Tucker III, Reuben Henry “Rube” born in Ansonia, Connecticut on 29-11-1911 to Reuben Henry Tucker, Jr. and his wife, Clare (born Booth). He was active in sports and Boy Scouts in his youth, proving his bravery and resourcefulness at 13, pulling his drowning younger brother and a friend from a freezing mill pond. For this, he received a local award for heroism from the Scouts. While the boys in his high school social fraternity would nickname him “Duke” for his good looks and fastidious dress, and his family would call him “Tommy”, he would be known by many as simply “Rube”.
Not renowned in his career for diligence with paperwork, his path to West Point was not quite direct. The Tucker family had produced soldiers for all of America’s wars since the Reovolution, seemingly working in Ansonia’s brass mill to pass the time between wars. Tucker himself spent a year in the mill before entering a West Point prep school, Millard’s. Despite passing the entrance exam, he did not secure an appointment in 1929 and spent a year out in Wyoming before joining the Class of 1934.
Due to a failing grade in mathematics, he washed out of West Point. Fortunately, his determination to remain at West Point helped him in passing two days of exams for re-admission, which allowed him to be “turned back” and join the Class of 1935. Tucker married on the day following graduation. He and his wife, Helen Mca Tucker who died old age 82 on 05-02-1998 would raise five boys over the ensuing decades. Tucker volunteered for the paratroopers part of the U.S. Army’s newly created airborne forces at Fort Benning , Georgia. Upon graduation Tucker, now a captain, was assigned to the 504th Parachute Infantry Battalion . Following activation of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) , on 01-05-1942, Tucker, now a major, was assigned as the executive officer. The 504th was later assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division , under Major General Matthew Bunker Ridgeway “Old Iron Tits” . On 06-12-1942, Ridgway selected Tucker to command the 504th. The other two regiments of the 325th , and 326th Glider Infantry , along with supporting units. The 326th was later replaced by the 505th PIR At 31 years of age, Tucker was one of the youngest regimental commanders during the war, despite his delay in entering and graduating from West Point.
On 11-07-1943, Tucker, who was by now a full colonel, led his troops in the Allied invasion of Sicily There the American ground and sea forces, mistaking the 504th’s aircraft for enemy planes, fired on the formations, resulting in the catastrophic loss of 23 aircraft, numerous casualties, and the scattering of troops all over the island. Tucker also led the 504th PIR during the Italien Campaign at Salerno and Anzio, at Nijmegen during Operation Market Garden and during the Battle of the Bulge. During Market Garden his regiment made a bloodycrossing of the river Waal for an attack on the Nijmegen bridge. Due to the number of casualties sustained during the fighting in Italy, Tucker and the rest of the 504th did not participate in the Allied invasion of Normandy, instead remaining in England.
Colonel Tucker was an outstanding combat leader during the war, and had a marked and lasting influence on many members of the 504th PIR through his sterling traits of character, leadership ability, unfailing sense of humor, and understanding. He was affectionately referred to as “The Little Colonel” by the troops, and his presence among them often inspired their will to fight under adverse conditions. While fighting on the Anzio beachhead they became known as the “Devils in Baggy Pants”. The nickname remains with the regiment today.
Colonel James Maurice “Slim Jim” Gavin who originally commanded the 505th PIR, and later commanded the 82nd Airborne Division, stated in his book, “On to Berlin”, “The 504th was commanded by a tough, superb combat leader, Colonel Reuben Henry Tucker was probably the best regimental commander of the war.” Interestingly, Gavin would admit that Tucker was famous for screwing up everything that had to do with administration. One story going around was that when Tucker left Italy, he had an orange crate full of official charges against his soldiers and he just threw the whole crate into the ocean. Ridgway and I talked about it and we decided we just couldn’t promote
Following the war, Colonel Tucker held many varied positions and assignments to include Commander, 1st Cadet Regiment, West Point; Staff and Faculty, Air War College; Student , Army War College ; Commandant of Cadets, the Citadel; Assistant Division Commander, 101st Airborne Division and Chief Infantry Officers Branch, Department of the Army. Subsequent assignments were Commanding General of Fort Dix; Chief Military Assisitance Advisory Group in Laos and Assistant Chief of Staff G-3, United States Army, Pacific.
Colonel Tucker was one of the most decorated officers in the United States Army. He was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses, the United States’ second highest medal for bravery, one of which was personally awarded by U.S President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
during a visit to Castelvetrano, Sicily, in December 1943, for extraordinary heroism under hostile fire in Italy in September.
Major General Tucker retired from the Army in 1963, settling in Charlston, South Carolina, to assume a position he previously held on active duty, Commandant of Cadets at the Citadel where he remained until retiring a second time in February 1968.
Death and burial ground of Tucker, III, Reuben Henry “Rube”
On 06-01-1970, age 58, Major General Reuben Henry Tucker was found collapsed on the Citadel campus, the victim of an apparent heart attack. Funeral services were held in Beaufort, South Carolina on 09-09-01-1970. Major General Tucker’s final resting place in Beaufort National Cemetery is located in close proximity to the graveside of his oldest son, who was killed in action in Vietnam, Plot 20.0, grave ,61