It was a drawer to an old tool bench that didn’t fit that prompted author John Clauson to track down the truth about his “IBM salesman” father, Wallace Clauson, who actually was one of America’s secret weapons during the Cold War.
The story is told in “Missileman: The Secret Life of Cold War Engineer Wallace Clauson.”
John Clauson had heard from his father, shortly before he died of cancer, about his life in the shadows.
“He always said he was an IBM-er and that he had something to do with sales,” Clauson told the website SeattleRefined, an affiliate of Sinclair Television Group, in an Aug. 9 report.
But his father revealed that throughout the Cold War he “was working at Livermore Rad Lab – which was a nuclear weapons plant,” he said.
John Clauson didn’t believe it: “I thought in the back of my mind that the cancer got to his brain.”
But it was true. When Clauson inherited his father’s old tool bench, he found proof hidden beneath one of the drawers.
“I pulled in the driveway and I could see my mom had the movers deliver the workbench to the garage – but all the drawers were out,” Clauson said. “I went to put the drawers in the bench and the second drawer … I couldn’t get in. Finally, I looked up like this and saw on the bottom. And there were a stack of 60 to 70 business cards – everything about the Cold War. And I’m thinking ‘what kind of salesman is this guy?'”
The “salesman,” it turns out, was a top secret nuclear missile engineer working for the U.S. government throughout the Cold War.
According to the report, Clauson’s research “led him down a rabbit hole of top secret government projects, espionage, and verifying his dad’s firsthand accounts of times when the Cold War almost heated up.”
John Clauson wasn’t the only member of his family who didn’t know what his father was really doing.
“He never told any of the family this! I’m the only one he told – and my mom didn’t even know,” he said. “I felt I had the responsibility to tell the family, once I did the research. I wanted to write the story of his life.”
Clauson has done just that. The fruit of his labor is “Missileman: The Secret Life of Cold War Engineer Wallace Clauson.”
“Missileman” is the true account of how Wallace Clauson kept his real work hidden from his family and his neighbors for 50 years.
Moving every few years, even living for a period in Zurich, Switzerland, Clauson led a life full of anxiety and suspicion.
He would always check flight manifests before flying and would be the last one on the plane to make sure no unregistered passenger had embarked. He always backed into his driveway to ensure a quick getaway if necessary, and he had his son’s car fitted with a GPS transmitter – in the 1970s!
In Switzerland, the Clausons lived in a house with a secret passageway leading to an underground meeting room, and the family was always watched by multiple agents to ensure their safety.
When asked how proud he is of his dad, John Clauson said, “incredibly.”