Howard Hughes

Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005

Astro-Rayological Interpretation & Charts
Images and Physiognomic Interpretation

to Volume 3 Table of Contents


Howard Hughes—Billionaire Entrepreneur

(1905-1976) December 24, 1905, Houston, Texas, 10:12 PM. (Source: “confirmed by Hughes himself, and used by his astrologer). Died, April 5, 1976, 1:27 PM, of kidney failure, over Brownsville, Texas, while being flown to Houston Brownsville, TX .

(Ascendant, Virgo; MC in Gemini with Pluto also in Gemini; Sun conjunct Uranus in Capricorn; Moon, Mercury and Venus all conjunct in Sagittarius; Mars conjunct Saturn in Aquarius; Jupiter in Taurus; Neptune in Cancer)

Industrialist, film producer, and aviator. Set world speed record in 1935 of 352 MPH. Had control of TWA for years; head of Hughes Tool Corp; invested in Las Vegas land and property. Reclusive in later years. Estate valued at $2.5 Billion.


I'm not a paranoid derranged millionaire. Goddamit, I'm a billionaire.

The door to the cabinet is to be opened using a minimum of 15 Kleenexes.

Wash four distinct and separate times, using lots of lather each time from individual bars of soap.

"I am by nature a perfectionist, and I seem to have trouble allowing anything to go through in a half-perfect condition. So if I made any mistake it was in working too hard and in doing too much of it with my own hands."
-- Howard Hughes describing his way of working and the mistakes made in building the "Spruce Goose."

I am determined to elect a president of our choosing this year and one who will be deeply indebted, and who will recognize his indebtedness. Since I am willing to go beyond all limitations on this, I think we should be able to select a candidate and a party who knows the facts of political life....If we select Nixon, then he, I know for sure knows the facts of life." -- from handwritten memos by Howard Hughes, early in the 1968 presidential campaign


Best known for: aviator, movie producer, billionaire, hypochondriac.

Born: Howard Robard Hughes, Jr., December 24, 1905, in Houston.

Family: Mother: Allene (Gano) Hughes (died March 29, 1922); Father: Howard Robard Hughes, Sr., founder of Hughes Tool Company (died January 14, 1924); Uncle: father's brother Rupert, a writer for Samuel Goldwyn's movie studios; Wives: Houston socialite Ella Rice (married June 1, 1925, divorced in 1929); Actress Jean Peters (married 1957, divorced 1970); Hughes often dated Hollywood actresses in the 1930s, especially Katherine Hepburn.

Education: Hughes attended private school in Boston, where he was better at golf than classwork. He was attending Thacher School in California when his mother died. In California, Hughes spent time with his uncle, Rupert, who inspired his later interest in filmmaking. Hughes never graduated from high school. Nonetheless, his father arranged for him to sit in on classes at Cal Tech by donating money to the school. Afterward, Howard returned to Houston and enrolled at Rice Institute (now Rice University). Howard, Sr. died suddenly a few weeks after his son turned eighteen. Young Howard inherited much of the family estate and dropped out of Rice.

Profession: Family business: Uncle Rupert supervised Howard's part of the estate and interests in the Hughes Tool Company until he was twenty-one. Family quarrels led Howard to have company lawyers buy out his relatives. A Houston judge and friend of his late father's granted Howard legal adulthood on December 26, 1924, allowing him to take over the tool company.

Career: Movies: Following the summer of 1924, Howard and Ella moved to Hollywood to pursue Howard's interest in making movies. When his first attempt failed, he hired Noah Dietrich to head the movie subsidiary of his tool company, and Lewis Mileston as director. The new team won an academy award for Two Arabian Nights (1928). Their next film, Hell's Angels (1930), written and directed by Hughes and starring Jean Harlow, was the most expensive movie of its time at a cost of $3.8 million. This movie, about World War I aviators, lost $1.5 million at the box office but allowed Hughes to indulge his interest in flying. While shooting Hell's Angels, Hughes earned his pilot's license.

Two later Hughes films tested the limits of public morality. Scarface (1932) was censored until Hughes sued to allow its release, and The Outlaw (1941) became controversial for its sexually explicit advertising and content, both featuring a sensational décolletage worn by a busty Jane Russell. Inspired by the excitement over The Outlaw, Hughes later took a break from airplane fuselage design to create the half-cup bra, modelled of course by his Hollywood discovery, Jane Russell.

It was in the '30s that Hughes built the Texas Theater, the movie house in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas in which Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in 1963. The closeness of both men to the CIA makes it all but certain that the Texas Theater would have become a clandestine meeting place for spies. Such use of movie theaters had long been a staple of espionage tradecraft, and other Hughes properties were put to similar use. Hughes owned the RKO movie studio from 1948 to 1955.

Aviation: In 1932, Hughes formed the Hughes Aircraft Company division of Hughes Tool. The company has pioneered many innovations in aerospace technology. But its origin was an attempt to finance the expensive conversion of a military plane into a racing plane. The next year, he achieved a false status by lobbying the Commerce Department to lower his pilot's license number from 4223 to 80.

Charles Lindbergh's number was 69. The only real job Hughes ever had also came in 1933. He signed on as a co-pilot for American Airways. He applied under the name Charles W. Howard. The ruse was quickly discovered, however, and Hughes resigned. After entering and winning the 1934 All-America Air Meet in Miami, Hughes built and personally test-piloted the world's most advanced plane, the H-1. On September 13, 1935, he set a new speed record, taking the plane to 352 mph.

Over the next two years, he set two new records with transcontinental flights. Between July 10 and 14, 1938, Hughes piloted a special Lockheed 14 with a crew of four on a flight around the world. He cut Lindbergh's New York to Paris record in half, and finished the trip in three days, nineteen hours and seventeen minutes. Houston's airport was renamed in his honor.

As World War II approached, Hughes turned his full attention to building military aircraft. But his regard for secrecy and disregard for military protocol and standardized materials kept him from getting contracts. Henry J. Kaiser, the famous shipbuilder, helped Hughes get a contract to build three "flying boats" for $18 million in three months. Those terms proved impossible for Hughes. In the end, he produced only one of the planes after the war ended. It was flown only once on November 2, 1947, by Hughes himself. The public ridiculed him by calling the plane "The Spruce Goose." Another wartime contract for reconnaissance planes went similarly unfulfilled, and caused the deaths of two people when Hughes crashed during a test flight at Lake Mead. In 1947, the Senate investigated Hughes failure to meet his wartime contracts. In the 1950s and beyond, Hughes manufactured spy satellites.

