EPISODE 6: WWII Air War Expert Steve Snyder and John “Lucky” Luckadoo on “Masters of the Air”
Steve Snyder is author of Shot Down: The True Story of Pilot Howard Snyder and the Crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth, a poignant and meticulously researched account that delves into the untold stories of the B-17 Flying Fortress Susan Ruth and its crew during World War II. At the heart of the narrative is Lieutenant Howard Snyder, the author’s father, whose experiences as a pilot provide a unique and personal perspective on the challenges faced by those who flew in the war.
Also, we’ll check in with John “Lucky” Luckadoo to hear his thoughts on the latest episodes of “Masters of the Air.”
The book begins by exploring the broader context of World War II, touching on the emotional toll of separation as young families were torn apart when men like Lt. Snyder went off to war. Snyder skillfully navigates through various aspects of the conflict, including the intense training before deployment to foreign soil, military combat operations, and the harrowing ordeals faced by those shot down behind enemy lines.
One of the notable aspects of “Shot Down” is its focus on the underground resistance and the author’s account of Lt. Snyder’s involvement in it. The book sheds light on the bravery and sacrifices of both aircrews and civilians who risked their lives to save downed American flyers, illustrating the interconnectedness of their fates during this tumultuous time.
Snyder draws on a wealth of primary sources, including letters, journals, and diaries from his father and other key figures involved in the events. The narrative skillfully weaves these personal accounts with historical records and declassified files, creating a comprehensive and vivid portrayal of the Susan Ruth crew’s experiences.
The author’s modern-day detective work is evident as he tracks down the relatives of crewmembers, interacts with former Luftwaffe fighter pilots, and connects with the families of Belgian and French resistance fighters. This not only adds depth to the narrative but also underscores Snyder’s dedication to presenting a well-rounded and authentic account.
“Shot Down” extends beyond the aerial battles, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of Belgian civilians who risked everything to aid American flyers. The book highlights instances of German atrocities toward captured crew and civilians, offering a sobering glimpse into the harsh realities faced by those entangled in the war.
The creation and dedication of the monument to the Susan Ruth and its crew in Macquenoise, Belgium, in 1989 serve as a fitting tribute to the enduring impact of the events chronicled in the book. Snyder successfully moves history from the footnotes into reality, ensuring that the stories of real people and their experiences during World War II remain alive and relevant.
“Shot Down” is more than a historical account; it is a testament to the author’s care, respect for his subjects, and his meticulous research. The engaging narrative, coupled with over 200 photographs and graphics, brings to life the everyday experiences of the men who flew these perilous missions. With its well-deserved recognition, including 15 national book awards, “Shot Down” stands as a captivating and highly recommended contribution to the understanding of World War II history and the unsung heroes who played crucial roles in it.