A US air force pilot who disappeared 35 years ago has been found alive and well, living in California under a false identity.
Captain William Howard Hughes Jr, now 66, was last seen withdrawing $28,000 from a bank in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the summer of 1983.
He was a radar surveillance specialist and had been involved in classified planning and analysis of Nato’s control, command and communications surveillance systems during the Cold War.
But, after completing a tour of duty in the Netherlands and spending two weeks on holiday in Europe, Capt. Hughes vanished.
Authorities attempted to track him down, but friends and associates of Capt. Hughes, who was 33 and single at the time, could provide no clues, and he was formally declared a deserter on December 9, 1983.
Yet last week the air force announced that Capt. Hughes had been found, living under the alias of Barry O’Beirne.
He had been questioned during a passport fraud investigation, the air force said in a statement.
“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.”
Capt. Hughes told the authorities that, in 1983, he was depressed about being in the air force, so he left. He said he has been living in California ever since.
Special agents from Travis air force base took Capt. Hughes into custody at his California home on Wednesday and he is being held at the base, the air force said. It is unclear what charges he faces.
An Office of Special Investigations spokeswoman told the Albuquerque Journal that there’s no indication Capt. Hughes was involved with the Soviet Union, or that any classified information was leaked.
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