Missing Air Force officer found 35 years later

US Air Force Office of Special Investigations

William Howard Hughes, Jr. was apprehended at his home in California without incident and is now awaiting pre-trial confinement, the OSI said.

According to the USAF, his duties included "classified planning and analysis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command, control and communications surveillance systems".

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

Hughes, a captain, was 33 years old and single when he vanished, according to news reports from the time of his disappearance.

At the time of his disappearance, he was thought to have either been captured by Soviet agents or voluntarily defected to the Soviet Union, the Air Force Times reports.

Linda Card, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, told the Albuquerque Journal Sunday that to this day officials still do not have any evidence indicating leaks of classified information.

He was apprehended by authorities after a fraud investigation and said he deserted the Air Force because he was depressed and chose to leave.

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Authorities say they arrested Hughes last week at his residence in California where he was living under the name "Barry O'Beirne".

Following his arrest, Hughes was charged with desertion and is being held at Travis Air Force Base in California. The Air Force officially declared him deserted in December 1983. Capt. Huges had a Top Secret/Single Scope Background Investigation clearance at the time giving him access to US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secret information.

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

Hughes was identified and questioned last week as part of an investigation into passport fraud.

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.

Later that year, the unmarried Seattle native was declared a deserter - something one of his sisters refused to believe. He faces up to five years of confinement, forfeiture of all pay and dishonorable discharge from the Air Force. Others speculated that he had defected -possibly to the Soviets - with the highly classified information, a notion that fomented conspiracy theories for years. "Among his responsibilities was the training of range officers in charge of destroying rockets malfunctioning after launch".

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".

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