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USAF captain missing for 35 years found alive in California

Mystery has surrounded the discovery of a high ranking Air Force Officer with top secret clearance who went missing more than 35 years ago only to 'apparently' re-surface in California. "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", the Air Force Office of Special Investigations told CNN. He was in charge of highly classified operations involving NATO's command, control and communications surveillance systems, Task & Purpose, a news outlet run by and for veterans, reported.

Before leaving New Mexico, Hughes withdrew $28,500 from his bank account, making smaller withdrawals by visiting 19 different branches, the Air Force said.

He told authorities after his capture Wednesday that he was depressed about being in the Air Force and chose to leave, saying he created a fake identity and lived in California since he vanished in 1983.

He has been living in California under a fake identity ever since his defection.

Hughes, now 66, was charged with desertion and is being held at Travis Air Force Base in California.

William Howard Hughes, Jr. was apprehended at his home in California without incident and is now awaiting pre-trial confinement, the OSI said.

He faces a maximum sentence of five years confinement, forfeiture of all pay and dishonourable discharge for his desertion. That would be "totally out of character for the Bill we knew", she said.




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. In the wake of those disasters, Los Angeles Times journalist Tad Szulc reported in July of 1986 that intelligence officers believed the rockets may have been sabotaged with Hughes' help.

News reports told of the high ranking Air Force officer being 33 years old single when he 'mysteriously' disappeared in the summer of 1983.

At the time of his disappearance he had just returned from the Netherlands, where he had been working with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers.

The Office of Special Investigations declined to comment further on the case, telling ABC News the Air Force has nothing more to add until its legal department moves forward with a recommendation.

As Capt Hughes vanished during the Cold War, there was speculation that he had been abducted by the Soviet Union - or defected to them.

"We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily", his sister, Christine Hughes, had said, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

In 1985 and 1986, several French and American rocket ships failed to launch properly and subsequently exploded, including the Challenger space shuttle.

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