Illinois Ancestors | 'Shot Down' a moving tribute to WWII vets

Illinois Ancestors | 'Shot Down' a moving tribute to WWII vets

Steve Snyder began his search for details about his father's World War II experiences after he retired. His findings, from diaries, letters, government records, and personal interviews, were extensive — enough for a book to be written. "Shot Down: The True Story" of pilot Howard Snyder and the crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth is a detailed account of that pilot's wartime experiences as well as those of his crew and the Belgian patriots who saved and protected them.

Even information on the former German pilot, Hans Berger, who was part of the crew that shot down Snyder's plane, is remembered and quoted as saying, "Why did we have to shoot at each other?"

This important work also includes information on the B-17 and other aircraft involved in the war, the training of our airmen and their day-to-day challenges, the cities that were targets, the families left behind, the atrocities of the Germans, explanations of terminology of the day, and statistics of the war itself — all making the reader thankful and proud.

Hundreds of individuals are included in the index, including airmen from Illinois who were shot down (e.g., John Gemborski, 24, and Warren Cole, 22.) Over 200 photographs of people and places make this book even more valuable as an accurate account of that time in our history.

"Shot Down" is a 374-page, hardcover, illustrated, indexed book, ISBN 978-0-9860760-0-8, that can be purchased at Amazon and other bookstores. Read more at the author's website,

There aren't many Americans who can locate such intricate details about a father's experiences during World War II. Thanks to Snyder for sharing his material in such moving detail. We all owe a debt of gratitude to such brave Americans.

More military records & indexes online

Genealogist Joe Beine maintains a helpful website that offers links to Online Military Records and Indexes (USA) at Researchers may click on a topic (Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War One, World War Two, Korean War, Vietnam War) and then an appropriate website.

For example, one of the more recent additions to this website pertaining to Illinois is "Register of Confederate Soldiers Who Died in Camp Douglas, 1862-65 and Lie Buried in Oakwoods Cemetery, Chicago, IL," 1892 (scanned book at

Be sure to visit Beine's link to Online Genealogy Records, Indexes and Databases, which include deaths, births, marriages, passenger lists, census records and naturalization records — all free, and on the internet.

Find free records online

FamilySearch has digitized hundreds of record collections from around the world and they are available online free. However, some digitized collections have not been indexed. Toni Carrier has written an article explaining how to search these unindexed records at Note that you will be required to have a free FamilySearch account, but that is easy to do. Instructions are provided.

Also at the end of the article is a link to a video tutorial, "Finding Unindexed Records at FamilySearch" by Amy Bowser Tennant that will go through the steps mentioned by Carrier.

FamilySearch adds 2 billionth record

FamilySearch now has 2 billion digitized records in its collection. The importance of this milestone is described online at These 2 billion images are free and located in three possible places: the FamilySearch catalog, historical records collection and online books. This article provides helpful links. Note that records of North America have the largest percentage of images; Europe and Middle East, next.

Queries, genealogical questions from researchers and genealogical materials readers would like to share will be printed in this column free. Joan Griffis may be reached via email at or by sending a letter to Illinois Ancestors, c/o The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.

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