The Mystery Of An Air Force Officer Gone Missing


Have you ever wanted to drop everything and disappear? Truly create for yourself a whole new life and start over? There are thousands upon thousands of people who make this decision every year in countries worldwide. There are various reasons as to why these individuals make the decision to go missing. For this officer in specific, his family was heartbroken and had no idea where he had gone. They searched everywhere until years later, the mystery was finally solved.

Classified Information

Back in the 1980s Captain William Howard Hughes was living and working in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There he had numerous duties which the classified analysis and planning of surveillance systems. This sort of position comes with a lot of responsibilities and he had top-secret clearance to sensitive information which could have hurt the state had he chosen to misuse this kind of intelligence. So, what happened to Capt. William Howard Hughes? Well, you’re just going to have to read on to find out!

Let the Force Be With You

There are many reasons as to why people like to join the US Air Force. Some people enjoy the new experiences that they will have, others go for the added benefits such as housing, food, recreational facilities, travel, vacations and insurance. Some people believe it is a way to get funding for college, while at the same time when you enroll you will be able to work towards an associate degree in applied science. Whatever the case, there must have been some benefits for William Howard Hughes Jr.

The Honor Code

When you sign up for the Air Force, there are codes which you have to abide by where all cadets are expected to act with integrity. Captain Tammy Gant of the US Air Force explains as to why this is. “There are hard choices that we have to make in life. Asking them to think about those sorts of things and helping students to craft strong moral fiber so that they can make those tough choices when they have to.”


Kirtland Air Force Base

You can bet your bottom dollar that when you apply to work at places such as this, there is vigorous testing including psychological testing that you have to pass in order to get hired. The Kirtland Air Force Base or KABQ is located in the southeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico and is the largest installation when it comes to Air Force Global Strike Command. At the moment there are around 23,000 people employed there with over 4,000 on active duty.

The Disappearance

Hughes was 33 and unmarried at the time when he disappeared. On July 18, 1983 he was assigned to go to the Netherlands in order to work with NATO officers. Together with these officers Hughes worked on “on the operations of Airborne Warning and Control electronic surveillance aircraft.” He was supposed to return back to Albuquerque on August 1, but never made it back from his trip to Europe. The following December is when the Air Force declared William Howard Hughes a deserter.

Missing Persons

The numbers of missing people in the US will surely astound you. At any given moment there are around 90,000 people found in the national database for missing people or NamUs. Of those, around 60% are over the age of 18. Over half of the 90,000 missing are male, with 52% of the total. When someone does go missing, the first 24 hours are most crucial as the longer it takes for it to become a case the less likely it is that there will be a positive outcome.

Without a Trace

Apparently, William let his parents know that he would be back from the Netherlands on August first, but then nobody saw him again. He was reported missing and in the following days that passed when he failed to report for duty in Kirtland the officers in charge of his investigation located his personal car at the Albuquerque International Airport. They did however find footage of him in Albuquerque withdrawing money on July 22, which was much earlier than he intended to return. Things were not adding up.

He Left a Note

People who go missing voluntarily are not likely to make plans for the future, which is exactly what William did. In his townhouse investigators found both a to-do list along with a list of books that Hughes planned on reading upon his return. His sister Christine Hughes claimed that he would never disappear without a note saying it would be, “totally out of character for the Bill we knew,” she said. “We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily.”

Why People Go Missing

Paul Joseph is a senior helpline manager at Missing People and he says there are both push and pull factors when it comes to people going missing. “Push factors are things that make people feel like they need to get away, so things such as abuse, problems at school or work, mental health issues, relationship breakdowns, debt, suicidal thoughts,” he says. “Pull factors are more to do with outside influences, such as sexual exploitation and gang affiliation.”

Cold War Looming

It might not seem like such a big deal now, but at the time, the threat of the Cold War was imminent, and it would be years to come until the tensions between the West and the Soviet Union would die down. In an article published by The Los Angeles Times in 1986 intelligence officers stated that Hughes was ‘worth his weight in gold’ to the Russians and that he had either defected to the Soviet Union or possibly even been captured by Russian agents.

