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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Shot Down: The True Story of Pilot Howard Snyder and the Crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth is a military history book written by Steve Snyder, Howard's son. The author played at being soldiers as a boy, but did not really understand the role his father played in WWII until he was older. His father kept in touch with many of the survivors of his crew and with the people in Belgium who helped him after his plane was shot down. In 1994, Steve accompanied his parents to the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Belgium Liberation. Howard Snyder and his wife both died in 2007, and Steve began looking at the war memorabilia they had collected, including Howard's hand-written journals, letters and pictures. He continued his research into the Eighth Air Force and its role in the wartime effort.
Steve Snyder's military history book, Shot Down, reads like a novel, yet it isn't. The names and faces are all real, but their stories are presented in such a compelling manner that this thorough and painstakingly researched effort reads smoothly and fluently as Snyder and his father's journals bring the past to life. I was fascinated as I read about the training the Air Force pilots received and saw how the crew was distributed and functioned on the B-17 bombers that they flew. The drama of the daily selection of planes and their crews for each day’s bombing is so well presented, and the pictures of the airmen watching for the planes to return brought home the perils and tension they lived with on a day-to-day basis. I also found myself totally immersed in the portion of the book that tells of the heroic and selfless Belgians who helped hide American soldiers during the German occupation of that country. Shot Down is a remarkable compilation of historical data that is presented in a well-written and thought-provoking narrative. It’s most highly recommended.