Monday, 22 October, 2018

US Air Force deserter caught in California after 35 years

William Howard Hughes Jr Ex-Kirtland AFB officer missing since 1983 found
Jeannette Daniel | 12 June, 2018, 05:01

"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", an AFOSI news release reads. He was last seen in New Mexico withdrawing $28,500 from his bank account at 19 different branch locations, the Air Force said in a statement.

He 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.

Hughes was assigned to temporary duty in the Netherlands, working with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to test its new Airborne Warning and Control System, created to be used for surveillance, command and control, battle space management and communications. The Air Force didn't say where in California Hughes had lived under the O'Bierne name, or what charges he faces.

He had been sent to the Netherlands July 18, 1983, to work with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers and was due back in Albuquerque on August 1, the Air Force said.

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.

Hughes has claimed that he was depressed about his time in the Air Force and so made a decision to leave.

In a 1984 article by the Associated Press, Capt Hughes' family said they believed he had been abducted.

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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, now 66, has been charged with desertion.

In the years after Hughes went missing, a slew of NASA catastrophes, such as the space shuttle Challenger disaster of 1986, as well as the explosion of the Ariane rocket in French Guinea, caused national security commentators to speculate whether the disasters were related and possibly the result of Soviet sabotage.

An article from Maddy Hayden for the Albuquerque Journal referenced a story from journo Tad Szulc about Hughes' disappearance in 1986, which suggested he'd defected to the Soviet Union.

Quoting anonymous intelligence sources, Szulc wrote that the intelligence community feared Hughes had either been captured by Soviets or that he voluntarily defected. Friends and co-workers also didn't provide any information, the Air Force said.

However, she said the investigation was ongoing. "Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story".

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

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