by Steve Snyder. Sea Breeze Publishing, 2014. 376 pp., $27.95.
TREES STILL GROW in the Belgian wood where a parachute once snagged a limb. A propeller adorns a memorial in a nearby farm village. In Shot Down, Steve Snyder pieces the past together to meticulously re-create the fate of the fallen B-17 Susan Ruth— named for his mom and piloted by his father, Howard Snyder.
“I had long ago ceased to be nervous or afraid before a mission,” Snyder says of the fleeting foreboding he sensed when his B-17 was assigned “the hole,” a perilous slot in a formation dispatched from Thurleigh, England, to bomb Frankfurt in February 1944. A Focke-Wulf Fw 190 exploited this vulnerability and blew the Susan Ruth out of the noonday sky.
Avoiding “what Dad did in the war” indulgences, Snyder maintains a low-key, truth-telling voice, letting facts speak loud and clear. If anything is missing from the gripping account in Shot Down, only the crew of the
Susan Ruth would notice. Snyder’s research could have been condensed, but not without diminishing highresolution detail.
Doggedly defying the odds of staying free in occupied territory, Howard Snyder joined rural French resistance fighters, picking off retreating Germans while awaiting advancing Allies. Of the principals in this drama, only 90-year-old Hans Berger survives. The author’s website includes a photo of his son Clayton, the late Howard Snyder’s grandson, hoisting a beer in Munich with Berger—the scholarly Luftwaffe pilot who shot down the Susan Ruth. Closure, I think they call this.