For Alex Mena, his film is ‘a love song to my father’

Alex Mena of Lakewood expects to finish his film, “Crew 713,” this year.

Alex Mena of Lakewood expects to finish his film, “Crew 713,” this year. Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

When Alex Mena’s father was dying in 2007, Mena pledged to keep his memory alive.

“I made a promise to him that I would make a movie about him,” Mena says.

Nemesio Mena died Dec. 27, 2007, and the following January, Alex Mena went to work on the film.

The elder Mena was a radio operator on a B-24 Liberator in World War II. His crew was remarkable in that it was the first to complete 30 missions.

“The average life expectancy of a bomber in a crew was 12 missions, and then they were either blown out of the sky or shot down,” says Mena, who lives in Lakewood.

That success is even more remarkable considering his father’s crew was part of the 492nd Bomb Group, the most devastated bomb group in World War II. The group was in operation only for 89 days, from April to August 1944. During those 89 days, the group lost 56 aircraft.

Many books have been written about the 492nd Bomb Group, but “Crew 713” is the first movie.

Many books have been written about the 492nd Bomb Group, but “Crew 713” is the first movie. Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

The 492nd was the first and only group in American history to be retired because of its high number of casualties. Yet Mena’s crew survived those 30 missions, the magic number that could get a bomber crew sent home.

Alex Mena started working in the film business about 17 years ago. He’s worn many hats, including crewmember, supervisor and producer. He has worked the last four years for the Dallas Film Society, and now he is the film fest’s director of operations.

In January, the month after his dad died, he and his film crew flew to Minneapolis for a 492nd reunion.

They interviewed eight members of the group, plus two or three children of men who had already passed away. They came back with 12 hours of footage.

Since then, they’ve been researching, interviewing, filming and editing.

More recently, Mena interviewed Robert Cash of Fairview, Texas. Cash remembers Mena’s dad and his crew.

“One of the worst missions they flew was on June 20, 1944. It was a raid on Politz, Germany,” Mena says. “They lost 14 planes that day, and each plane carries a crew of 10. Seventy six men were killed.”

Cash’s craft was blown out of the sky, and he was the only survivor.

“That’s a pretty dramatic, horrific story to tell,” Mena says.

Mena is still raising money, but he expects the movie, “Crew 713,” to be finished next year.

He’s in a hurry. Four of the veterans he interviewed have since died.

“I have a time consideration because I want them to see the film,” he says.

Mena’s dad was 84 when he died, and he was the last living member of his crew. The elder Mena talked openly about his experiences in World War II. He also served in Korea and Vietnam, spending a total of 24 years in the U.S. Air Force. But the children of the men Mena has interviewed for the film often tell him they’re hearing war stories for the first time.

“I think they figure it’s good for the official record of the war,” Mena says. “They want to get it out there.”

About 10 books have been written about the 492nd, but “Crew 713” will be the first film about it. All of the authors and historians who have written about the group are supporting the film, along with the Frontiers of Flight Museum, the Dallas Film Society, the U.S. Latinos and Latinas Oral History Project at UT Austin and the Second Air Division Memorial Library in Norfolk, England, among others.

“It’s a labor of love,” Mena says. “It’s a love song to my father.”

Follow Mena’s film project on Facebook.

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