Uncapping untold stories of Anheuser-Busch
Editor’s note: This is a preview of an article that appears in the November issue of Gateway Journalism Review.
Before he became known as “Mr. Beer and Baseball” in St. Louis, August A. “Gussie” Busch Jr. was the subject of a feder
al investigation during World War II because of a suspected connection between a German relative and the Nazis.
Declassified documents show that shortly after Gussie Busch entered the Army in 1942, he came under suspicion. Soon a special Counter Intelligence Corps agent was inquiring into his background. While the investigation concluded that Busch was a loyal American, the findings provide a fascinating insight into his personality and behavior as witnessed by business colleagues, relatives and friends.
The investigation is just one untold story of Anheuser-Busch and the people connected to it. Additional disclosures of historical interest involving other notable characters exist in archives in St. Louis and elsewhere.
For example, the papers of the late Thomas F. Eagleton, now housed at the State Historical Society of Missouri in Columbia, show that after Gussie’s son, August A. Busch III, ousted Gussie as head of the brewery, Sen. Eagleton offered legal advice on whether Gussie should contest his removal.
And then there’s the legend surrounding Harry Caray’s ouster in 1969 as the St. Louis Cardinals’ play-by-play broadcaster. There was a rumor that Caray’s departure was connected in some way to a suspected relationship with a female member of the Busch family. That rumor is easily dispelled by the papers of Alfred Fleishman, the longtime public relations man for Anheuser-Busch, which show the Cardinals had ample reasons for not renewing Caray’s contract. The brewery had been fielding complaints about Caray’s on-the-air performance from almost the moment he sat down behind the microphone.
A Freedom of Information Act request led to the disclosure of the investigation into Busch’s loyalty. The previously secret files show that. in August 1942, the assistant director of the War Department’s Military Intelligence Division requested an investigation to determine “the character, discretion, integrity and loyalty of August A. Busch Jr., major, who is related to an alleged German agent.” A confidential summary prepared July 29, 1942, said that the relative, Paul Curt von Gontard, was a “reportedly dangerous Nazi agent now living on the West Coast.”
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