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John A. Busterud

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Lieutenant Colonel John A. Busterud, USA (ret.) “was a young 1st Lieutenant in the 90th Infantry Division in Europe during World War II, who helped to supervise the guarding, tallying and removal of the gold, silver and priceless art treasures which his division found deep underground when it overran the little town of Merkers, Germany and captured the Kaiseroda salt mine on Easter Weekend in 1945. During the author’s ten day assignment at the mine he had the opportunity to meet and talk with Generals Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton, as well as nine other general officers who visited the Merkers mine. Busterud is a retired Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserve. He is a past president of the Commonwealth Club of California, and a former California State Assemblyman. He also served as Chairman of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality and as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. The author is an attorney and presently resides in Palo Alto, California.  John A. Busterud is the author of Below the Salt: How the Fighting 90th Division Struck Gold and Art Treasure in a Salt Mine.


According to the book description of  Below the Salt: How the Fighting 90th Division Struck Gold and Art Treasure in a Salt Mine, it “tells the exciting story of how the 90th Infantry Division discovered the greatest treasure to be found by Allied forces in World War II, buried deep underground in a German salt mine. It sets the stage for momentous event by following the division from its D-Day landings on Utah Beach, through its heartrending struggles to become a successful fighting unit in the hedgerows of Normandy, gradually transforming itself into one of the best battle-hardened divisions in Europe as it closed the Falaise Gap, raced across France, crossed the flooded Moselle River, created a bridgehead across the Saar River, helped to trap thousands of Germans in the Bulge, forced a surprise assault crossing of the Rhine, and eventually ended the war in Czechoslovakia.

Below the Salt: How the Fighting 90th Division Struck Gold and Art Treasure in a Salt Mine
John A. Busterud  More Info

Despite the 90th Division’s exploits in battle, the tale that wagged its dog proved to be the capture of the Kaiseroda Mine in the small village of Merkers, Germany in April 1945. Deep in the potash mine the division found untold wealth: virtually the entire gold and currency reserves of the German Reichsbank, together with all of the priceless art treasures which had been removed from Berlin’s museums for protection against allied bombing raids and possible capture by rapidly advancing Russian troops. Taking the mine stirred the imagination of the public and the press. All of America’s top military leadership in Europe, including Generals Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton, visited the mine and viewed the treasure. It was a heady experience for the battle-weary GIs of the 90th Division, and a welcome respite from combat. Below the Salt concludes with the story of what happened to all of the gold and art treasures after the war.”


According to a reader of Below the Salt: How the Fighting 90th Division Struck Gold and Art Treasure in a Salt Mine, “Below the Salt is one of those books that is hard to put down. The author recreates the history of the 90th Division as they fight their way through France and into Germany. What makes this book a gem is the focus on the everyday struggles of the soldier. As an avid reader of WWII history, I learned alot from this book.”

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