Missing Air Force officer turns up 35 years later

Ex-Kirtland AFB officer missing since 1983 found

Hughes had been claiming to be an individual named Barry O'Beirne but admitted that he was actually named William Howard Hughes, Jr. and that he had deserted the air force, the OSI said.

In fact, just a day before Hughes' arrest, the man was interviewed by the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service over possible passport fraud, detailed the Air Force Times.

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

He was assigned to the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland AFB, in New Meixco where his duties included classified planning and analysis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command, control, and communications surveillance systems.

Hughes was unmarried when he disappeared, but the Seattle native had three sisters.

Interviews with Hughes' friends and associates and inquiries with law enforcement agencies in the United States and overseas failed to locate him, the statement said, and he was formally declared a deserter on December 9, 1983.

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

He told authorities that he had been depressed about being in the military and had fled to California, creating the fictitious identity.

Hughes was single and stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when he disappeared in July 1983, the Air Force said.

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Before leaving New Mexico, Hughes withdrew $28,500 from his bank account, making smaller withdrawals by visiting 19 different branches, the Air Force said.

At the time, Hughes was single and assigned to an Air Force center in New Mexico, where he had responsibilities including "classified planning and analysis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command, control, and communications surveillance systems", the Air Force said.

At the time of his disappearance he had just returned from the Netherlands, where he had been working with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers. The Air Force declared Hughes a deserter in December 1998. Nevertheless speculation persisted that Hughes may have been abducted by or defected to the Soviets.

His family did not appear to know about his disappearance with the Albuquerque Journal reporting that his sisters said at the time that they thought he might have been abducted.

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". An OSI spokesperson told the newspaper that there was no indication Hughes had given away any classified information.

Desertion carries maximum penalties of dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and confinement of five years.

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

Card said Hughes' family has been notified of his apprehension, but it is unknown whether they had been in contact with him or knew his whereabouts.

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