Shot Down: The true story of pilot Howard Snyder and the crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth

The Book

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Winner of 20 national book awards, Shot Down is set within the framework of World War II in Europe and recounts the dramatic experiences of each member of a ten man B-17 bomber crew after their plane, piloted by the author’s father, was knocked out of the sky by German fighters over the French/Belgian border on February 8, 1944.

Some men died. Some were captured and became prisoners of war. Some men evaded capture and were missing in action for months before making it back to England. Their individual stories and those of the courageous Belgian people who risked their lives to help them are all different and are all remarkable.

Even before the dramatic battle in the air and the subsequent harrowing events on the ground, the story is informative, insightful, and captivating. Prior to the fateful event, the book covers the crew’s training, their journey to England, what life was like on base as well as in London and the English countryside, and the perils of flying combat missions over occupied Europe and Germany.

Through personal letters, oral and written accounts, declassified military documents, and interviews – all from people who took part in the events that happened over 70 years ago (even the German Luftwaffe pilot who shot down the Susan Ruth) – the stories come alive. Adding to the feeling of “being there,” are more than 200 time period photographs interspersed throughout the book.

To add background and context, many historical facts and anecdotes about and surrounding World War II are entwined throughout the book so that the reader has a feel for and understanding of what was occurring on a broader scale. Shot Down is an account about brave individuals, featuring pilot Howard Snyder, set within the compelling events of the greatest conflict in world history.

The Author

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Steve Snyder graduated from UCLA with a B.A. degree in Economics and has lived in Seal Beach, California since 1972. After 36 years in national sales and sales management, he retired from Vision Service Plan (VSP) in 2009.

Soon after retirement, Steve began his quest to learn about the World War II experiences of his father, pilot Howard Snyder, and his crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth, named after his older sister. It became his passion, and after 4 1/2 years of dedicated research, resulted in his book, Shot Down, which has received over 20 national book awards.

One result of his new career as a World War II historian is that he is a member of numerous World War II organizations and President of the 306th Bomb Group Historical Association.

My Thoughts

Steve Snyder is the son of B-17 pilot Howard Snyder who was shot down in February of 1944 on the French/Belgium border. Two members of the crew of 10 were killed in the plane, some rescued and in hiding, some captured.

The author not only did research to learn what happened to his father, but also the rest of the crew. He contacted a German man who was one of the pilots who shot down the Susan Ruth (which was named for the Lt. Snyder’s daughter). Howard Snyder was part of the 369th Bomb Squadron, 306th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, stationed in England.

I learned about their living conditions there, and also an explanation of the amazing combat formations for the hundreds of bombers sent on each mission. Snyder was kept hidden by brave Belgians. Paul Delahaye was a child in Belgium when the Nazis overran that nation. He was 13 when the Americans forced out the Germans and he met the Americans who freed them. He made it his mission to make sure the Americans are never forgotten, building memorials and starting museums.

Howard Snyder kept in touch with his rescuers and even visited there, also meeting Paul Delahaye. A remarkable and complete history.

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