Military-Industrial Complex: Throughout the 1950s, as the power of three entities grew -- the Hughes empire, organized crime, and the new Central Intelligence Agency -- it became all but impossible to distinguish between them.

By the end of the decade, Hughes' chief of staff, Robert Maheu, had orchestrated the CIA's dirtiest secret -- plots to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro with the help of two heads of organized crime. Vice President Richard Nixon was the White House action officer in the clandestine attempts to oust Castro. Zapata Off-Shore, the oil company owned by future CIA director and U.S. president George Bush after he split it off from Zapata Oil partner Hugh Liedtke in 1954, had a drilling rig on the Cay Sal Bank in 1958. These islands had been leased to Nixon supporter and CIA contractor Howard Hughes the previous year and were later used as a base for CIA raids on Cuba. Nixon lost the 1960 presidential election to John F. Kennedy largely because of a scandal over a never repaid $205,000 "loan" Nixon's brother received from Hughes. As attorney general, Robert Kennedy secretly investigated the Hughes-Nixon dealings.

After Bobby Kennedy's assassination in 1968, Maheu and Hughes hired long-time Kennedy advisor Larry O'Brien along with other political insiders to protect their interests in Washington. In 1953, Hughes had founded the Hughes Medical Institute in Delaware as his sole act of philanthropy. By turning over all of the stock of Hughes Aircraft Company to the institute, he made his billion-dollar-a-year weapons factory a tax-exempt charity.

By 1969, that scam was about to be shut down by a Senate bill, which followed an investigation by fellow Texan Wright Patman, the powerful chairman of the House Banking Committee. But O'Brien lobbied his allies and got a loophole creating an exemption for "medical research organizations" like the Hughes Medical Institute.

President Nixon's downfall began when he ordered burglars to break into Larry O'Brien's office in 1972. At the time, O'Brien was both a Hughes employee and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, headquartered in the Watergate Hotel. The Watergate burglars happened to have been heavily involved in the covert anti-Castro operations (which Nixon oversaw as vice president). They were also deeply involved in the conspiracies which grew out of those operations; conspiracies which prevented any major political future for the Kennedy family, and led directly to Nixon's resurrection from political obscurity.

The purpose of the break-in was never revealed because the Watergate scandal's investigations were sidetracked, likely on purpose, into a focus on multiple other high crimes by Nixon. Whatever the purpose of the break-in, Hughes was right in the middle of the major forces linking the conspiracies that resulted in the murders and character assassinations of the Kennedy brothers, and the Watergate scandal that toppled the Nixon administration.

During all of these political intrigues, arguments between Hughes and his employees continued to threaten military contracts and resulted in his firing his long-time associate Noah Dietrich in 1957. As a stockholder in Trans World Airways, Hughes lobbied for the airline's purchase of sixty-three jets in 1956. He sold his TWA stock in 1966 for $546 million when the company faced numerous lawsuits. That same year, Hughes moved to Las Vegas and began doing business there. Las Vegas organized crime interests were actively transferring casino ownership to frontmen with less tainted reputations.

Hughes took over Air West in 1970. (He was later indicted in the Air West takeover, but the case was dismissed.) Hughes was increasingly reclusive and decreasingly in control of his business dealings. Not even Nixon could contact him directly. Maheu's power was also declining.

The CIA assassination plots had begun to leak to the press, requiring the government to distance itself from Maheu. Not only did he know too much, it was one of his associates, attorney Ed Morgan, who had leaked the story to columnist Jack Anderson. It was now Chester Davis, Raymond Holliday, and Bill Gay, the Hughes Tool Company executives who ran Hughes Nevada properties, who were contacted by the CIA when they wanted to build a CIA ship, the Glomar Explorer, to recover a sunken Soviet submarine.

In 1972, Hughes sold Hughes Tool Company's stock and renamed his company Summa Corporation, ending any remaining role in his business. His health deteriorated and his entourage of aids carted him to Panama, Canada, London and Acapulco. On June 5, 1974, a break-in occurred at Hughes' Romaine Street headquarters in Los Angeles. The theft of secret documents sent shockwaves through the U.S. intelligence community.

Death: Hughes died April 5, 1976, en route by private jet to a hospital in Houston. His drastically changed appearance and the fact that he had been seen by so few people for so long forced the Treasury Department to use fingerprints to identify his body. He left an estate estimated at $2 billion. Four hundred prospective heirs tried to inherit it but it eventually went to twenty-two cousins on both sides of his family. Texas, Nevada and California claimed inheritance-tax in disputes reviewed by the Supreme Court three times. Hughes Aircraft ended up in the hands of Hughes Medical Institute, which sold it to General Motors in 1985 for $5 billion. Four hotels and six casinos in Las Vegas and Reno remained with Summa Corporation.

Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. (December 24, 1905 – April 5, 1976) was at times a pilot, a movie producer, a playboy, an eccentric and one of the wealthiest people in the world. He is famous for building the Hercules airplane, commonly known as the Spruce Goose, and for his debilitatingly eccentric behavior later in life.

Youth and Hollywood
Hughes was born in Humble, Texas. His parents were Alene (Gano) Hughes and Howard R. Hughes, Sr., who invented the dual cone roller bit, which allowed rotary drilling of oil wells in previously inaccessible places. His father founded Hughes Tool Company to commercialize this invention.

As a teenager, Hughes declared that his goals in life were to become the world's best golfer, the world's best pilot, and the world's best movie producer. Despite attending many good schools, he never earned a diploma. He attended the Fessenden School in West Newton, Massachusetts (near Boston), and the Thacher School in Ojai, California. His father subsequently arranged for him to audit math and engineering classes at the California Institute of Technology. He then enrolled at the Rice Institute (later known as Rice University).

His parents died when he was a teenager — his mother in 1922 due to complications from a minor surgery, and his father two years later from a heart attack. As a result, Hughes inherited the highly profitable Hughes Tool Company. After inheriting $17 million, Hughes dropped out of Rice to become CEO of Hughes Tool in 1924 at the age of 19.

Shortly after his father died, Hughes moved to Hollywood, California where he had an uncle, Rupert Hughes, a novelist. Ella Rice, a girlfriend whom he had met in Houston, joined him in California. They married in 1925 (and would divorce in 1929).

