Officer Deserts Fellow Air Force Troops, 35 Years Later He’s Found Living Under False Identity

by Kim Wong-Shing
Kim Wong-Shing is a staff writer at LittleThings. Her work spans beauty, wellness, pop culture, identity, food, and other topics. She is a contributing writer at NaturallyCurly, and her work has also appeared in HelloGiggles, Lifehacker, Wear Your Voice Magazine, and other outlets. She grew up in Philadelphia, attended Brown University, and is now based in New Orleans.

A US Air Force officer with top-secret clearance went missing in 1983 — the middle of the Cold War. Thirty-five years later, the mystery of his whereabouts is finally solved.

Authorities discovered the officer, Captain William Howard Hughes Jr., living under an assumed name in California.

Prior to disappearing, William was last seen in New Mexico. He withdrew a total of $28,500 from his bank account at 19 different branch locations – a little suspicious, to say the least. The Air Force’s many attempts to find William turned up nothing.

Until now.

William went by the name “Tim,” according to his Daly City, California, neighbors.

But his passport had the name “Barry O’Beirne” on it – and that’s how he got caught.

During an investigation into passport fraud, the US Department of State “interviewed an individual claiming to be Barry O’Beirne. 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.”

According to the Air Force statement, William “was depressed about being in the Air Force so he left, created the fictitious identity of O’Beirne, and has been living in California ever since.”

Many assumed that William had been kidnapped by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but nope – he was just reinventing himself as a San Francisco Giants fan.

William is now in custody at the Travis Air Force Base, awaiting charges.

Footage provided by KTXL Sacramento.

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