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. The only clue Hughes left behind was a trail of bank withdrawals, where he pulled out $28,500 from 19 different branches. He was single and was involved in NATO's control, command and communications surveillance systems during the Cold War, according to the Washington Times.
In the days and weeks after he failed to report for duty in Kirtland, investigators found his auto at the Albuquerque International Airport.
His sister, Christine Hughes, maintained that her brother would never defect or disappear without leaving a note, she told Associated Press in 1984.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations said in a news release this week that William Howard Hughes, Jr., was apprehended at his home after a fraud investigation involving a fake identity he had been using.
Hughes, now 66, told investigators that he was "depressed" about his Air Force career, so he assumed the fictitious identity of O'Beirne and had been living in California ever since.
His family speculated he was abducted. This is the last time he was seen as William Howard Hughes until last week.
What do we know about Capt Hughes? The interview was held with "Barry O'Beirne", but it didn't take long for officials to realize the man's true identity.
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In 1985 and 1986, several French and American rocket ships failed to launch properly and subsequently exploded, including the Challenger space shuttle. Hughes's disappearance, in the eyes of some, fit right into the puzzle. Some believed that the perpetrators were from the Soviet Union.
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.
There was even speculation that Hughes may have been abducted by or defected to the Soviets. Although Hughes had access to "U.S". Friends and co-workers also didn't provide any information, the Air Force said.
Linda Card, spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, told the Albuquerque Journal that at this stage, investigators have had "no indication that he had any classified information or that he gave any classified information". But still, she said, the case remains under investigation.
He had been scheduled to return to the Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico on August 1.
He faces a maximum sentence of five years confinement, forfeiture of all pay and dishonourable discharge for his desertion. "Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story".