SHOT DOWN is the story of the author’s father, Howard Snyder, pilot of the Susan Ruth, and the crew he commanded, shot down over Belgium on Feb. 8, 1944. It provides short biographies for Snyder and his crew – co-pilot George Eike, bombardier Richard Daniels, navigator Robert Benninger, flight engineer Roy Holbert, radio operator Ross Kahler, ball turret gunner Louis Colwart, waist gunners Joe Musial and John Pindroch, and tail gunner William Slenker – and traces their divergent fates as those who survived the disaster sought to get home safely from Nazi-occupied territory.
This is a priceless account that will be treasured by present and future historians. The story is rich with cultural, historical, personal, and military detail, explaining everything from the training process for an Air Force pilot, to the interactions between American servicemen and British civilians, to what it was like to live in a Belgian country village under Nazi occupation, and much more. Most of the book comes directly from primary sources, including Howard Snyder’s diary and letters home as well as those of his crew, the accounts of the Belgian civilians who aided the downed airmen, and the airmen’s wives and family members’ letters to each other and to their loved ones overseas. Even the Axis side of the story is not neglected – Hans Berger, one of the Luftwaffe pilots who shot down the Susan Ruth, also provides his account of what happened that fateful day, and gives his own, rather touching, perspective on the war.
Pictures, documents, and other records are sprinkled through the book as appropriate, adding visual and personal interest. The author’s tone is calm and informative, providing paragraphs, even at the most dramatic moments of the story, on side details like the excellence of Belgian chocolate and beer – this may be considered either as distractions from the adventure story or delightful bits of historical context, depending on the reader’s perspective. In any case, this book is an absolutely indispensable read for anyone interested in World War II history.
SHOT DOWN is an invaluable, richly-detailed, intimate yet thorough look at a dramatic period of world history, seen directly through the eyes of real people who were right in the middle of the action.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader