Review: Shot Down by Steve Snyder

★★★★★ Shot Down by Steve Snyder

In Shot Down: The true story of pilot Howard Snyder and the crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth, author Steve Snyder tells his father’s story in World War II in a riveting and unforgettable peek into the past. When Lieutenant Snyder and his crew are shot down over Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II, hope of survival is grim, and the brutal nature of wartime is fully revealed.

Based on hundreds of unique accounts, letters, interviews, and intensive research, Shot Down pieces together a profoundly compelling story of survival and perseverance. With such a strong body of material and truth to back up the story, this work of non-fiction is nothing short of brilliant. Not only does Snyder provide an incredible tale to readers, but also delves into the personal lives of people from so long ago, revealing the human element of this story in a gripping and raw way that leaves a lasting impression.

The combination of backstory and procedural detail concerning those airmen on board the Susan Ruth makes for a harrowing and heartfelt tale. By the time the story ends, readers feel as though they truly know these men, have suffered and struggled beside them, and have partially tapped into the emotional toll their disappearance must have taken on their families. For anyone who wants to learn more about the goings-on during World War II, and the complexity of that war’s maneuverings (both political and military), this book is a must-read.

The writing as a whole takes on a number of different styles that flow well with one another. For example, a chapter may begin with a narrative recollection taken from a letter or interview, but then be supported by factual prose that fills in the blanks and completes the historical picture for readers. There are few mistakes or rough patches, and while some readers will be more interested in the adventurous side, rather than the in-depth military explanations that can occasionally drag on, the book in its entirety is a resoundingly good read. Snyder seamlessly ties facts and dates in with memories and emotions, painting a richly composite picture of this unbelievable group of young men.

Shot Down is a highly emotional book that will infuse the reader with a sense of patriotism, righteousness, and courage, and perhaps to stand up a bit taller for what you believe. That’s no small feat for a work of non-fiction about World War II, which has no shortage of books about the subject, but Shot Down is a truly unique and compelling read.

The story, at the end of the day, is one of hope, of belief in the kindness of strangers, and of faith that the world will find its moral compass when it needs it most. Steve Snyder’s ability to enter the world of his father and share it with readers in such vivid detail is impressive, given how the tone could have lost some of its objectivity. The portrait of Howard Snyder is both heroic and deeply human, and his son was wise to dedicate this much time to uncovering the truth of his father’s epic story.

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