About the Book:
Winner of 20 national book awards, SHOT DOWN is set within the framework of World War II in Europe and recounts the dramatic experiences of each member of a ten man B-17 bomber crew after their plane, piloted by the author’s father, was knocked out of the sky by German fighters over the French/Belgian border on February 8,1944.
Some men died. Some were captured and became prisoners of war. Some men evaded capture and were missing in action for months before making it back to England. Their individual stories and those of the courageous Belgian people who risked their lives to help them are all different and are all remarkable.
Even before the dramatic battle in the air and the subsequent harrowing events on the ground, the story is informative, insightful, and captivating. Prior to the fateful event, the book covers the crew’s training, their journey to England, what life was like on base as well as in London and the English countryside, and the perils of flying combat missions over occupied Europe and Germany.
Through personal letters, oral and written accounts, declassified military documents, and interviews – all from people who took part in the events that happened over 70 years ago (even the German Luftwaffe pilot who shot down the Susan Ruth) – the stories come alive. Adding to the feeling of “being there”, are more than 200 time period photographs interspersed throughout the book.
To add background and context, many historical facts and anecdotes about and surrounding World War II are entwined throughout the book so that the reader has a feel for and understanding of what was occurring on a broader scale. SHOT DOWN is an account about brave individuals, featuring pilot Howard Snyder, set within the compelling events of the greatest conflict in world history.
Read an Excerpt:
Featured in Aug/Sept 2016 Issue: Sixth Anniversary Issue
February 8, 1944
The bursting of the Focke-Wulf ’s 20 mm cannons around our ship was the first indication that we had been singled out. Then the celestial dome blew up in front of me. After that I could hear 20 mm striking and exploding as they hit the ship. Pieces of equipment and parts of the ship were flying about, striking my feet and legs.
When the oxygen cylinders exploded, I didn’t realize what had happened. The noise of the explosion was muffled by my helmet and headset, but the concussion stunned me for a few moments. Someone lighting a match in a gas-filled room would cause much the same effect as the explosion. Only, instead of flames decreasing immediately after the explosion, they seemed to continue all around us with the same intensity.
In a half-dazed state, I became slowly conscious that the entire cockpit was filled with smoke and flames. I must have been knocked unconscious for a period of time. It was difficult to see through the smoke and flames, but I could see the terrified face of Eike, his eyes almost out of his head, looking crazily around him as he tore frantically at his flaksuit and safety belt. I think Holbert had already jumped as I couldn’t see him at all.
As I looked back at Eike, after trying to see Holbert, he seemed absolutely mad and out of his head. Then, as my mind seemed to clear a little more, I too became absolutely terrified. I had been frightened before but never completely lost my wits from terror. It was horrible. I tried to yell or scream, but the sound died in my throat and my open mouth emitted no sound. I tried to jump out of my seat, but my safety belt held me there.
My only thought was to get out of that terrible fire. I couldn’t think as I clawed wildly for my safety belt. The fact that I had buckled my safety belt under my flak suit on this raid, instead of over it in my usual way, was the only reason I was able to regain a semblance of sanity.