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.

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.

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:

9 thoughts on “Deserter from the U.S. Air Force apprehended and tried.

  1. OMG, I am blown away. I always said that if I ever had any claim to fame it was because I was the first person at HQ AFOTEC, Kirtland AFB to realize that Bill was missing. I was the secretary in the office where Bill was. When he didn’t come in the first day I alerted my boss, and Bill’s boss also, LTC Robert Gough that Bill had not reported in. When I brought it to the attention of LTC Gough on the third day he got very worried and spent all of the rest of the last month of his Air Force career looking for Bill. Bill was one of the nicest people I ever met and I have kept thinking and praying for him ever since.
    I left Albuquerque 8 years ago, after my husband and my son both passed away. I now live in Rio Verde, AZ, I am 87 years old now. If I could ask Bill one question, it would be, “Did you let your Mother and Father know you were aliveand well?” I hope so. I always thought I would have to die before I would know what happened to Bill. I am so happy and relieved. I hope he has had a wonderful life! I would love to hear from Bill.

    1. Hello Mrs. Ogle:

      I am sorry for the loss of your dear husband and son. Having observed my mother’s grief after the passing of my father, I have a vague idea of the pain you have experienced.

      Thank you for taking the time to write and thanks for your comments. I am glad you are comforted by finding out what happened to Mr. Hughes. Do hope you are further comforted by news reports which indicate he was married and gainfully employed as an actuary when the OSI apprehended him.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment.


      1. Thank you so much Jim, I appreciate your taking the time to write to me.

        Do you think Bill will ever see my comments? Do you think I will ever hear from him?

        1. Hello Mrs. Ogle:
          I do not know. It is possible but unlikely.

          My guess would be that he is not searching the internet looking for comments about himself. If he does happen to be surfing the ‘net and sees this discussion, I do hope he reaches out to you.

          Thanks for reading and thanks for taking the time to comment.


  2. Hi Jim,

    Yes I think you are right, oh well I can’t tell you what a relief it is to k ow that Bill has been okay all these years because I was one that thought he had been forced by the Soviets to come over to their side. I never once believed he had deserted by himself. As I said he was one of the nicest people I had ever met and you seem to be another one. Thank you so much for taking your time to respond to me.

    1. Good morning Mrs. Ogle:

      I understand your relief. There are vast differences between voluntarily going over to the Evil Empire, compared to involuntary abduction, compared to walking away to start a new life.

      It has been my pleasure to visit with you. Blessings,


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