Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Crew 713: Rescuing from Oblivion the Memory of the Ill-fated 492nd Bomber Group

The other day I met with Alex Mena, a Dallas filmmaker whose documentary, Crew 713, is bringing to life the long-buried story of the heroic and ill-fated 492nd Bombardment Group, of which his father had been member. Early in the Spring of 1944, they flew their brand-new, unpainted B-24 bombers from New Mexico to Florida, then down to Brazil across the Atlantic to Africa and ultimately up to East Anglia in England, where, a few days later, they launched their first raids against the Third Reich. Even though the Luftwaffe at that point was considered already on the verge of defeat, the truth was that, under the right circumstances, they still could deliver a very nasty bite against whoever was attacking them.

Discussing the Crew 713 documentary with filmmaker Alex Mena (right)
Although most of the missions that the 492nd flew were milk runs, occasionally they had to go against heavily defended industrial sites in Germany and Poland, during which time they'd suffer heavy casualties; often ten or twelve aircraft. In the course of a combat tour that lasted just under three month, they suffered such staggering losses, that ultimately Bomber Command decided to stand them down and then disband them. Rather than having to publicly admit what had happened, the 492nd unit designation was handed over to a OSS-run Special Operations unit, allowing the Air Force to preserve the fiction that nothing had happened.

As a result of all this, the story of the 492nd's tragic and heroic sacrifice never made it into any of the official histories, and as a result of that, it was also left out of the hundreds of histories of the air war over Europe which got written in the half century after World War II. It was only in recent years that a handful of intrepid amateur historians and film makers like Alex discovered their amazing and still untold story. By now, of course, only a handful of 492nd crewmen remain alive, and Alex is in a race against time to make sure their story gets told.

Alex is now about 80% done with his filming, but he still has a lot left to do.  He could definitely use more than just moral support.  So come on, people, send him some money today!

Here is a link to a story I wrote about them a few months ago for  Defense Media Network.

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