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  B-17E "Tokyo Taxi" Serial Number 41-9153  
USAAF
13th AF
5th BG
23rd BS

Former Assignments
11th BG
431st BS

Click For Enlargement
11th BG c1942

Click For Enlargement
11th BG c1942
Pilot  1st Lt. Rex A. Eckles, O-725136 (MIA / KIA) Porterville, CA
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. David C. Jones, O-677516 (MIA / KIA) Dallas, TX
Navigator  2nd Lt. William H. Fox, O-797301 (MIA / KIA) NY
Bombardier  2nd Lt. Richard H. Knop, O-735878 (MIA / KIA) Rochester, NY
Engineer  Sgt Herbert J. Kelly, 6931788 (MIA / KIA) Detroit, MI
Asst Engineer  SSgt Raymond H. Greene, 6980165 (MIA / KIA) South Hempstead, NY
Radio  Sgt Charles D. Savedge, 13016224 (MIA / KIA) VA
Asst Radio  Cpl William T. Davis, 15070934 (MIA / KIA) Cleveland, OH
Tail Gunner  Cpl Edmund O. Hill, 6981117 (MIA / KIA) Bronx, NY
Passenger  Sgt Paul L. Hensley, 6894195 (MIA / KIA) WV
MIA  July 19, 1943 at 2:30am
MACR  87

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 2625. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-9153. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to the South Pacific (SoPAC).

Wartime History
Assigned to the 13th Air Force (13th AF), 11th Bombardment Group (11th BG), 431st Bombardment Squadron (431st BS) until November 1942. Nicknamed "Tokyo Taxi".

Later, assigned to the 5th Bombardment Group (5th BG), 23rd Bombardment Squadron (23rd BS) on Guadalcanal.

When lost, engines R-1820-65 serial numbers 41-24230, 41-23163, 41-22821 and 41-24194. Armed with a single .30 caliber machine guns in the nose maker and serial number unknown. Armed with tweleve .50 caliber machine guns in all other gun positions makers and serial numbers unknown with three in the nose, two top turret, radio, two in ball turret, left waist, right waist and two tail.

Mission History
On July 19, 1943 around midnight took off from Carney Field on Guadalcanal piloted by 1st Lt. Rex A. Eckles as one of nine B-17s on a night bombing mission against Kahili Airfield (Buin) on southern Bougainville.

Over the target, this B-17 took the lead position, and was targeted by searchlights on the ground and shot down by a Japanese night fighter. Last seen by Captain Sabin at 2:30am 8-10 miles north of Kahili Airfield. Captain Anthony Dean Lucas aboard B-17E "Li'll Nell" 41-9222 observed this bomber shot down in flames. This B-17 was due back at base by 6:00am, with a maximum endurance of 9:00am. When it failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Diary of Captain Anthony Dean Lucas July 19, 1943 who was pilot of B-17E "Li'll Nell" 41-9222:
"July 19, 1943: Nine ships of our squadron took off around midnight to bomb Kahili airfield. All my bombs hit on the target from 14,000 feet. While on the beginning of my bombing run I saw one of my best friends go down in flames. Shot down by Jap night fighters. He was Lt., soon to be Capt., Eckles, of Santa Barbara. We had been together for the past year in the 23rd [Bombardment Squadron]. We were both [flight school class] 42E men. His was a real crew, with some swell men, co-pilot, Lt. Jones, a classmate of my co-pilot, Bomb. Lt. Knop, Nav. Lt. Fox, Enj., Sgt. Kelly, Ass. Enj., Sgt. Greene, Radio, Sgt. Davis, Hill and a couple of other men. I'm going to ask if I can take Rex's personal things home to his folks, and one day wife in Santa Barbara."