Hughes used his fortune to become a movie producer. He was at first dismissed by Hollywood insiders as a rich man's son. However, his first two films released in 1927, Everybody's Acting and Two Arabian Knights were financial successes. His films The Racket in 1928 and The Front Page in 1931 were nominated for Academy Awards. Other movies included one of the world's first multi-million dollar productions Hell's Angels (1930) which was written and directed by Hughes and showcased his love for aviation, and Scarface (1932). His best-known film may be The Outlaw (1943) starring Jane Russell. Both Scarface and The Outlaw received attention from industry censors, who targeted the films for their disregard of certain moral standards set forth within the industry.

During this time, Hughes was a notorious ladies' man, and allegedly had affairs with many famous women and (reportedly) men, including: Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Gene Tierney, Jean Harlow, Jane Russell and Ava Gardner. Less significant affairs are rumored to have occurred between Hughes and a long list of celebrities: Yvonne De Carlo, Billie Dove, Ginger Rogers, Olivia de Havilland, Elizabeth Taylor, Kathryn Grayson, Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Carole Lombard, Paulette Goddard, Ida Lupino, Linda Darnell, Joan Fontaine, Gina Lollobrigida, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Errol Flynn, Jayne Mansfield, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Susan Hayward, Shelley Winters, Mamie Van Doren, Hedy Lamarr, Tyrone Power, Norma Shearer, Gloria Vanderbilt, Terry Moore, and Marlene Dietrich. [1]

Aviator and engineer
Hughes was a lifelong aircraft enthusiast, pilot, and self-taught aircraft engineer. He set many world records, and designed and built several aircraft himself while heading Hughes Aircraft. The most important aircraft he designed was the Hughes H-1 Racer. On September 13, 1935, Hughes, flying the H-1, set the world speed record of 352 miles per hour over his test course near Santa Ana, California. (The previous record was 314 miles per hour.) A year and a half later (January 19, 1937), flying a somewhat re-designed H-1 Racer, Hughes set a new trans-continental speed record by flying non-stop from Los Angeles to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes and 25 seconds (beating his own previous record of 9 hours, 27 minutes). His average speed over the flight was 322 miles per hour. [2] (U.S. Centential of Flight Commission web site).

The H-1 Racer featured a number of design innovations: it had retractable landing gear, so that in flight the wheels did not cause drag. It had all rivets and joints set flush into the body of the plane, also to reduce drag. The H-1 Racer influenced the design of a number of World War II fighter airplanes such as the Mitsubishi Zero, the Focke-Wulf FW190, and the F6F Hellcat. [3] (Wright Tools web site) The H-1 Racer was donated to the Smithsonian in 1975 and is on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

On July 10, 1938 Hughes set another record by completing a flight around the world in just 91-hours (3 days 9 hours) - beating the old record by more than four days. For this flight he did not fly a plane of his own design but a Lockheed 14 (a twin engine plane with a four man crew).

In 1938, the William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas, known at the time as Houston Municipal Airport, was re-named "Howard Hughes Airport," but the name was changed back after people objected to naming the airport after a living person.

As an aviator, he received many awards. This included the Harmon Trophy in 1936 and 1938, the Collier Trophy in 1939, the Octave Chanute Award in 1940, and a special Congressional medal for his round-the-world flight.

The second XF-11 prototype (with conventional propellers).
Also in 1938, William John Frye, a former Hollywood stunt flier and the first director of operations of Transcontinental and Western Air (T&WA), put in an order for the new 33-passenger Boeing 307 Stratoliner, the first commercial plane with a pressurized passenger cabin. He convinced Hughes, also enamored of avant-garde aircraft technology, to finance this purchase. By doing so, Hughes became the principal stockholder of T&WA in April 1939. Throughout the 1940s and into the 1950s, T&WA (which became Trans World Airlines) continued to bet on the most advanced planes available, largely due to Hughes' own interest in aircraft development. The airline would grow significantly under his leadership.

The H-4 Hercules with Hughes at the controls.
On July 7, 1946, Hughes barely survived a plane crash. He was piloting the maiden flight of the experimental aircraft XF-11, a U.S. Army spy plane. His flight plan included a tour of Los Angeles to show off the new plane, but an oil leak caused one of the counter-rotating propellers to reverse its thrust, causing the plane to yaw sharply. Hughes tried to save the craft by landing it on the Los Angeles Country Club golf course, but seconds before he reached his attempted destination the plane started dropping dramatically and the aircraft crashed into the Beverly Hills neighborhood surrounding the country club. When the plane finally stopped after clipping three houses, the fuel tanks exploded, setting fire to a home and the surrounding area. Hughes lay wounded beside the burning airplane until he was rescued by a Marine master sergeant who was visiting friends next door. The injuries he sustained in the crash, including a crushed collar bone, six broken ribs and third-degree burns, affected him the rest of his life. Many attribute his long addiction to opiates to the large amounts of morphine he was prescribed for the injuries. The trademark mustache he wore later in life was an attempt to cover a minor facial scar from the incident.

One of his greatest endeavors was the H-4 Hercules, nicknamed the "Flying Lumberyard", and more famously, the Spruce Goose (although its frame was built predominantly of Birch), a massive flying boat completed just after the end of World War II. The Hercules only flew once (with Hughes at the controls) in 1947. The plane was originally commissioned by the U.S. government for use in World War II, but was not completed until after the war. Hughes was called to testify before the Senate War Investigating Committee to explain why the plane had not been delivered to the United States Air Force during the war, but the committee disbanded without releasing a final report. Because the U.S. government denied him the use of aircraft aluminium (which had been rationed), Hughes built the plane largely from Birch in his Westchester, California facility to fulfill his contract. The plane was on display alongside RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California for many years before being moved to McMinnville, Oregon, where it is now part of the Evergreen Aviation Museum.


Hughes acquired RKO in 1948, a struggling major Hollywood studio. He interfered with production and even shut down shooting for weeks or months. RKO was sold in 1955.

After the war, Hughes fashioned his company Hughes Aircraft into a major defense contractor. Portions of the company wound up with McDonnell Douglas, and eventually Boeing when those two companies merged. The remainder of Hughes Aircraft was sold to Raytheon in 1998.
In 1953, Hughes launched the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Delaware, formed with the express goal of basic biomedical research including trying to understand, in Hughes' words, the "genesis of life itself." It was viewed by many as a tax haven for his wealth: Hughes gave all his stock of the Hughes Aircraft Company to the institute, thereby turning the defense contractor into a tax-exempt charity. The deal was the topic of a protracted legal battle between Hughes and the Internal Revenue Service which Hughes ultimately won. After his death in 1976, the balance of Hughes' estate went to the institute. It is America's second largest private foundation and the largest devoted to biological and medical research with a 2004 endowment of $12.4 billion.

