Billy Tucci’s ‘Sgt. Rock: The Last Battalion’ Tells Story of Nisei Soldiers

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BALTIMORE – Billy Tucci, creator, illustrator, writer and artist of comic books, is producing Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion, scheduled to debut as a monthly, six-issue mini-series from DC Comics in November 2008. The series tells the story of Nisei soldiers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team that liberated fellow soldiers and French citizens during World War II.

The series takes place in October 1944. Rock and Easy are among the 275 men of the 141st Regiment of the 36th Division who were cut off and surrounded on all sides by an enemy force ten times their size in the Vosges mountains of eastern France. The men of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, alongside several fictional though legendary DC Comics characters, will play pivotal roles in the series.

The Baltimore Comic Con plans to hold a convention in Baltimore on September 27, when Sgt Rock: The Lost Battalion will be featured. Members of the Japanese American Veterans Association were invited to attend this event to speak about their wartime experiences, and the fact that they not only fought the enemy on foreign soil but also prejudice and incarceration in their own homeland.

“The real life story of the Nisei [Japanese American] soldiers is central to my Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion story”, the cartoonist stated, “and my speaking with them and their families has made me more determined to tell their story to those who otherwise might never know.”

“The members of the 442nd RCT fought against tyranny and oppression overseas while many of their own family members were interned behind barbed wire in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s internment camps. The unit achieved a 400% casualty rate and remains one of the most decorated units in U.S. military history,” Tucci said.

During his European trip last spring to attend a convention, Tucci decided to visit the Vosges region of France to conduct research and photograph reference material for the miniseries.

On March 4, amid a driving snowstorm, many gathered from around the Vosges region with Tucci at the 442nd RCT monument for a wreath laying ceremony, honoring the American soldiers who liberated the town from their German occupiers. The inscription on the monument says:

“To the men of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, U.S. Army, who reaffirmed an historic truth here – That loyalty to one’s country is not modified by racial origin. These Americans, whose ancestors were Japanese, on Oct. 30, 1944 during the Battle of Bruyères broke the backbone of the German defenses and rescued the 141st Infantry Battalion which had been surrounded by the enemy for four days.”

The ceremony, which included several regional mayors, vice presidents, councilors, resistance fighters and historians, was opened with a moving speech by Monsieur Kronel, mayor of la Houssiére and was followed by the wreath laying and the simultaneous raising of the French and American flags.

Monsieur Michel Langloix, Vice President of the Vosges General Council, bestowed the honor of Ambassador to Tucci in the ancient town of Bruyères.

“I couldn’t believe it. I asked Monsieur Langloix, ‘Why me? I had nothing to do with the liberation. I don’t deserve this.’ But he simply smiled and sternly instructed me that not only were they appreciative of my work, but that the ambassadorship means that I am to tell my countrymen that the people of France will never forget their liberators,” Tucci said.

Tucci said he was simply awed by the experience, and that it was clear that the Vosgiens (residents of the Vosges region) themselves would never forget the sacrifice of those gallant warriors six decades ago. In addition to the monument, the main street is named “Avenue of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team”.

For more information about the Baltimore Comic Con convention, 410-526-7410 or comicon.com/baltimore.

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