The 100th/442nd RCT was made up of Japanese/American “Nisei” soldiers – volunteers who chose to fight against tyranny and oppression overseas while many of their own family members were interned behind barbed wire in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s internment camps. It had achieved a 400 % casualty rate and is one, if not the most decorated unit in US military history.
Billy was locked deeply into the research for his latest project, “The Lost Battalion,” when he contacted two Vosgien historians, Hervé Claudon and Gerome Villain. “Since this Sgt. Rock is based on an actual battle and the soldiers who suffered through it, I felt compelled to write and draw a story as accurate as possible.” Tucci stated, “Over the course of several months, Hervé and Gerome not only served as indispensable experts on the region, the battle, and the men themselves, but we became the best of friends as well. With this connection between our soldiers and their land, we’ve really bonded as brothers.”
So much so that when the creator of the hit independent series Shi decided to visit the Vosges region of France last month, the two historians opened their homes and literally treated him as family while they guided the American throughout the region and introduced him to several resistance fighters. “What stuck me was that these men, now in their seventies, where just mere boys at the time.” An emotional Billy revealed, “Boys who risked their lives guiding many Americans safely through the mountains and across rivers to attack the Germans, and now, here they were celebrating with me with all these photos and incredible stories. I couldn’t help but keep on hugging them!”
It seemed that Monsieur’s Claudon and Villain had many other surprises in store for the Yank as he followed in the footsteps of the 141st Infantry and 442nd RCT. He paid a visit to the Epinal American Cemetery and memorial situated at the foot of the Vosges Mountains overlooking the Moselle River. The cartoonist noted, “While the lion’s share of the Allied airpower, supplies, equipment and soldiers were sent into Germany through northern France, Belgium and Holland, this cemetery holds the remains of 5,255 American dead. And, though largely ignored and forgotten by the press and historians, it reveals the disproportionate brutality of the battles that raged in Eastern France and the heart of the Reich.”
But according to Billy, there are many who will never ignore or forget the sacrifice of those gallant soldiers -- the Vosgiens themselves. All along the way, he met with people and press, having conversations and doing interviews for several newspapers and even French National television – a link to his interview can be seen here:http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4luoi_william-tucci-dessinateur-americain_creation
But, aside from all the wonderful Vosgien food and drink, nothing will compare to the memorial ceremony on Billy’s last day. “I was stunned by this wonderful surprise – I couldn’t believe it. Here I was holding this beautiful wreath, representing the United States. I had 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.”
It is a task that Billy takes to heart and promises to do justice to those heroes, as “Sgt. Rock – The Lost Battalion” holds a special place in my soul, just like the Vosges mountains. After all, because of this series and DC Comics, I have been bestowed with the greatest honor of my life.”
Billy was also gifted with a champagne celebration in Bruyeres Town Hall, and presented with a beautiful lamp proclaiming his Ambassadorship, engraved with images of the Vosges region and a soldier of the 100th/442nd RCT. But one last “coupe de grace” came as a surprise to everyone. From the city of Nancy came a telephone call from the war bride of a 36th Infantry soldier, David Rosenbluth, who had seen Billy on TV. “I wanted to meet him, but since I was leaving the next day, the only way possible would be at the Nancy train station, so here I was the next day, sitting in the train station with Mr. Rosenbluth and his beautiful wife. Again, I promised him that, as a former serviceman myself, I would do him and his fellow soldiers honor and tell their story.”
“Sgt. Rock – The Lost Battalion” is a monthly six-issue miniseries that will debut this November from DC Comics. Rock and Easy Company will be among the 275 men of the 141st Infantry who, cut off and surrounded on all sides must now fight off an enemy force ten times their size. The men of the 100th/442nd RCT, alongside several fictional though legendary DC heroes (Johnny Cloud, The Haunted Tank) will also play a pivotal role in the series.
Billy will be discuss his trip to the Vosges and Normandy in greater detail when his “Hellion For Hire – Tour of Duty” column restarts on www.newsarama.com