A Mysterious Disappearance

The LA Times wrote, “By far the most interesting is the mysterious disappearance three years ago of a U.S. Air Force officer who specialized in space-launch command, control and communications for satellite surveillance systems. Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr., then 34 years old, was the “lead analyst” of the Command Control and Communication Surveillance Systems at the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M., which tests new space-related weapons systems.”

The Los Angeles Times

Another clip from the article about Hughes read, “Intelligence officers believe that Hughes was either captured by Soviet agents or voluntarily defected to the Soviet Union. At the time of his disappearance, the Air Force said that he had no classified materials with him. But these intelligence officers point out that Hughes’ knowledge of all the top-secret rocket launch procedures was invaluable to the Soviets, perhaps more so than the secrets delivered by recently captured spies.”

Spies All Around

It might be difficult to fathom now, but during the time of Hughes’ disappearance there were countless spies out and about in both the US and the Soviet Union doing their best to let their side one up the other. Robert Hanssen is a perfect example of this. The Chicago born man was constantly selling information to the Soviets until his wife of all people found him out. He swore to quit, but of course didn’t and as a result his work is the most damaging the US has ever seen.

Spies after the Cold War

When it comes to the end of the Cold War, there were spies both in Russia and in America as well as in other countries. The end of the Cold War and internal issues within Russia, including the break-up of the Soviet Union, led to a reduction in espionage – but it did not end it. In 1996, Russia expelled nine British diplomats for running a spy ring. In 1997, a former MI6 agent, Richard Norwood, was jailed for a year for passing secrets over to Russia.

Conflicting Stories

Although many, including The Los Angeles Times speculated that Captain William Hughes might be a jackpot for the Russians, others believed that this would not be the case. The Albuquerque Journal published a story back in 1984 stating that the Pentagon said even though Hughes had top secret clearance, he never had access to information which could compromise the state or national security in any way, shape or form. The OSI pitched in saying that there was no indication that Hughes gave any sort of information away.

The Last Sighting

According to reports, he was last seen withdrawing around $28,500 in New Mexico from 19 different banks! That seems like a lot of money for just one vacation. Clearly from this you can see that there were other thoughts and visions forming in William Howard Hughes’ mind regarding his future. So, what do you think happened to him? Read on to find about what his friends and family knew about the disappearance. You might fall off your chair in disbelief.

Friends and Family

When you plan to leave someplace permanently you usually share this type of information with people you regard as close friends. Some people turn to family, whilst others speak to friends about their upcoming plans. When investigators got into contact with family and close friends of William Howard Hughes, they had no information to offer as to his disappearance. His sisters even believed he’d been abducted. This was alarming to officers because they knew he had access to various information regarding the state.

Families of Missing People

Missing persons go through a lot in their journeys, but we often forget about their families. When someone we love passes away there are certain processes that we live through in order to get better such as sorting out their belongings and going to their funeral. With missing persons this is not possible and those around the missing individual often describe as feeling stuck and unable to move forward in their lives because they don’t have any answers. So what happened to him?

Following A Lead

The Washington Post described how the story unfolded when police caught wind of a possible match the missing Air Force captain. “The U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service caught on to Hughes’s whereabouts, which were not specified, during a passport fraud investigation, leading them to the man named O’Beirne. When investigators confronted him about “inconsistencies about his identity,” the man confessed…” But what he confessed to is something that will have your jaw dropping to the floor. Read on to find out what happened!

Mystery Solved

You probably will not believe this, but Captain William Howard Hughes Jr. was found over three decades later and arrested in California on June 5, 2018. In fact, he had been living in his home in Daly City, which is a small and quiet suburb in San Francisco. He admitted to creating an alias by the name of Barry O’Beirne after Air Force investigators challenged him with various inconsistencies regarding his identity. Cannot believe what you just read? Well, we told you so.

