The NINE 0 NINE
By Ralph J Ferrusi
Thursday morning, October 14, 1943 383 8th Air Force heavy bombers—B-17’s and B-24’s—lifted off from nineteen bases in southeastern England: destination, the ball-bearing factories in Schweinfurt, in central Germany. Sixteen 305th Bomb Group, 364th Bomb Squadron B-17’s lift off the runway in Chelveston, England.
My wife Kathy’s uncle, Staff Sergeant Russell Joseph Kiggins was a tail gunner on one of the B-17’s. Schweinfurt was his sixth mission.
Schweinfurt was very heavily defended. 60 B-17’s—600 men—failed to return to England. The mission became known as Black Thursday. Thirteen of the 364th’s B-17’s never even reached Schweinfurt, lost to machine guns, cannons, and rockets fired by swarms of single- and twin-engined German fighters.