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Missing Air Force officer found 35 years later

12 June 2018

At the time, Hughes was single and assigned to an Air Force center in New Mexico, where he had responsibilities including "classified planning and analysis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command, control, and communications surveillance systems", the Air Force said. He had been last seen in New Mexico, where he withdrew almost $30,000 from his bank account at 19 different branch locations.

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.

After his arrest, Hughes told investigators that he was depressed about being in the Air Force and chose to leave. Inside his townhouse they discovered a to-do list and a list of books Hughes planned to read upon his return. Nevertheless speculation persisted that Hughes may have been abducted by or defected to the Soviets.

The U.S. State Department was investigating Hughes - who claimed to be "Barry O'Beirne" - for possible passport fraud when he revealed his true identity.

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It is unknown whether family had been in contact with Hughes or knew of his whereabouts following his 1983 disappearance.

Hughes' sister, Christine Hughes, told the Associated Press in a January 1984 article that the family believed he had been abducted, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

In a 1986 Los Angeles Times commentary titled "Sabotaged Missile Launches?" for example, the former longtime New York Times foreign correspondent Tad Szulc wrote: "The French and American accidents are adding up to a freakish pattern, surrounded by odd coincidences and unexplained events, deeply preoccupying Western intelligence". Hughes also had top security clearance and deserted his post on July 25, 1983.

At the time of his disappearance, Hughes was in his early thirties. "These include the apparent defection to the Soviet Union in 1983 of the U.S. Air Force's leading expert on rocket self-destruct procedures" - meaning Hughes. Investigators were interviewing a man claiming to be Barry O'Beirne.

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"Intelligence officers believe that Hughes was either captured by Soviet agents or voluntarily defected to the Soviet Union", the Times said. Friends and co-workers also didn't provide any information, the Air Force said. Secret and NATO Secret information, " the Air Force maintained that he was not carrying classified information with him on his trip to the Netherlands.

But AFOSI spokeswoman Linda Card said there are many more questions to be answered as the investigation continues.

Hughes is at Travis Air Force Base awaiting pre-trial confinement.

"Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story", Card said.

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Hughes faces desertion charges, which carries a maximum of five years in prison.

Missing Air Force officer found 35 years later