In 1957, Hughes married actress Jean Peters.
Shortly before the 1960 Presidential election, Richard Nixon was harmed by revelations of a $205,000 loan from Hughes to Nixon's brother that was never repaid.

Hughes Space and Communications was founded in 1961. In the same year, TWA's management sued its chairman Hughes because of differences in running the company; he was forced to sell his stock in TWA in 1966 for more than $500 million. During the 1970s, Hughes went back into the airline business, buying airline Air West and renaming it to Hughes Airwest.

Glomar Explorer
In 1972, Hughes was approached by the CIA to help secretly recover a Soviet submarine which had sunk near Hawaii four years before. He agreed. Thus the Hughes Glomar Explorer, a special-purpose salvage vessel, was born. Hughes' involvement provided the CIA with a plausible cover story, having to do with civilian marine research at extreme depths, and the mining of undersea manganese nodules.

In the summer of 1974 the Glomar Explorer attempted to raise the Soviet vessel. But during the recovery a mechanical failure in the ship's grapple caused half of the submarine to break off and fall to the ocean floor. This section is believed to have held many of the most sought after items, including its code book and nuclear missiles. Two nuclear-tipped torpedoes and some cryptographic machines were recovered, along with the bodies of six Soviet submariners who were subsequently given formal burial at sea in a filmed ceremony. It has been speculated that, contrary to this official account, the entire submarine was recovered and that the CIA released disinformation to leave the Soviets with the impression that the mission was unsuccessful.

The operation, known as Project Jennifer, became public in February 1975 because burglars had obtained secret documents from Hughes' headquarters in June 1974.

The recluse
By the late 1950s, if not earlier, Hughes developed debilitating symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The once dashing figure vanished from public view and became a mystery. The media followed rumors of his movements and behavior. According to various rumors, Hughes was either terminally ill, mentally unstable, or dead and replaced by an impersonator.

Hughes had earlier displayed symptoms consistent with OCD: In the 1930s, friends reported he was obsessed with the size of peas — one of his favorite foods — and used a special fork to sort them by size before he ate. When he produced The Outlaw, Hughes became obsessed with a minor flaw in one of Jane Russell's blouses, and wrote a detailed memorandum on how to fix the problem: Hughes contended that fabric bunched up on a seam, giving the distressing appearance (to Hughes, at least) of two nipples on each of Russell's breasts.

Hughes became a recluse, living a drug-addled life locked in darkened rooms and was terrified of germs. Though he kept a barber on-call with a handsome retainer, Hughes had his hair cut and nails trimmed perhaps once a year. Several doctors were kept on salary, though Hughes rarely saw them and refused to follow their advice.

Hughes became addicted to codeine (injections), valium, and other painkillers, was extremely frail, stored his urine in jars and wore Kleenex boxes as shoes (although it has been reported that Hughes did this only once, as "protection" when a toilet flooded). He insisted on using paper towels to cover any object before he touched it, to insulate himself from germs. Hughes had contracted syphilis as a young man, and much of the strange behavior at the end of his life has been attributed by modern biographers to the tertiary stage of that disease. His well-documented aversion to handshaking, for instance, probably began when he contracted syphilis. The disease first revealed itself in the form of tiny blisters erupting on his hands. After receiving medical treatment, Hughes was warned by his doctor not to shake hands for a time. Hughes avoided it the rest of his life. Syphilis was also responsible for a bizarre episode in which Hughes burned all his clothes. (In the film, The Aviator, 2005, it is presented as his response to Katharine Hepburn's leaving him.) In reality, it was Hughes' overreacting to the syphilis diagnosis by ordering every piece of clothing and bed linen in his home destroyed.

Later years

Time cover depicting a late-life Hughes, on the occasion of his death in 1976

With his entourage, Hughes moved from hotel to hotel, from the Beverly Hills Hotel to Boston to Las Vegas, where he bought the Desert Inn (because they threatened to evict him) and several other hotel/casinos (Castaways, New Frontier, The Landmark Hotel and Casino, Sands and Silver Slipper). He was known for modernizing Las Vegas by buying much of it from the Mafia. He bought television stations such as KLAS-TV in Las Vegas so that there would be something to watch when he was up all night with insomnia.

Hughes' considerable business holdings were overseen by a small panel sometimes dubbed "The Mormon Mafia" due to the many Latter-day Saints in the group. While running day-to-day business operations, they also took great pains to follow Hughes' every bizarre whim. For example, Hughes took a liking to Baskin Robbins' banana-nut ice cream, and his aides were horror-stricken when they learned that Baskin-Robbins had eliminated the flavor. They made a special order of 350 gallons — the smallest amount the company could provide for a special order — and had it shipped from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. A few days after the order arrived, Hughes announced he'd tired of banana-nut and only wanted vanilla ice cream. For years afterwards, Hughes' aides gave free gallons of banana-nut ice cream to their friends and family.

In Nevada, Hughes wielded enormous political power; he was often able to influence the outcome of elections and legislation. His influence did have its limits; he was afraid of the effects of nuclear radiation from the open-air nuclear weapons tests then conducted in the state, and told his aides to offer $1 million to presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon if they'd bring the tests to an end. Hughes' aides never offered the bribes, but reported to Hughes that Johnson had declined the offer, and that they were unable to contact Nixon.

As he deteriorated, Hughes moved to the Bahamas, Vancouver, London, and several other places, always living in the top floor penthouse with the windows blacked out. Every time he moved out, the hotel seemed to need to remodel to clean up after him.

In 1971, he divorced Jean Peters; they had been living apart for several years. She agreed to a lifetime alimony payment of $70,000 annually, adjusted for inflation, and she waived all claims to Hughes' estate. The usually paranoid Hughes surprised his aides when he did not insist on a confidentiality agreement from Peters as a condition of the divorce; aides reported that Peters was one of the few people Hughes never disparaged. Peters refused to discuss her life with Hughes, and declined several lucrative offers to do so. She would state only that she had not seen Hughes for several years before their divorce.

According to some speculation on the Watergate affair, the 1972 burglary of Democratic headquarters had been ordered by President Nixon's aides in order to recover potentially damaging papers documenting payments from Hughes to Nixon, and in an effort to link the Democrats to Hughes. Larry O'Brien, the Democratic National Committee chairman whose office was broken into, had been a paid lobbyist for Hughes since 1968.

