SHOT DOWN: The true story of pilot Howard Snyder and the crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth; by Steve Synder

MWSA Review
As a memoir of World War Two pilot Howard Snyder’s experience in enemy territory, Shot Down by Steve Snyder introduces readers to the extremes of human nature. Soldiers and citizens risk their lives--and many lose their lives--in extraordinary feats that exemplify the concepts of integrity, honor, and courage.  This is in stark contrast to the Nazi soldiers’ cruelty and depraved indifference to human life as depicted through the author’s narrative and his father’s journal entries.  

This book takes the reader on a historical and sometimes moving chronicle of WWII. History emerges as the true main character while the tale of the author’s father, Howard Snyder supports the narrative. Snyder’s experiences in training, combat, and in hiding behind enemy lines provide the backdrop for a factual narrative of each component in Snyder’s tale. For instance, Snyder’s training allows the author to delve into a textbook outline of the rigors involved in training and combat for the crews of B-17’s. The aircraft is also headlined throughout the book, as the author’s research presents itself in page after page of detail on the history and evolution of the B-17. The backdrop, origin, and timeline of World War Two are all thoroughly addressed and bear much of the weight of this book. 

The historical theme of this book is personified through the tale of Howard Snyder. Shot down over enemy territory, Snyder survives and ultimately returns to his family through the courage of citizens who help him and others like him. Diary entries, pictures, and excerpts from letters between Snyder and his wife impart emotion into the historical aspect of this book. A heavy volume of facts about soldiers and citizens alike who battled the Nazis in heroic fashion demands respect and gratitude from the reader for all who fought and sacrificed.

Steve Snyder writes with a passion for history that is illuminated through the evident research he devoted to this book. Historical aficionados will appreciate this detail. 
Reviewed by: Barbara Allen

Author's Synopsis
Belgium ... February 8, 1944 ... Shot Down and Alive

For the first time, the full and complete story of the B-17 Flying Fortress Susan Ruth is shared in unbelievable detail. Author Steve Snyder’s story of his father, Lieutenant Howard Snyder, and the Susan Ruth crew, provides in-depth details about many aspects of World War II few understand or know about including the: 

• separation for young families as men went off to war;
• training before heading to foreign soil;
• military combat operations;
• underground and resistance and what Lt. Snyder did when he joined it;
• German atrocities toward captured crew and civilians;
• behind-the-scenes stories of the Belgium civilians who risked all to save American flyers who were in the air one moment, spiraling down in flames the next;
• creation and dedication of the monument to the Susan Ruth and its crew located in Macquenoise, Belgium in 1989

Shot Down was created from the vast number of letters and journals of Howard Snyder; diaries of men and women on the ground who rescued, sheltered and hid the crew; and interviews conducted by historians. Centered around the 306th Bomb Group in Thurleigh, England, it is informative, insightful and captivating.

For most, 70 years is a long time ago. World War II fades in importance as each year goes by. Shot Down moves history out of the footnotes into reality, keeping the stories of real people alive as they experience being shot down. You are there, almost holding your breath as Lt. Snyder gets his crew out of his B-17 when bailing out over Nazi occupied Europe.