Set within the framework of World War II in Europe, Shot Down is about the dramatic experiences of each member of a B-17 crew after their plane, piloted by the author’s father, was knocked out of the sky by German fighters over the French/Belgian border and about the courageous Belgian patriots who risked their lives to help them.
The hardcover book has more than 200-time period photographs of the people who were involved and of the locations where the events took place.
Author Steve Snyder reveals his reasons for writing and publishing Shot Down.
Tell us, Steve Snyder, what was the purpose of Shot Down? Had you intended to teach, inform or both?
Its purpose is to inform people about the air war over Europe during World War II and what it was like for the men of the 8th Air Force to fly combat missions. However, it is not just a book about war. It is about people and the human spirit during the greatest conflict in world history.
After I retired in 2009, I had the time to delve into my father’s was history in further detail. I read book after book about the air war. I spent hours every day on the internet doing research and downloading declassified military documents. I joined several World War II organizations and began attending their reunions where I listen to veterans tell their stories. I became a board member of the 306th Bomb Group Historical Association and am now its president. From the time I began my research to the time the book was released was 4 1/2 years in August 2014. Since that time, it has received 20 book awards and has a 4.9 (92% 5-stars) reader review rating on Amazon.
What’s human story behind Shot Down? What has made you want to research/write about its topic?
The story is about my father and his crew of the B-17 “Susan Ruth” named after my oldest sister who was one-year-old at the time my father went overseas.
After 3 years of research, I came to the conclusion that the story of my father and his crew was so unique and so compelling that it needed to be told and people needed to read about it.
Who or what inspired you to write it?
My parents had kept a lot of material from the war years, but two items were most significant. The first was a diary that my father had written while he was missing in action and being hidden from the Germans by Belgian patriots. It went into detail about his plane being shot down and was absolutely riveting. The other item was all the letters my father had written to my mother while he was stationed in England. Reading them was fascinating as they described what life was like on his air base, in England, and in London; his adventures and those of his crew; and flying combat missions. The result was that I became fascinated with the story of my father and his crew. It became my passion.
However, I might not have written the book if it hadn’t been for two Belgian gentlemen who were young boys during the war and who were greatly affected by it. During the four years of German occupation, they witnessed atrocities committed by the Nazis. Later in life they became local historian and interviewed Belgian citizens and members of the underground recorded their testimony about events that took place involving my father and members of his crew. Without their documented research, those events would have been lost forever.
Do the issues raised in Shot Down affect your life/other people’s lives?
Well, it has changed my life completely. I spend hours every day promoting my book through social media. I make lots of PowerPoint presentations to all sorts of different organizations. I attend numerous air shows around the country selling and signing copies of my book. It is a full-time job and has developed into a new career.
A very rewarding effect of the book is that it encourages and inspires people to learn more about “their veteran” whether it be a father, uncle, or grandfather. Most veterans did not want to talk about the war, and as a result, most relatives know very little if anything about their loved one’s war experiences. The book gives people a better understanding and a deeper respect for what happened so many years ago.
Is the reader able to learn something after reading Shot Down? Will it broaden their perspective about a difficult issue?
Readers learn a great deal. Naturally, they learn the story of my father and his crew, but they also learn about the 8th Air Force and the air war over Europe. They learn about the extreme danger of flying combat missions over occupied Europe and Germany. They learn what life was like in England, they learn about the courageous Belgian people who risks their lives to help downed airmen. They learn all sorts of historical information and anecdotes about and surrounding World War II.
Was there a specific passage that had left an impression with your readers? Share the passage and its effect?
It is our duty to remember. No other event in history affected more people than World War II. 60 million people died. Millions more were wounded. Millions more were displaced and left homeless. World War II changed the course of the United States and the world forever. The brave, young men who fought and died for freedom are without doubt members of the Greatest Generation. Their sacrifice must never be forgotten.
Very profound. Thank you Steve Snyder.
Steve Snyder was born in Pasadena, California, and raised in the neighboring community of San Marino. He graduated from UCLA and during the Vietnam War years served six years in the California Army National Guard. In 1972, he moved to Seal Beach, California where he lives today. In 2009, he retired from Vision Service Plan (VSP) after a 36 year career working in sales and sales management.
Soon after retirement, Steve began his quest to learn more about the World War II experiences of his father, pilot Howard Snyder, and his crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth. It became his passion, and after 4 ½ years of dedicated research, resulted in book, SHOT DOWN, which has won 20 national book awards. One result of his new career as a World War II historian is that he is a member of numerous World War II organizations and is President of the 306th Bomb Group Historical Association.