Deserter from the U.S. Air Force apprehended and tried.

William Howard Hughes, Jr. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A 1983 deserter from the U.S. Air Force was arrested in 2018 and has now been tried and sentenced.

I was advised today by the Air Force Office of Special Investigation that the now-former officer has been tried and dismissed from the service. I’m working to find out the results of his trial and his current status. As more details are learned, updates will be posted.

(Cross posted from my other blog, Nonprofit Update.)

Update 3/4/20Deserter from U.S. Air Force in 1983 was convicted at general court-martial, dismissed from service, and spent a short time in prison.



Back in July 1983, while the Cold War was still running, USAF Captain William Howard Hughes Jr. deserted after returning to Albuquerque from a TDY in Europe. He did not report to his duty station on August 1, 1983.

He was last seen making 19 withdraws from his bank account totaling $28,500. That may have been around a year’s gross salary at the time. Would have allowed him to run and hide for a while as he worked on his new identity. His car was abandoned at the Albuquerque airport.

In December 1983, the Air Force declared him a deserter.

At the time there was worry whether he had been abducted by the big bad Soviet bear or perhaps had defected to them the Evil Empire. Either option would have been really bad given his Top Secret/Single Scope Background Investigation clearance and access to NATO radar technology.


He hid for 35 years until being found out as a result of a State Department investigation of an odd passport request.  Former Capt. Hughes was living in Daly City, California, as Barry “Tim” O’Beirne upon arrest on June 6, 2018.

At the time of his arrest, he was reportedly living with his wife.

(Update 3/3/20: Image how that conversation might have gone after OSI rushed into the room:  “Um, honey, these Air Force people who put me in handcuffs are going to take me to jail for a little while. Yeah, seems crazy. But actually, there are just a few little details about my past that I kinda’ forgot to tell you. How long will this be? Um, I may be gone for 3 to 5 years.  See ya’ soon.”)

Recent work experience was as an actuary and consultant on HR benefits to the University of California system.

He faced a potential sentence of five years in prison, dishonorable discharge, and forfeiture of all pay.

Those of us who faithfully completed our service commitment could offer some additional punishments, but the UCMJ probably wouldn’t allow any of the suggestions.

Mr. Hughes does not appear in the Bureau of Prisons database, but since this is a military case, that is what I would expect.

As mentioned above, as I find out more details on the disposition, I’ll post updates.

Some background articles:

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