Hughes' eccentricities have fascinated the public for years. Time, 1976

In 1972 author Clifford Irving claimed he had co-written an authorized autobiography of Hughes, and created a media sensation. Hughes was such a reclusive figure that he hesitated in condemning Irving, which in the view of many, lent credibility to Irving's account. Prior to publication, Hughes, in a rare telephone conference, denounced Irving, exposing the entire project as an elaborate hoax. Irving later spent fourteen months in jail after fraudulently receiving a $765,000 advance.

Hughes died on an aircraft en route from his penthouse in Mexico to Methodist Hospital in Houston on April 5, 1976, at the age of 70. He was unrecognizable, and the FBI insisted on fingerprints to identify Hughes' remains. The autopsy determined kidney failure as the cause of death. His body was in extremely poor condition; X-rays showed broken off hypodermic needles in his arms.

Howard Hughes is interred in the Glenwood Cemetery in Houston, Texas. Estate

Utah service station owner Melvin Dummar claimed that late one evening in December 1968, he'd picked up a solitary Howard Hughes as a hitchhiker lying by the side of U.S. Highway 95, 150 miles north of Las Vegas, and that after giving Hughes a ride to the Sands hotel-casino in Las Vegas, Hughes had later made Dummar 1/16th inheritor of his $2 billion estate. However, the will presented by Dummar (which would have garnered Dummar $156 million) was rejected by a Nevada court as a forgery two years after Hughes's death. The 1980 movie Melvin and Howard is based on this event.

More than forty wills and 400 claimants vied for part of Hughes' estate. The estate eventually settled with 22 cousins in 1983. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Hughes Aircraft was owned by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, who sold it to General Motors in 1985 for $5 billion. Suits brought by the states of California and Texas claiming they were owed inheritance tax were both rejected by the court.

In 1984, Hughes' estate paid an undisclosed amount to actress Terry Moore, who claimed to have been secretly married to Hughes in 1949 and never divorced; she went on to write a book about her affair with Hughes, titled The Beauty and the Billionaire. Since Moore was married to five other men after 1949, the question of bigamy arises.

Howard Robard Hughes Jr. (1905-1976) was arguably the most secretive and self-destructive man ever to win fame in Southern California’s two glamour industries --- movies and aviation. Hughes was certainly an American original, and to many he represented the ultimate unconventional Californian.

The peaks and valleys of his life were startling. As an aviator, he once held every speed record of consequence and was hailed as the world’s greatest flyer, "a second Lindbergh." At various points in his life he owned an international airline, two regional airlines, an aircraft company, a major motion picture studio, mining properties, a tool company, gambling casinos and hotels in Las Vegas, a medical research institute, and a vast amount of real estate; he had built and flown the world’s largest airplane; he had produced and directed "Hell's Angels," a Hollywood film classic.

Yet by the time he died in 1976, under circumstances that can only be described as bizarre, he had become a mentally ill recluse, wasted in body, incoherent in thought, alone in the world except for his doctors and bodyguards. He had squandered millions and brought famous companies to the financial brink. For much of his life, he seemed larger than life, but his end could not have been sadder.

Hughes was born in Houston, Texas, (some historians say Humble, Texas)the son of a flamboyant oil wildcatter, Howard Hughes Sr. Four years after Hughes Jr.’s birth, his father patented a rotary drill bit with 166 cutting edges that penetrated thick rock, revolutionizing oil drilling worldwide. Hughes Sr. and a partner formed what would become the Hughes Tool Company and began leasing the rotary bits to drillers for as much as $30,000 per well. They also bought up patents for other rock bits and devised new drills for the oil industry. The Hughes family was now wealthy.

Hughes Jr. grew up an indifferent student with a liking for mathematics, flying, and things mechanical (he once built a motorcycle from parts taken from his father’s steam engine). He dropped out of Rice Institute in Houston and, through his father’s influence, audited math and engineering classes at Caltech in Pasadena, Calif.

Upon his father’s death in 1924, the 18-year-old Hughes inherited an estate valued at almost $900,000, including 75% of Hughes Tool Company, whose control he assumed a year later. As Otto Friedrich writes in City of Nets, a book about Hollywood in the1940s: "So it was the Hughes Tool Company’s control of an indispensable oil drilling bit that enabled Howard Hughes to imagine himself one of the kings of Hollywood. No matter what he did, no matter how much money he wasted, the Hughes drilling bit would always pay his bills, would always protect him from harm."

Although shy and retiring, Hughes became enamored with the motion picture industry and moved to Los Angeles in 1925. The city was already the world capital of film production. Hughes financed three films of varying quality (one of them won an Academy Award for director Lewis Milestone) before undertaking an epic movie about Royal Air Force fighter pilots in World War I. The film was "Hell’s Angels," which Hughes came to direct as well as produce.

Undeterred by the cost, he acquired the largest private air force in the world -– 87 vintage Spads, Fokkers and Sopwith Camels -– for $560,000, then spent another $400,000 to house and maintain them. He even bought a dirigible to be burned in the film. Hughes personally directed the aerial combat scenes over Mines Field (what is now LAX). Three stunt pilots died in crashes during the filming; Hughes also crashed in his scout plane and was pulled unconscious from the wreckage, his cheekbone crushed. With expenses already exceeding $2 million, Hughes was forced to re-shoot large segments of the film with dialogue to accommodate the advent of talking pictures. And because the female star, Greta Nissen, spoke with a thick and inappropriate Norwegian accent, Hughes cast about for a replacement, finally deciding on a bit actress with platinum blonde hair named Harlean Carpenter, also known as Jean Harlow, the first Hollywood "Blond Bombshell."

The film cost Hughes $3.8 million, a record for the time. Released in 1930, "Hell’s Angels" was a runaway success and set box office records, but it never recovered its costs. ("Hell’s Angels" is now regarded as a Hollywood classic. Among the other films made by Hughes, two receive high marks from critics -- "The Front Page" and "Scarface." His most sensational film, "The Outlaw," starring Jane Russell, was described as "more to be pitied than censored.") In their 1979 book, Empire: the Life, Legend and Madness of Howard Hughes, Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele summarize the typical Hughes movie as "rich in entertainment, low on philosophy and message, packed with sex and action."

A boyish Hollywood legend, these were halcyon years for Howard Hughes. As Otto Friedrich writes in City of Nets: "No photographic record of that period would be complete without a picture of the tall, scarred and inarticulate millionaire ambling into some neon-lit nightclub, outfitted in Hollywood’s black-tie uniform and displaying a beautiful blonde on his elbow." Hughes kept company with such stars as Ava Gardner, Katherine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Terry Moore and Lana Turner, who once described him as "likable enough but not especially stimulating." (He eventually married, and divorced, actress Jean Peters.)

