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  B-17E "Knuckle Head / Li'l Nell" Serial Number 41-9222  
13th AF
5th BG
23rd BS

Former Assignments
11th BG
431st BS
26th BS

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Anthony D. Lucas 1943

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 2694. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to the South Pacific.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 11th Bombardment Group, 26th Bombardment Squadron. Later, 431st Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Knuckle Head".

Later, this B-17 was assigned to the 5th Bombardment Group, 23rd Bombardment Squadron. Assigned to Captain Anthony Dean Lucas who renamed it "Li'l Nell" in honor of his wife, Nellie "Nell" Lucas who he married in May 1942. The bomber had no nose art associated with the name.

On July 19, 1943, one of nine B-17s that took off from Carney Field piloted by Captain Anthony Dean Lucas around midnight on a bombing mission against Kahili Airfield (Buin) at 2:15am. Over the target, this B-17 took the second position, and was targeted by search lights from the ground.

Diary of Captain Anthony Dean Lucas (piloting this B-17):
"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 [B-17E "Tokyo Taxi" 41-9153]. 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. 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. During this same mission I was held in the search lights for six or seven minutes and I imagine the night fighters were getting pretty close."

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 B-17E "Tokyo Taxi" 41-9153."

On October 21, 1943 departed from Espiritu Santo piloted by Captain Anthony Dean Lucas on a ferry flight of ear;y B-17Es from the squadron back to the United States, led by Major Berton Burns (C. O. 23rd Bombardment Squadron). The formation of four war weary early model B-17s included this bomber, B-17E 41-2444, B-17E "San Antonio Rose" 41-2467, B-17E "Knucklehead" 41-9222 plus another unidentified B-17.

When the four bombers were inspected at Oklahoma City, all four were deemed "unfit to fly" and grounded. Sometime afterwards, this B-17 was likely scrapped or otherwise disappeared.

Nellie Lucas (wife of Anthony Dean Lucas)
Rex Lucas (son of Anthony Dean Lucas)
Gwendolyn Waters (daughter of Anthony Dean Lucas)

Quest for Rex Eckles and B-17E Tokyo Taxi by Gwendolyn Waters
Captain Anthony Dean Lucas diary - July 19, 1943
Fortress Against The Sun page 367, 390, 477 (footnote 30)
Kodochosho, 251st Kōkūtai, July 19, 1943
A History of IJN's Night-Fighters page 78
Thanks to Gwendolyn Waters and Minoru Kamada for additional information

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Last Updated
October 23, 2019


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