Working for the California University

As strange as things might seem, William Howard Hughes was actually working for a couple of years for the University of California system as a health benefits actuary and consultant. A colleague of his Judy Boyette was very surprised to see him in custody. “My gosh, that’s Tim! Oh, my word. That is unbelievable. But that’s him! Wow.” She also described him as articulate and clever. “The thing I loved about him was that he could relate to everybody. Just a very nice personality,” said Boyette.

A Friendly Co-worker

It is not uncommon for these people to form relationships over time. After all it is human nature. Another person who worked with ‘Tim’ over a period of a year was Stephanie Rosh. Of the man she thought she knew she said that she considered him a friend and that he showed leadership qualities. “He is very smart,” Stephanie said. “Always had a wry sense of humor. Always joking.” And if the staff was exhausted, “he might take the whole team out after work. A team player.”


The Great Vanishing Act

The urge to fall off the face of the earth and disappear is surely a concept as old as human society itself. It might be triggered by something that happened instantaneously or even something developing over time making the individual anxious or depressed. A lot of people contemplate disappearing, but quickly push the thought aside seeing it as impossible or ridiculous with too many hurdles. You might be surprised to know that thousands of adults, that is two thirds of missing adults make a conscious decision to do so.

Why People Choose to Stay Away

Paul Joseph shares as to why people stay away rather than coming back to face their families. “A lot of people who go missing, don’t necessarily plan that far ahead when they leave home,” stated Paul. “But then when they have been away for some time, they find it harder to return. Some people start feeling guilty about what they have done and can’t face up to it. The emotions they are feeling can be very complex.”

A Pleasant and Quiet Man

Neighbors of Hughes must have had quite the shock when they turned on their televisions only to discover that their neighbor was someone completely different to what they thought. He went by his self-given middle name, Timothy and he was well liked, said June Dayao, a retired teacher aged 60. “Everyone knew him as Tim. He was very pleasant. That’s him but he always had his Giants hat on.” Read on to find out what others had to say about the man behind the Giants cap.

Making Giant Plans

Neighbor, June Dayao also stated that she and her husband had at one stage even made plans to one day go and see a Giants game since he was such an avid fan. Hughes, or ‘Tim’ as they knew him agreed enthusiastically although that plan never came to fruition. Another neighbor, Lorenzo Laurel, aged 62 called him the ideal neighbor. “I would only see him when he leaves or throws out the garbage, he was very private.”

Other Similar Cases

This is, of course not the first time an Air Force Serviceman has gone missing. Just last year we learned about a man named Jeffrey Michaels who disappeared at the age of 24 four decades ago. He went missing in North Dakota but was found to be living in a gated community in Sanford, Florida with a wife and children. It is not clear as to why Michael’s did what he did because he refused to answer those kinds of questions.

Dishonorable Discharge?

When being interviewed about his disappearance Captain William Howard Hughes, now 66 years old admitted to becoming depressed with his job and that is why he decided to flee back in the 80s. He is now detained and could face five years in prison, he might have to forfeit his pay and also receive a dishonorable discharge for his actions. Some claim that he should be released due to the fact that he has not given any state secrets away, others believe he should be punished for his crimes.

What Happens To Traitors

When you consider what Captain William Howard Hughes has done, some would say he has committed treason. This is a punishable offense in the United States, which is defined in the United States Constitution. There have only been around thirty people who have been charged with treason, but those people also have to answer to their own state. So what do the particular laws in California state for people committing treason? Read on to find out!

Treason in California

In section 37 of the California Penal Code it states that, “treason against the State consists only in levying war against it, adhering to its enemies, or giving them aid and comfort. A person may not be convicted of treason except on the evidence of two witnesses to the same overt act or by confession in open court.” At the moment there would be no evidence to suggest that Captain William Howard Hughes did this, so what is to happen to him?

Where Is He Now?

Captain William Howard Hughes is now being detained at the Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield located in California. There he is awaiting pre-trial confinement after being found committing passport fraud. That is the official statement that was released from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. What will happen to him next is anyone’s guess. His family has been notified that he has been found alive and well and will almost certainly want to know what happened to him all those years.