Throughout his Hollywood years, Hughes maintained his passion for flying. Like the movies, aviation was booming in Southern California, making the region a center for new technology. Hughes was in the thick of it, but unlike other aircraft entrepreneurs, he preferred spending his time in a cockpit rather than a boardroom.

In 1934 he won his first speed title flying a converted Boeing pursuit plane 185 miles per hour. He and a young Caltech engineer, Dick Palmer, then built a plane called the H-1 (featuring a unique retractable landing gear) which Hughes piloted to a new speed record of 352 mph near Santa Ana, Calif. This was in 1935, the year that Hughes founded Hughes Aircraft Company as a division within Hughes Tool Company, operating out of a hangar in Burbank, Calif.

In 1937 he flew from L.A. to Newark, N. J., in 7 hours and 28 minutes, a new coast-to-coast record. That same year he won the Harmon International Trophy as the world’s outstanding aviator and was honored by President Roosevelt in the White House. The following year, 1938, he set an around-the-world record of 3 days, 19 hours and 17 minutes; in the process he cut Charles Lindbergh’s New York-to-Paris record in half. (Radio equipment developed by Hughes Aircraft engineers for this flight would later serve as an entry into the electronics field.) Upon his return, Hughes was given a ticker tape parade down Broadway in New York City. He was at the height of his popularity.

The years of World War II were frustrating years for Hughes, who hoped to transform Hughes Aircraft into a major airplane manufacturer after winning government contracts for two experimental aircraft. All around him, Southern California aircraft manufacturers were producing fleets of new planes. As it turned out, Hughes Aircraft produced armaments, but not a single plane for the war effort.

One contract was for a photo-reconnaissance plane, a prototype of which (the XF-11) crashed in Beverly Hills shortly after the war during a test flight with Hughes at the controls, almost killing him. The other contract was for a plane with which Hughes is forever linked in the public mind -- a troop and cargo carrier made of wood and known by various names (the H-4 Hercules, the Hughes Flying Boat, the "flying lumberyard"), but most popularly as the "Spruce Goose."

When Howard Hughes thought he thought big and he never hesitated to take new directions. Conceived when German U-boats were ravaging Allied shipping in the Atlantic, the "Spruce Goose" was built primarily of birch -- not spruce -– in response to a wartime metal shortage. It had eight engines and the capacity to carry 700 troops or a load of 60 tons. In terms of wingspan (320 feet, which is longer than a football field) and weight (400,000 pounds) it is still the largest plane ever built. The war ended before it was completed. But it was flown -- once -- in Long Beach Harbor on Nov. 2, 1947.

With Hughes at the controls, the Flying Boat achieved a top speed of 80 mph, lifted 70 feet off the water, and flew a mile in less than a minute before making a perfect landing. The plane was then towed to a Terminal Island dry-dock, cocooned inside a giant hangar, and never seen again by the public during Hughes’ lifetime. Hughes’ Summa Corporation spent close to a million dollars a year for the lease and maintenance. After his death, the Flying Boat was put on exhibit in Long Beach Harbor beside the Queen Mary; it has since been moved to McMinnville, Ore., for display in an aircraft museum.

"It was as if he was missing the gene for corporate success," write Bartlett and Steele in their biography of Hughes. In 1948, he bought a controlling interest in RKO Radio Pictures, which he almost brought to ruin with his aberrant management style. He did much the same with Trans World Airlines (TWA), whose controlling interest he bought in 1939. Although he did much to transform TWA into a major international carrier, his secretive ways and quixotic decisions nearly plunged the airline into bankruptcy. In 1966 he was forced to sell his TWA shares after losing a lawsuit that charged him with illegally using the airline to finance other investments. The sale netted Hughes over half a billion dollars. To many, it seemed more like a victory than a defeat.

That same year, 1966, Hughes moved into the Desert Inn Hotel in Las Vegas, which he proceeded to buy (rather than be evicted), along with four other Las Vegas casinos, a radio station, and other Nevada properties. He hired an ex-FBI agent, Robert Maheu, to protect his privacy and keep him out of court, even when his own legal interests were at stake. He had become "the hermit gambling entrepreneur of Las Vegas."

Even before moving to Nevada, while he was living at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Hughes had exhibited alarming behavior. In 1958, he apparently suffered a second mental breakdown, the first having occurred in 1944. Of his days at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Bartlett and Steele write: "Hughes spent almost all his time sitting naked in [his white leather chair] in the center of the living room – an area he called the ‘germ free zone’ – his long legs stretched out on the matching ottoman facing a movie screen, watching one motion picture after another." The same pattern was repeated in Las Vegas, made worse by a drug habit that included both codeine and Valium. (The codeine had first been prescribed to alleviate pain from injuries incurred in the XF-11 plane crash years earlier.)

Although Hughes managed to attend to business and had many periods of lucidity (he held a telephone conference call with reporters in 1972 to repudiate a book by Clifford Irving purporting to be Hughes’ taped reminiscences), his physical health had turned precarious. A doctor who examined him in 1973 likened his condition to prisoners he had seen in Japanese prison camps during World War II. That same year, ironically, Hughes was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio. He was represented by a member of his 1938 around-the-world flight crew. One of the inductees defended Hughes, calling him "a modest, retiring, lonely genius, often misunderstood, sometimes misrepresented and libeled by malicious associates and greedy little men."

In the final chapter of his life, Hughes left Las Vegas for the Bahamas where he stayed until he moved to Mexico, reportedly to have greater access to codeine.

(X-rays taken during the Hughes autopsy show fragments of hypodermic needles broken off in his arms.) He died of apparent heart failure on an airplane carrying him from Acapulco to a hospital in Houston.

"Such was the mystery and power surrounding his life that when he was pronounced dead on arrival at Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, on April 5, 1976, his fingerprints were lifted by a technician from the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office and forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington," write Bartlett and Steele. "Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon, for federal tax purposes, wanted to be sure that the dead man was indeed Howard Hughes. After comparing the fingerprints with those taken from Hughes in 1942, the FBI confirmed the identity." He had not been seen publicly or photographed for 20 years.

Howard Hughes’ greatest legacy to Southern California is the family of Hughes companies founded during his lifetime. These include Hughes Aircraft Co. (1935) and Hughes Space and Communications Co. (1961), a unit of Hughes Electronics Corp. Based in Westchester, Calif., Hughes Space and Communications is the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial satellites, the designer and builder of the world’s first synchronous communications satellite, Syncom, and the producer of nearly 40% of the satellites now in commercial service. Hughes Electronics is owned by General Motors. Hughes Aircraft merged with Raytheon Company in 1998 and is now called Raytheon Systems Co. Prior to the merger, Hughes Aircraft was a world leader in high technology systems for scientific, military and global applications.

