Air Force officer who vanished in 1983 found using fake ID

William Howard Hughes Jr

An Air Force captain who deserted in 1983 amid speculation of Cold War espionage was arrested last week at his home in California, where he had been living under a fictitious identity for 35 years, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations said.

"After being confronted with inconsistencies about his identity, the individual admitted his true name was William Howard Hughes Jr., and that he deserted from the U.S. Air Force in 1983", the USAF said in a statement. He handled classified planning and analysis of NATO's command, control and communications surveillance systems.

William Howard Hughes Jr. vanished in 1983 after returning from duty in Europe and withdrawing almost $30,000 from his bank account.

Hughes' neighbors in Daly City, California, told CNN he went by the name "Tim" and that he lived with a woman they said they believed to be his wife. He was apprehended June 6, 2018, by Air Force Office of Special Investigations special agents and is awaiting pretrial confinement at Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

In a news release, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) said the Department of State was investigating a man named "Barry O'Beirne" in connection to a passport fraud inquiry.

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. If convicted, the officer could face reduction in rank, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, confinement in a military prison for up to five years and a dishonorable discharge, FindLaw.com reports. He specialized in radar surveillance.

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At the time of his disappearance he had just returned from the Netherlands, where he had been working with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers.

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.

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

Responding to Hughes' claims of deserting the air-force cause he was depressed, AFOSI spokeswoman Linda Card said there were many more questions to be answered as the investigation continues.

Hughes was 33 years old and single when he vanished, according to news reports from the time of his disappearance. "Among his responsibilities was the training of range officers in charge of destroying rockets malfunctioning after launch". "We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily", his sister, Christine Hughes, said.

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

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