Shot Down

by Steve Sny­der. Sea Breeze Pub­lish­ing, 2014. 376 pp., $27.95.

Air & Space Smithsonian - - Reviews & Previews - STEPHEN JOINER IS A FRE­QUENT AIR & SPACE CON­TRIB­U­TOR.

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.

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