Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 25 Dec 2015
Full Title: Shot Down: The True Story of Pilot Howard Snyder and the Crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth
In Shot Down, author Steve Snyder told the story of the B-17G bomber "Susan Ruth", serial number 42-31499, piloted by his father Howard Snyder. On 8 Feb 1944, the aircraft crashed near Macquenoise, Belgium, and the survivors met various fates. Snyder captivatingly told of the courage of Belgian resisters, the poor treatment at prisoners of war camps, and the emotional roller coaster experienced by the mothers and wives of the missing airmen. While memoirs make poor history due to the lack of objectivity, this book was more so due to the bias of family connection and an entirely American-centric perspective. Nevertheless, the author made up for that weakness by providing information, if cursory, on a wide array of topics, ranging from the basic responsibilities of each B-17 crewman to the development of German fighter tactics against American multi-engined bombers. The author's simple language and concise chapters made this book an easy read, while the book was handsomely bound in hard cover. All in all, I had enjoyed Shot Down very much. Although it offered little new knowledge on the air war over Europe, Howard Snyder and his comrades' collective experience was a story worth telling. The airmen's sense of duty and the Belgian resisters' selflessness reminded me that while war was the single most terrible thing man could inflict on one another, such nightmares also brought out the best in us.
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945