How alleged Air Force deserter was found 35 years later living under fake name
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A man who allegedly deserted the U.S. Air Force and vanished without a trace 35 years ago was found at a California home living under a fake name, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations said in a news release.
William Howard Hughes Jr. allegedly deserted the Air Force in July 1983 after coming back from temporary duty in Western Europe, 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 NATO command, control, and communications surveillance systems,” the Air Force said.
He had been sent to the Netherlands July 18, 1983, to work with NATO officers and was due back in Albuquerque on Aug. 1, the Air Force said.
But he disappeared.
Hughes was last seen in the Albuquerque area withdrawing $28,500 from his bank account at 19 different branches, the Air Force said, though not indicating when.
Law enforcement agencies searched in the United States and overseas but couldn’t find him. Friends and co-workers also didn’t provide any information, the Air Force said.
But federal authorities were interviewing a man named Barry O’Beirne last Tuesday as part of a passport fraud investigation, and when they challenged him over his identity’s inconsistencies, he said he was Hughes and had deserted the Air Force in 1983, the news release said.
Agents from the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations took Hughes into custody at his California home Wednesday, the Air Force said.
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’ sister, Christine Hughes, told The Associated Press in 1984 that her brother wouldn’t desert and wouldn’t vanish without leaving a note, according to The Washington Post.
“We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily,” Christine Hughes said at the time, according to the Post.
William Hughes was taken into custody without incident and is at Travis Air Force Base in California awaiting pre-trial confinement, the Air Force said.
The Office of Special Investigations declined to comment further on the case, telling ABC News the Air Force has nothing more to add until its legal department moves forward with a recommendation.
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