All the technological prowess of these Hughes companies would almost certainly have pleased their founder, who always had a passion for building things.
? Contributed by Albert Greenstein, 1999

Howard Hughes: A chronology
Born in Texas with a silver spoon in his mouth, Howard Hughes spent his young adulthood as a swaggering movie mogul and daring aviator. This chronology reveals all the American billionaire’s triumphs and disasters, then charts his descent into madness, squalor and death.

24 December: Howard Robard Hughes Jr is born in Houston, Texas. His mother is Allene Gano Hughes and his father is Howard Robard Hughes Sr, founder of the Hughes Tool Company and inventor of the ‘rock eater’, a drill bit that revolutionised oil drilling and was the source of his wealth.

Hughes Jr’s mother disapproves of his making friends because she believes other people are disease-carriers. If her son sniffles or coughs, she rushes him to a doctor and lavishes attention and sympathy on him.

One of the US's worst race riots breaks out in Houston, Hughes’ home town, leaving 17 dead. Some believe that this made the future tycoon a racist.

29 March: Hughes’ mother dies.
Hughes attends the Thacher School in Ojai, California, 85 miles north of Los Angeles. He also spends time with his uncle Rupert Hughes, a screenwriter for Samuel Goldwyn, who inspires his later interest in film-making. He never graduates from high school, but his father arranges for him to sit in on classes at Cal Tech by donating money to the university.

Hughes returns to Houston and enrols at the Rice Institute (now Rice University).

14 January: Hughes’ father dies.
The 19-year-old Hughes, having inherited much of the family estate, drops out of the Rice Institute.
His uncle Rupert begins to supervise Hughes’ share of the estate plus his interest in the Hughes Tool Company, a duty that is supposed to last until the younger Hughes is 21.

Family quarrels result in Hughes instructing company lawyers to buy out his relatives, all of whom he has alienated.
26 December: A Houston judge and friend of Hughes’ father grant Hughes legal adulthood, allowing him to take over the tool company.

Hughes writes a will that, among other things, provides for the creation of an institution to support medical research.
1 June: Hughes marries Houston socialite Ella Rice. They move to Hollywood so that he can pursue his interest in making films. He keeps Ella isolated at home for weeks on end.

Hughes hires Noah Dietrich, a former race-car driver turned accountant. Most experts agree that it is Dietrich who turns Hughes into a billionaire. Says Robert Maheu, later Hughes’ chief adviser, ‘He was delivering Howard profits of $50 to $55 million a year. Big bucks in those days.’
Hughes and his team of Noah Dietrich (head of the movie subsidiary of Hughes Tool Company) and director Lewis Milestone make the silent comedy Two Arabian Knights.

Hughes meets film star Billie Dove (‘The American Beauty’) and becomes obsessed with her. She is married to (though separated from) director Irwin Willat. It is rumoured that Hughes pays Willat a huge sum – quoted variously as $35,000, $300,000 and $325,000 – in return for Willat agreeing to a divorce (which is finalised in 1929). Then Hughes buys out Dove’s contract from First National Studios and signs her to his own studio, Caddo Pictures, for $50,000 a movie. However, both films in which she stars for him – The Age of Love and Cock of the Air – are financial failures, and by the time the second reaches the screen in 1932, Hughes has lost interest in Dove and they part.

The film The Racket, produced by Hughes, is nominated for an Oscar.
His marriage failing, Hughes becomes involved with a string of actresses, which would eventually include Jean Harlow (the star of Hell’s Angels, see below), Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Jane Greer, Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth and Janet Leigh, among many, many others. An equal opportunities lover, he was also romantically linked to Richard Cromwell, Errol Flynn, Cary Grant, Tyrone Power and Randolph Scott.

Hughes is divorced from Ella Rice. She returns to Houston.
Two Arabian Knights wins an Oscar for best director of a comedy picture.

Hughes writes and directs Hell’s Angels, which is about World War I aviators. It is the most expensive movie of its time, costing $3.8 million, and loses $1.5 million at the box office. Despite the film’s lack of success, it establishes Hughes as a major Hollywood player.

While making Hell’s Angels, Hughes earns his pilot’s licence and develops a lifelong passion for aviation. One reason for this is the fact that, as a result of a childhood illness, he suffers badly from tinnitus (ringing and noises in the ears). It is only in a plane’s cockpit that the noises cease.

The film The Front Page, produced by Hughes, is nominated for an Oscar.
In a rented corner of a Lockheed Aircraft Corporation hangar in Burbank, California, Hughes starts the Hughes Aircraft Company, a division of Hughes Tool Company, to carry out the expensive conversion of a military plane into a racing aircraft.

Scarface: The shame of the nation is finally released. Hughes is the uncredited producer (Howard Hawks, the director of the picture, gets the onscreen producer credit). It was actually made in 1930, but its release was delayed due to Hughes' squabbles with industry censors over the film’s sensationalism and glorification of gangsters. The film’s subtitle is added to help get over this. The film does badly at the box office and Hughes finally withdraws it. It is rarely seen in the US until reissued in 1979.

Hughes lobbies the US Department of Commerce to lower his pilot’s licence number from 4223 to 80.
Hughes signs on as a co-pilot for American Airways under the name Charles W Howard. His disguise is quickly discovered and he resigns.

Hughes wins the All-America Air Meet in Miami flying the H-1 Racer, the world’s most advanced plane, which he has built and test-piloted himself. Hughes calls it ‘my beautiful little thing’.

13 September: Hughes sets a new speed record of 353 mph with a streamlined H-1.

19 January: Hughes sets a new record flying an improved version of the H-1 (see 1935) from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey in 7 hours, 28 minutes, 25 seconds. His average speed is 332 mph.
Hughes buys into Transcontinental & Western Air (later TWA).

10-14 July: With a crew of four, Hughes pilots a Lockheed 14-N Super Electra – named New York World’s Fair 1939 – on a round-the-world flight. On the way, he cuts Lindbergh’s New York-to-Paris record in half, and finishes the entire journey in 3 days, 19 hours, 8 minutes. As a result, Houston’s William P Hobby Airport is renamed in his honour. (It is later changed back when protests are made about naming it after someone who is still alive – perhaps a wise move.)

