Published: Tue, June 12, 2018

Air Force Captain AWOL For 35 Years Is Arrested In California

Air Force Captain AWOL For 35 Years Is Arrested In California

"On June 5, during a passport fraud investigation, the US Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service interviewed an individual claiming to be Barry O'Beirne", the Air Force said in a statement. In his home, the investigators found lists of plans and books he wanted to read, the article states.

After the Air Force formally declared Hughes a deserter in December 1983, his family said in an Associated Press article printed in the Journal on January 20, 1984, they believed he had been abducted.

Before this week's apprehension, Hughes was last seen withdrawing more than $28,000 in Albuquerque from various bank locations in the summer of 1983 after returning from a two-week vacation in Europe. "We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily", his sister, Christine Hughes, 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 US Air Force in 1983", the Air Force said. Nevertheless speculation persisted that Hughes may have been abducted by or defected to the Soviets.

Hughes, now 66, has been charged with desertion.

Last year, there was uproar when Bowe Berhdahl was spared prison time after being found guilty of deserting his Afghan outpost - instead he was reduced to private in rank, dishonourably discharged and lost pay.

At the time of his disappearance, he owned a house in Albuquerque.

After his arrest, Hughes told investigators that he was depressed about being in the Air Force and chose to leave.

After several rocket ship failures in the USA and France, including the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986, Los Angeles Times journalist Tad Szulc theorised Capt Hughes may have been to blame.

Upon launching its investigation into Hughes, the Air Force did not immediately rule out defection as a possibility, according to 1984 newspaper accounts in the Albuquerque Journal in which a public affairs officer said it is one "option".

"Interviews of friends, associates and coworkers failed to disclose information regarding Hughes' whereabouts", the AFOSI wrote. Secret and NATO Secret information, " the Air Force maintained that he was not carrying classified information with him on his trip to the Netherlands.

But Card said no classified information leaks are suspected, nor is there an indication that Hughes was involved with the Soviet Union, but the investigation is ongoing.

Hughes is awaiting pretrial proceedings for his desertion case at the Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif.

USA deserters can face a number of charges once they are found, including prison time, being dishonourably discharged and losing pay.

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

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