Missing Air Force officer found 35 years later

U.S. Air Force shows Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr. who was formally declared a deserter by the Air Force Dec. 9 1983

U.S. Air Force shows Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr. who was formally declared a deserter by the Air Force Dec. 9 1983

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.

Prior to his disappearance, Hughes was last seen in New Mexico withdrawing a total of $28,500 from his bank account at 19 different branch locations.

According to the USAF, his duties included "classified planning and analysis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command, control and communications surveillance systems".

But, after completing a tour of duty in the Netherlands and spending two weeks on holiday in Europe, Capt. Hughes vanished.

In December 1983, he was formally declared a deserter.

Last week, nearly 35 years since he vanished, Hughes has been discovered in California, where he has spent the last three decades under an assumed name.

At the time of his "abrupt" disappearance, Hughes specialized in radar surveillance.

Hughes was identified and questioned last week as part of an investigation into passport fraud.

Pictured, William Howard Hughes Jr.in 1983.William Howard Hughes Jr. why did he disappear and where did he go?

Pressed on inconsistencies, the man said his real name was William Hughes.

He allegedly told investigators that he became depressed while serving in the Air Force so he left and created a new identity for himself.


Hughes' neighbors in Daly City, California, told CNN he went by the name "Tim" and that he lived with a woman they said they believed to be his wife.

Hughes was supposed to travel to the Netherlands in July 1983 to work with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers on the operations of AWACS electronic surveillance planes.

At the time of his disappearance in 1983, Hughes, then 31, was assigned to the Kirtland-based Air Force Operation Test and Evaluation Center.

He told his parents he was supposed to come back from the Netherlands on August 1.

He had top secret clearance, but "none that could compromise national security", Pentagon officials said in article that appeared in the Journal on May 2, 1984.

Investigators interviewed friends, associates and coworkers, along with global law enforcement officials after Captain Hughes' disappearance, but were unable to find him.

His family feared that he had been abducted.

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

Neighbour Lorenzo Laurel, 62, said Hughes was an "ideal neighbour".

"I would only see him when he leaves or throws out the garbage, he was very private", Mr Laurel, who never knew his neighbour's occupation and assumed he was retired, was quoted as saying.

Investigators previous year caught a fugitive in Florida who had been living under another identity since 1972.

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