US Air Force Nabs Deserter After 35 Years

A U.S. Air Force captain with top security clearance has been arrested 35 years after he walked away from his job and was declared a deserter by the defense department. 

William Howard Hughes Jr. was arrested without an incident at his home in California. 

Hughes was 33 years old and worked on classified planning and analysis of NATO’s control, command and communications surveillance systems during the Cold War. 

He had just returned from a temporary assignment in The Netherlands, where he worked with NATO officers on the Airborne Warning and Control electronic surveillance aircraft. He was supposed to report back to Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico in August 1983, but he didn’t show up. 

At the time of his disappearance, he was thought to have either been captured by Soviet agents or voluntarily defected to the Soviet Union, the Air Force Times reports.

But an Office of Special Investigations spokeswoman told the Albuquerque Journal that there’s no indication Hughes was involved with the Soviet Union or that any classified information was leaked. 

After his arrest, Hughes told investigators that he was depressed about being in the Air Force and decided to leave. 

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

He is being held at the Travis Air Force Base in California.