John Clauson grew up believing he was the son of an IBM salesman. Though the family moved often and John’s father, Wallace Clauson, rarely spoke of his work, his family never questioned him nor seemed to notice the inconsistencies and oddities apparent in their daily life. Only decades later, while in his mid-30s, did John finally learn the truth from his father as he was dying of cancer. For over forty years, being an IBM salesman was just a cover. Wallace’s real job was with IBM’s covert Federal Systems Group where, as a mathematical and mechanical savant, he took his orders from the Department of Defense and was charged with ensuring America’s arsenal of nuclear missiles hit their targets.
Over the span of three days, as he and his father built a backyard fence, John learned his father’s hidden story—how Wallace Clauson has been recruited from an Iowa farm due to an error in a high school textbook. He learned of a meeting with Einstein, and about his father’s role in the Cold War, and NASA and Iranian missiles.
Stunned into silence and left to question the entire fabric of his youth, John wanted only to forget his father’s words. In fact, for the next fifteen years, he never spoke about what his father had confessed over that weekend. But he couldn’t truly forget. Upon his father’s death, John was given his father’s workbench, which contained a hidden packet of business cards—Wallace’s final plea to have his story told. Thus the journey toward discovering the extraordinary clandestine life and career of Wallace Clauson began.
Missileman is the story of that journey. It is the true account of how Wallace Clauson kept his real work hidden from his family and his neighbors for fifty years. Moving every few years, even living for a period Zurich, Switzerland, Clauson led a life full of anxiety and suspicion. Missileman tells how Clauson would always check flight manifests before flying and would be the last one on the plane to make sure no unregistered passenger had embarked. How he always backed into his driveway to ensure a quick getaway if necessary. How he had his son’s car fitted with a GPS transmitter—in the 1970s! How in Switzerland they lived in a house with a secret passageway leading to an underground meeting room. And how the family was always watched by multiple agents to ensure their safety.
Missileman is a story of intrigue and wonder and discovery as son John Clauson reveals how his father, a stealth government agent working against the Russians during the Cold War, somehow managed to maintain a double life and keep his family safe and sheltered from the many dangers inherent in his secret life as a missileman.