Major General Reuben Henry Tucker III (b. Ansonia, Connecticut, on January 29, 1911 - d. Charleston, South Carolina on 6 January 1970) was a U.S. Army officer who commanded the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment and was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses.
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 would raise five boys over the ensuing decades.
On 11 July 1943, Colonel Tucker led his troops in the parachute invasion of Sicily. There the United States ground and sea forces, mistaking the 504'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.
Colonel Tucker was an outstanding combat leader during the war, and had a marked and lasting influence on many members of the regiment 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.
Lt Gen James M. Gavin, who originally commanded the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and later the Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division, stated in his book, "On to Berlin", "The 504th was commanded by a tough, superb combat leader, Colonel Reuben H. 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 Tucker. (from 9/28/82 interview of Gavin by Clay Blair)
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 President Franklin D. Roosevelt during a visit to Castelvetrano, Sicily, in December 1943, for extraordinary heroism under hostile fire in Italy in September.
On 6 January 1970, Major General Tucker was found collapsed on the Citadel campus, the victim of an apparent heart attack. Funeral services were held in Beaufort, South Carolina, on 9 January 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.