NATO's control, command and communications surveillance systems during the Cold War.

Hughes was seen in the Albuquerque area withdrawing more than $28,000 from bank accounts, according to the AFOSI news release.

Hughes said he had been depressed about being in the Air Force so he deserted, made up the O'Beirne identity and moved to California, the Air Force said.

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

Hughes was taken into custody without incident and is at Travis Air Force Base in California awaiting pre-trial confinement, the Air Force said.

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. He could face up to five years of confinement, forfeiture of all pay and dishonorable discharge from the Air Force.

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His auto was 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, according to reports.

His orders included working with other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) officers on the operation of Airborne Warning and Control (AWACS) electronic surveillance aircraft, officials stated.

Capt Hughes worked at the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center in Kirtland, New Mexico.

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

At the time of his disappearance, the Air Force said Hughes had a "Top Secret/Single Scope Background Investigation" clearance.

Nevertheless speculation persisted that Hughes may have been abducted by or defected to the Soviets. "We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily", his sister, Christine Hughes, said. Those officers suggested Hughes may have been linked to possible sabotage of some failed USA and French rocket launches.

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.

"Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story", Ms Card said.

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