Comic-Con International, the world renown comic book and pop culture convention, made its annual presence known in San Diego, California this past Thursday, July 24 as it opened to a record-breaking 125,000 attendees and selling-out passes for all four days. This is a stark contrast to the first Comic-Con in 1970 that gathered 140 attendees.

This year, amid the previews, non-stop parade of costumed characters and the never ending fawning of "stars," Comic-Con entertained some very special attendees -- the real-life Heroes of World War II.

Three extraordinary men of the US Army's 442nd Regimental Combat Team quietly made their presence at the show -- Medal of Honor recipient George "Joe" Sakato (E Company), David Katagiri (F Company) and Jim Yamashita (I Company).

The 442nd was made of Japanese American soldiers, who were heinously labeled "4C -- Enemy Alien" by their country in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attacks. Everyone of the "Nisei" volunteered to fight for another's freedom in Europe and Asia while their families, under Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, were stripped of their homes and businesses and incarcerated behind barbed wire in "internment camps."

William "Billy" Tucci invited the veterans. The writer/artist is in the process of revising DC's iconic hero, "Sgt. Rock" which will be released this November to coincide with Veterans Day. The six issue miniseries, "Sgt. Rock â€" The Lost Battalion" is dedicated to the 275 trapped men of the 141st Infantry Regiment who fought off a German Army ten times their size and the 442nd soldiers sent on the suicide mission to rescue them. At Billy's booth, Sakato and Yamashita were greeted by fans wanting to meet these heroes, and one man immediately noticed the Medal of Honor around Mr. Sakato's neck and was awestruck that a true MOH recipient was an attendee. Mr. Yamashita said he had never experienced anything similar to Comic-Con and felt this was a great opportunity to expose a new and different group of people to the 442nd history.

Billy has spent the past year researching the 141st and the 442nd. He traveled to France and walked the actual battlefields with French historians Herve Claudon and Gerome Villain and is determined to portray history accurately and has interviewed many of the 442nd veterans as well as the Lost Battalion survivors. A veteran and former paratrooper himself, Billy stated that he never knew what they endured for our country and feels Sgt. Rock can educate the public on the experiences of these special men. "In my heart I feel that this comic book series can serve as a bridge that spans generations, and brings attention to a true story of heroism, humanity and sacrifice." The cartoonist stated.

These incredible men, along with their escorts, Leslie Sakato (daughter of George Sakato), JA Living Legacy's Susan Uyemura and the Hon. Bryan Yagi, joined Billy and several other comic professionals at Tabule for an unforgettable dinner afterwards. Judge Yagi, an avid Comic-Con alumnus himself, commented that this was truly a special experience citing, he felt like a "little kid" around these men. Yagi's uncle, the late Tom Yagi, was a medic assigned to the second platoon of L Company, 442nd RCT. For Judge Yagi, Comic-Con was a chance to combine his two passions: comic books and his new found admiration of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The event was made extra special as Billy's college buddy, USMC Captain Paul Krumenacker, having just returned from his 3rd Tour of Duty in Iraq joined them. "The owners and staff at Tabule really went out of their way for our heroes as they offered on-the-house drinks and desserts to match the excellent food, service and atmosphere." Billy continued, "To be befriended by these brave and amazingly humble warriors of yesterday and today is an honor for me that no words can express. Many of the patrons (apparently big-wig guests of the con) also paid their respects and that just added to an incredible evening of food and drink -- we had so much fun that we ended up closing down the place!"

Mr. Yamashita probably said it best as to why the vets kept on going all through the night, "When I got home from the war, I not only had one life to live, but three or four lives for my friends who never made it back."

It must be noted that despite fighting not only the enemy, but also malicious prejudice from their own countrymen, the 100th/442nd remains the most decorated single unit in US military history, with 680 paying the ultimate sacrifice while another 67 remaining missing to this day.

On a final note Mr. Yamashita hopes to bring in 30 442nd veterans to next year's Con. Billy thinks it's a great idea, as he "would love the fans to experience just what I did and meet these giants who fought and defeated the forces of racism and tyranny -- both at home and abroad!"

Written and illustrated by Billy Tucci, DC Comics' "Sgt. Rock â€" The Lost Battalion" will debut November 5, 2008. Several members of the 442nd RCT will also be special guests at this year's Baltimore Comic Con. Special thanks to the SDCC, Tabule Restaurant, DC Comics and Michael Solof for contributing the photographs for this release.

For more info please contact Deborah Tucci @ debtucci@optonline.net

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Tags: sgt. rock, billy tucci, us army’s 442nd regimental combat team

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