Shot Down: The True Story of Pilot Howard Snyder and the Crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth. By Steve Snyder. Seal Beach Calif.: Sea Breeze Publishing, 2015. Photographs. Maps. Illustrations. Diagrams. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 360. $27.95 ISBN: 978-0-9860760-0-8
This is a gripping biography of Captain Howard Snyder, 306th BG, who was shot down over the French-Belgian border on the February 8, 1944, mission to Frankfurt by Lt. Hans Berger. Bailing out, Snyder evaded capture with the help of courageous Belgian citizens, who at the risk of their lives hid and fed him and other surviving crew. Finding it too risky to try for England, Snyder subsequently joined the Maquis, ambushing convoys and sabotaging the enemy until Allied forces liberated the area.
The author is Howard Snyder's son. He researched original sources such as correspondence, unit records, mission plans, websites, and published and unpublished secondary sources, and spoke with Eighth Air Force veterans, families of his father's crew, former Belgian underground members, and even Berger to learn about and understand his father's wartime experiences. Snyder traveled to Belgium and toured the safe houses that hid his father and crew, uncovering new information on their fates. He attended veteran's association meetings. In the process he has become a member of the World War II aviation community, speaking on the experiences of Mighty Eighth veterans at museums, airshows, and reunions.
Snyder and his crew arrived as replacements in October 1943 following the Eighth's substantial late-summer losses. Although the usual wartime operations and experiences are described as expected, this book relates the lives of Snyder, his crew, and their families from childhood through enlistment, flight school, and deployment. Amply quoted correspondence draws in the reader to know and care about these warriors and their families as people. Even others who appear only in passing are diligently named, thus tying Snyder's story and those of his crew to the rest of the Eighth and, indeed, to the generation that fought World War II. This helps the reader understand the war's impact on those who fought and lived through it.
Shot Down is one of the better recent World War II air war biographies, doing for the B-17 and the Eighth Air Force what...