A news release via The Air Force Office of Special Investigations told of Kirkland Air Force Base officer, William Howard Hughes Jr. being apprehended at his home following a fraud investigation involving a fake identity the man had been using.
Investigators said this week that Hughes had returned to the United States and begun living under an assumed name. This is the last time he was seen as William Howard Hughes until last week.
Hughes was unmarried when he disappeared, but the Seattle native had three sisters.
Checks with law enforcement around the USA and overseas, alongside interviews with those who knew Hughes, did not provide enough information for the Air Force to find him at the time.
Hughes' neighbors in Daly City, California, told CNN he went by the name "Tim" and that he lived with a woman they said they believed to be his wife.
After his arrest, Hughes told investigators that he was depressed about being in the Air Force and made a decision to leave.
William Howard Hughes, Jr. was apprehended at his home in California without incident and is now awaiting pre-trial confinement, the OSI said.
He was a radar surveillance specialist and had been involved in classified planning and analysis of Nato's control, command and communications surveillance systems during the Cold War. But after supposedly leaving for Europe, he was never seen again.
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Hughes was assigned to temporary duty in the Netherlands, working with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to test its new Airborne Warning and Control System, created to be used for surveillance, command and control, battle space management and communications.
"We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily", his sister, Christine Hughes, said in a 1984 Associated Press article, according to USA Today. Nevertheless speculation persisted that Hughes may have been abducted by or defected to the Soviets.
Hughes was taken into custody by special agents from the Travis Air Force Base and is being held at the military base.
As it turns out, it appears to be exactly what Hughes did.
Linda Card, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, told the Albuquerque Journal Sunday that to this day officials still do not have any evidence indicating leaks of classified information.
Card said Hughes' family has been notified of his apprehension, but it is unknown whether they had been in contact with him or knew his whereabouts.
"They (AFOSI investigators) said at this point there's no indication that he had any classified information or that he gave any classified information..."
USA deserters can face a number of charges once they are found, including prison time, being dishonourably discharged and losing pay. "Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story".