99th Bomber Group: Air Base Wing's namesake visits Nellis

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Andrew Dumboski
  • Nellis AFB Public Affairs
About 100 members of the 99th Bombardment Group visited Nellis Sept. 25 as part of a reunion.

The 99th Air Base Wing hosted its namesake group on a tour of the base.

"We schedule regular reunions, but this one is special given its connection to the base," said (Ret.) Chief Master Sgt. Henry Fouts, former member of the 99th Bomb Group.

The 99th Bomb Group served under the 5th Bomb Wing during World War II. The group flew 395 mission and dropped about 303,800 tons of bombs on enemy targets in 12 countries between March of 1943 and April of 1945.

The 99th Bombardment Group was activated June 1, 1942, at Orlando Army Air Base, Fla. There were four squadrons assigned to the group: the 346th, 347th, 348th and the 416th Bomb Squadrons. It moved soon after it's activation to Walla Walla, Wash.

In 1943, the 99th was attached to the 5th Bomb Wing under the 12th Air Force and sent to North Africa. It flew its first combat mission on May 31, 1943.

During a bombing mission over Augsburg, Germany, Feb. 27, 1945, then Staff Sgt. Dwight Reigert, ballturret gunner with the 346th BS, was shot down.

"The flak was so thick, you couldn't see anything," said Mr. Reigert. After a hit, he lost his oxygen, and smoke filled the turret. He had to get out of the turret to get a portable oxygen bottle.

Sergeant Reigert moved up to the jump seat in the cockpit, and soon after, they were hit again. Knowing the situation was bad, the pilot ordered everyone to bail out, he said.

"I was right by the door, so I was the first one out," he said. "Everyone made it out, except for the pilot, 1st Lt. Cornelious Sheilds, who went down with the plane."

"I was in the plane right beside him, and actually saw him jump out of the plane," said Mr. Fouts.

"No one actually thought I had made it out of the plane," said Mr. Reigert. "I had set the turret to move around on its own, so everyone thought I was still inside of it when the plane crashed, but actually I was the first one out."

Sergeant Reigert dangled from a tree, as German soldiers yelled at him to get down.

"I couldn't tell them that I was stuck," he said. "I finally fell out of the tree, and they took me over to the guns that shot me down."

He was surprised to find out that it was a group of German women who shot him down, he said. "Men were actually firing the guns, but it was a group of women who were plotting the altitude and speed of the aircraft, and they had us dead to rights."

Sergeant Reigert and other prisoners were taken to many camps and had to keep moving because the camps were full. It stayed that way until Gen. George Patton liberated them, he said.

The 99th BG was involved in many bombing operations throughout the war, including the bombing of railroads prior to the invasion of Hungary and the pre-invasion bombing of Southern France.

The group moved to Marcianise, Italy, in October of 1945 and was inactivated on Nov. 8, 1945.

The 99th Air Base Wing historian and the 99th Bomb Group Historical Society contributed information to this story.