Gramps enjoyed and was enlightened by STEVE SNYDER’S presentation and the presence of his book that was written about the story of his father’s B-17 that was shot down and of his and survival for months in Nazi controlled Belgium and France. Steve retired in 2009 and did not have an intent to write books; however, his exposure to the letters and diary of his father demanded attention. He contacted the families of other crew members, searched the internet and began to irrepressibly collect data. He contacted two people who knew of the Nazi activities in Belgium and France where his father’s plane went down. In 2012 he decided to write a book about the fascinating event his father had experienced. It took a year to write the book after which he decided to publish it himself. Publishing took another four months.
His father’s military history began in 1941 when he enlisted in the Army. In July of 1941 he married his wife and they had a child who was named Susan Ruth. Her name became the name of the B-17 that was shot down. Since the Army pay was not great, Steve later joined the Air Corps in June of 1942. He flew as a pilot/2nd lieutenant by April of 1943. In October of 1943 he was assigned to the 306 Bombardment Group in Thurleigh in England. Their aircraft was the Boeing B-17 Flying fortress “G” model. They could fly eight to ten hours and were not pressurized, nor heated. The temperatures would be as low as -40 to -60 degrees. They had to wear survival gear and oxygen to survive and would have to take off their survival gear to put on a parachute in the event of an emergency. There was very little room in the fuselage since the bombs were stacked in racks on either side of the narrow walkway from the front to the tail.
On the fateful day that Susan Ruth went down, the visibility was not good and it took as much as two hours to form the attack formation. At times there would be collisions during the form up. Our fighters had limited range so they could not accompany the bombers on the entire flight. The Germans had RADAR and would detect the U.S. flights before their arrival in the target area. The Germans would fire anti-aircraft rounds in large numbers with detonators set to explode at the altitude of the American bombers. They would create flak that would scatter through the air and
damage any nearby ship. On the flight of Susan Ruth, the bomb bay doors were locked open by flak hits. They were shot down by two FW-90 German aircraft. Two of the FW-90s were also shot down. His father was able to bail out and landed twenty feet up in a tree in Belgium. Civilians rescued him. He was hidden by civilians until the next day when a Belgium customs officer took him and hid him in multiple places. He was sheltered by civilians including two ladies that Steve managed to find and interview. He then joined the French resistance group and attacked German convoys. On September 2, 1944 he was liberated by Patton. He praised the Belgians as nice and very grateful.
We thank Steve for his effort in researching and writing this book and getting these important facts out to us. It is important to keep the memories of our country’s heroism alive.