Official Press Release
On Sunday June 22nd, Sgt. Rock writer/artist Billy Tucci joined Easy Company "living historians" at the American Air Power Museum's annual C-47 D-Day Flight Experience event.
Amongst the hundreds of spectators who attended the event, over sixty generously paid a tax-deductible donation to actually fly in a World War 2 era C47 aircraft. The D-Day Flight experience also included gearing up in period uniform, helmet and "parachute," while attending a very authentic mission briefing. These guests were also instructed by Billy his fellow paratroopers as they stepped back in time and onto the aircraft to learn what it was like to fly over the English Channel and embark on the "Great Crusade" of June 6, 1944. Each "trooper's" M1942 jump jacket was emblazoned with nametag of a soldier from Lt. Dick Winters' #67 "stick," These were the men of 2nd Platoon/Easy Company /506 PIR who were made famous in the book and HBO series "Band of Brothers." A stick is the name for the 10 to 15 soldiers in each aircraft at the time
"Being a former paratrooper myself and knowing a thing or two about the soldiers of WW2, I gladly lent my services in an attempt to educate the public of the virtues and sacrifice of these wonderful boys who saved the world over 60 years ago." Tucci stated. "But I had one request, and that was to not come as a member of Easy Company, but of my own personal heroes, the infamous "Filthy Thirteen."
Led by Private Jake McNiece, a Native American from Ponca City, Oklahoma, the "Filthy Thirteen" were the inspiration of the film "The Dirty Dozen." Who, according to author/historian Mark Bando, were demolitions saboteurs from HQ/506 and took solemn Indian vows not to wash or shave until the y had returned from battle. Since the vow was taken around December 1943, the men were "pretty ripe" by D-Day, living apart from the rest of the 506th by "mutual agreement."
"These were the men, spent most of their stateside and English training time drinking, brawling (with other soldiers and civilians) and well, in the stockade." Tucci admirably admired, and continued that" These true bad bastards were perhaps the worst barracks soldiers the army ever had, (they never saluted officers) but when it came to combat, they proved to be the some of the toughest and most feared sons a bitches in the world."
Part of their notoriety is due in part by some famous photos taken of the "Filthy Thirteen" chuting up for D-Day. This small group of men gave themselves Indian scalplocks and applied "war paint" to their faces from their aircraft's black and white invasion stripes before jumping into France. But their reputations as warriors were constantly solidified by their valorous actions, a nd several, including McNiece and Jack Agnew actually ended the war with four combat jumps (Normandy, Holland, Bastogne and Germany). Both are still alive to this day and have written books and continue delighting audiences with their incredible stories.
So one can just imagine the surprise of his fellow troopers when Billy showed up 7am in the morning in full "Thirteen" kit and sporting war paint and a Mohawk!
The cartoonist stayed in character the whole day to the delight of all by scaring children, spending time alone (constantly sharpening his knife and rechecking his Thompson submachine gun in plain sight of the visitors) and even going so far as to threaten a 506th officer with "whipping his ass in front of everyone."
In all seriousness though the 506th reenactors spent all morning and afternoon reflecting and relaying many personal, horrific and hilarious stories of those brave men of Normandy. During the 45--minute flights over Long Island, the paratroopers shared very detailed and intimate conversations with the guests about the specific trooper they each represented. They were told about the soldiers' hometowns, their families and pets, and to reinforce the fact that these were more than just nametags but that most were real 18-20 year old boys. Upon landing the guests were all directed back to the briefing room, where they received a "jump certificate" and learned the fates of "their" soldiers. Some were so moved by the experience that they cried upon learning that their particular sky soldier didn't make it.
Billy was equally moved by the experience and was grateful to Easy Company officers Jim Michaud, Mike Glick and all the others who helped him out with the impression. "Jim loaned me much priceless equipment and weapons from his private collection and really showed me the ropes the whole day through. He's become a great friend and I've learned so much from him and the others about the weapons, uniforms and soldiers of the war that "Sgt. Rock - The Lost Battalion" would truly be "farby" without his guidance." Avery special thanks must also be made to Museum staff, pilot Jim Vocell and Bill Caporale's grounds crew volunteers aka "the Ramp Rats" who did such an admirable job all day long.
Billy also wanted to make it clear that he is indeed still married after getting the Mohawk and that if given the chance to do Batman or Wonder Woman next, promises to leave the bracelets and Underoos at home. He also wanted readers to know however just how seriously he takes writing and drawing Sgt. Rock and that "by having a torch passed onto me by a legend like Mr. Kubert, I must go all the way. After all, the readers deserve it, and those soldiers, like the brave men and women serving today, deserve our appreciation."
Billy will be a guest at this weekend's Wizard World Chicago Con where he'll be signing all sorts of exclusive "Return to Wonderland" and the new "Ugly Ducking" lithographs and comics, at the Fantastic Realm Booth (1216). So come on down if you'd like to photo albums of his research, his artwork or if you'd just make fun of his new haircut.