7 August: Hughes is awarded the Congressional Gold Medal ‘... in recognition of the achievements of Howard Hughes in advancing the science of aviation and thus bringing great credit to his country throughout the world’.
Jack Frye, president of TWA, is bitterly feuding with board members who are against new plane purchases. At Frye's urging, Hughes quietly buys up a majority of TWA stock (for less than $7 million) and takes over the company.

Now that Hughes owns TWA, federal law prohibits him from building his own planes. Seeking one that can perform better than TWA's current fleet of Boeing Stratoliners, Hughes approaches Boeing's competitor, Lockheed. He has already established a good relationship with the manufacturer, since it had built the plane he used in his record flight around the world in 1938. Lockheed agrees to Hughes' demand that the 40-passenger airliner be built in absolute secrecy. The end result is the revolutionary Constellation.

Another of Hughes’ film productions, The Outlaw, is released. It becomes controversial for its sexually explicit advertising and content, both featuring the barely covered bosom of its star Jane Russell. During the production, Hughes was obsessed with a minor flaw in one of Russell's blouses, and wrote a detailed memorandum on how to fix the problem. He contended that fabric bunched up two seams, giving the distressing appearance (to Hughes, at least) of two nipples on each of Russell's breasts. He designs a complicated cantilevered bra to show them off to best effect, but unbeknownst to him, she never wears it because it is so uncomfortable.

July: Industrialist Henry Kaiser approaches Hughes with his idea for a fleet of flying transports to safely move troops and materiel across the Atlantic. They form the Hughes Kaiser Corporation and obtain an $18 million US government contract to construct flying boats.

Hughes flies a Constellation from coast to coast in a record seven hours. His co-pilot is TWA president Jack Frye.

Hughes meets starlet Jean Peters at a party in Newport Beach, California. He invites the 19-year-old and her date, war hero/actor Audie Murphy, to fly with him to Catalina Island aboard his private plane. According to some accounts, Hughes and Peters immediately embark on an unpublicised romance and are rumoured to have become engaged before splitting in the mid-1950s. There are also persistent rumours that Hughes and Peters had an illegitimate child in 1954.

7 July: Hughes undertakes the first flight of his XF-11 experimental twin-engined photo-reconnaissance plane. An oil leak forces one of the counter-rotating propellers to reverse direction. Hughes tries to save the plane by landing it on the Los Angeles Country Club golf course, but after clipping three houses in Beverly Hills, it crashes into a fourth. The fuel tanks explode, setting fire to the house and surrounding area. Hughes, lying beside his burning airplane, is rescued by a Marine master sergeant who is visiting friends next door.

The injuries Hughes sustains in the crash, which include a crushed collar bone, six broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a fractured skull and third-degree burns, affect him until his death. Many attribute his long addiction to opiates to the large amounts of morphine he is prescribed now. The trademark moustache he wears in later life is an attempt to cover a minor facial scar from the crash.

His difficult nine-month convalescence is overseen by Dr Verne R Mason, who becomes a lifelong friend and with whom Hughes has conversations about medical research. He later appoints Mason chair of the Hughes Tool Company’s medical advisory board.

Chair of the US Senate War Investigating Committee, Senator Owen Brewster announces that he is very concerned that the government has given Hughes millions for the development and production of two aircraft that have never been delivered. According to Brewster, in 1942 President Franklin D Roosevelt overruled his military experts in order to hand out the contracts to Hughes for the F-11 and the H-4 (later known as the ‘Spruce Goose’; see 1947). Brewster also reveals that Hughes provided ‘softening-up parties’ for government officials. He paid starlets $200 to attend these parties, their duties including swimming nude in Hughes' swimming pool. Julius Krug, the chief of the War Production Board, often attended the parties, and a congressman who was also a frequent guest says: ‘If those girls were paid $200, they were greatly underpaid.’

The US Senate War Investigating Committee (SWIC) investigates Hughes’ failure to complete his wartime contracts (see 1946). Among those tarred by Senator Brewster’s brush is Elliott Roosevelt, the son of the late president, who, Brewster says, Hughes bribed by supplying him with girls. The investigation also exposes the expense accounts of Hughes’ press agent, which show that he paid $132 for nylons for Elliott Roosevelt’s wife, the actress Faye Emerson.

Hughes tells journalists Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson that Brewster is being paid by Pan American Airways to cause trouble. According to Hughes, Pan Am is trying to persuade the US government to set up an official worldwide aviation monopoly under Pan Am’s control. As TWA’s owner, Hughes poses a serious threat to this plan. He claims that Brewster approached him and suggested he merge TWA with Pan Am. When he refused, Brewster began a smear campaign against him.

Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson begin their own campaign against Brewster. They report that Pan Am provided Brewster with free flights to Hobe Sound, Florida, where he stayed free of charge at the holiday home of Pan Am vice president Sam Pryor.

These charges are repeated by Hughes when he appears before the SWIC. Brewster denies the allegations, but they help to divert attention away from the charge that Hughes wasted millions of government dollars.

2 November: To prove that he had indeed produced at least one seaplane, Hughes flies the giant H-4 – also known as the Hercules and, more familiarly, as the ‘Spruce Goose’ because it is constructed largely of wood (birch, however, rather than spruce). Built at his Westchester, California facility, it remains the biggest aircraft ever built, with a wingspan of 320 feet (98 metres), eight massive engines and 17ft (5.2m) propellers, and weighs 300,000 lb (136,080kg). Hughes flies it for about a mile across the harbour at Long Beach, California, a flight that takes less than a minute and reaches an altitude of only about 70ft (21.3m). Although it never flies again, Hughes continues research on it until 1952 and, throughout his life, maintains it at a cost of $1 million a year. Initially displayed at Long Beach, near the Queen Mary, it is now at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. In 1977, the US Navy seriously considers test flights with the H-4 as part of research into low-altitude transoceanic flight, but finally decides against it.

The SWIC never completes its report on the non-delivery of the F-11 and the H-4. The committee stops meeting and is eventually disbanded.

Hughes purchases 929,000 shares in RKO Studios. He cuts staff from 2,500 to 600. His ‘micro-management’ of the studio and his absurd behaviour – for instance, he shuts down the operation for weeks at a time to try to control dust or to redraft his will – will eventually lead to its downfall (see 1955).

Former starlet Terry Moore later claims that this is the year in which she is secretly married to Hughes on a yacht in international waters off Mexico, never to be divorced.


to all Astrological Interpretations by Michael D. Robbins
to other commentary and projects by Michael D. Robbins
to the University of the Seven Rays

to home