In fact, this B-17 was shot down by Japanese J1N1 Irving night fighter. Justin Taylan adds:
"I researched the Japanese side of this mission in Japan at the Tokyo Defense Archives. According to Japanese records, a J1N1 piloted by Tokumoto took off from Ballale Airfield at 10:40pm. At 11:15pm sighted a B-24 and made three attacks and claiming it shot down. Next, at 2:15 local time sighted a B-17 and made three attacks, claiming it shot down. Damaged in both engines, the J1N1 ditched into the sea and sank, killing the observer in the crash. Confirmed by Lucas' diary entry, the claim for the B-17 at 2:15 is most certainly this bomber."

Search
Two aircraft unsuccessfully searched for the B-17, taking off at 10:15am and returning at 15:15. They reported unlimited visibility over Santa Isabel and Choiseul, as far north as the straights between Choiseul and Fauro. At Long 156 degrees 25' west and Lat 6 degrees 35' South, what was thought to be a CO2 bottle was spotted, but nothing further was sighted.

Memorials
Officially, the entire crew was declared dead on January 11, 1946. Eckles, Savedge, Hensley, Greene, Hill, Davis and Kelly are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Jones, Knop and Fox are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Hawaii Cemetery (Punchbowl).

Gwendolyn Waters adds:
"My father was a B-17 pilot stationed on Guadalcanal in 1942-43 and his best friend, Rex Eckles, was shot down right in front of him as they prepared to bomb Kahili Airfield on the island of Bougainville on July 19, 1943.  After many years of searching, in July of this year we finally located Lt. Eckles' brother and were able to share with him the last photos taken of Rex and the story of how he died.  He had never known.  He also knows now that his brother has a namesake - my brother Rex."

Relatives
Howard Eckles (brother of Rex Eckles)

References
World War II Army Enlistment Records - Rex A. Eckles
World War II Army Enlistment Records -
World War II Army Enlistment Records -
World War II Army Enlistment Records -
Other published sources state this B-17 was lost due to anti-aircraft fire [sic Japanese night fighter].
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-9153
"9153 delivered Geiger 301st BG Apr 29, 1942, Lowry May 31, 1942. Assigned to 431st BS, 11th BG at Hickam Field Jun 7, 1942. Transferred to 23rd BS, 5th BG Espirito Santo Jul 22, 1942. (5th BG, 23rd BS, "Tokyo Taxi") shot down by Japanese J1N1 Irving nightfighter near Kahili, Solomons Jul 19, 1943. MACR 87. 9 crew and 1 passenger KIA."
Missing Air Crew Report 87 (MACR 87) created July 19, 1943 lists the cause of loss as "unknown"
Kodochosho, 251 Kōkūtai, July 19, 1943 thanks to Minoru Kamada for translation
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Rex A. Eckles
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - David C. Jones
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William H. Fox
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Richard H. Knop
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
FindAGrave -
FindAGrave -
FindAGrave -
FindAGrave -
FindAGrave -
FindAGrave -
Grey Geese Calling (1981) pages 15, 115
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) page 374, 389 (lists shot down by AA)
A History of IJN's Night-Fighters (2004) page 78
"A few hours before the dawn of July 19th, a Gekko (PO2 Yamauchi, Iwao + CPO Iwayama, Takashi) chased a B-17 which just finished bombing Buin. The Gekko shot B-17 by firing 260 rounds of 20mm. 60-80 rounds for 20mm were expended on the average to shoot an enemy plane, however, Iwayama consumed 260 rounds during this interception. It is too much. [Author Watanabe] suspects that PO2 Yamauchi was not an expert pilot yet so he wasted to much ammunition. He probably pulled the trigger before his plane got enough closer to the hostile bomber within the range."
Diary of Captain Anthony Dean Lucas July 19, 1943 via Gwendolyn Waters
Quest for Rex Eckles and B-17E Tokyo Taxi by Gwendolyn Waters
Thanks to Howard Eckles, Gwendolyn Waters and Minoru Kamada for additional information

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Last Updated
February 18, 2020

 

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B-17

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