By: Samuel J. Cox Rear Adm., USN (retired) Director of Naval History, Curator for the Navy Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
It is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral Eustine Paul Rucci, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy (Retired) on June 22, 2020 at age 91. Paul Rucci joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in June 1953 and served as a medical doctor until his retirement in August 1985 as the first Commanding Officer of Naval Medical Command, Southwest Region, San Diego, Calif. He made a Vietnam War deployment aboard carrier Hancock (CVA 19) and also held command of Naval Regional Medical Center, Long Beach, Calif.
Paul Rucci graduated from Marquette University in June 1954 with a degree of Doctor of Medicine and reported for active duty the same month. He first served at Naval Hospital, Great Lakes, Ill. before reporting in June 1955 for instruction at the Naval School of Aviation Medicine at NAS Pensacola. He then served with Fleet Aircraft Service Squadron (Special) 201 from December 1955 to August 1957. On June 10, 1957 he augmented into the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant with back-dated rank to June 1, 1955. In August 1957, Lt. Rucci reported to Naval Hospital Great Lakes under instruction. In February 1960 he became a Resident – Obstetrics and Gynecology at Naval Hospital Great Lakes. He was promoted to lieutenant commander in July 1960.
In September 1960, Lt. Cmdr. Rucci reported to Camp Pendleton, Calif. as Medical Officer – Obstetrics and Gynecology. He then served as the Senior Medical Officer at Naval Air Facility, Kenitra, Morocco from June 1963 to May 1966 (Kenitra and nearby Port Lyautey was a major U.S. Naval Air base from 1951 until 1977 for land-based maritime reconnaissance and intelligence collection aircraft). He was promoted to commander on May 1, 1965.
In June 1966, Cmdr. Rucci proceeded to Washington, D.C. as Bureau of Medicine Surgery, Head Assignment and Distribution Section, Medical Corps Branch, Professional Division. In August 1968, Cmdr. Rucci was assigned as Medical Flight Surgeon for a Vietnam War deployment and operations in Korean waters aboard carrier Hancock (CVA 19). He was promoted to captain on June 9, 1969 while serving aboard Hancock.
In August 1969, Capt. Rucci commenced duty at Naval Hospital, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda as Assistant Chief, Obstetrics and Gynecology Service. In July 1970, Capt. Rucci reported to Naval Hospital, Camp Pendleton as Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and in September 1971 became Executive Officer of the same hospital. In June 1972 he became the Deputy Director/Executive Officer of Naval Regional Medical Center, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
In May 1974, Capt. Rucci assumed command of Naval Regional Medical Center, Long Beach, Calif. On May 26, 1977 he was designated a rear admiral for duty in a billet commensurate with that rank. In August 1977 he was assigned to Commander, Training Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet as Medical Training and Readiness Officer, and he was promoted to rear admiral on September 1, 1977. His next assignment, commencing in August 1979 was to the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery as Assistant Chief for Planning and Resources. In August 1980, Rear Adm. Rucci became the first Commanding Officer of Naval Medical Command, Southwest Region, San Diego, Calif, a position he held until his retirement on August 1, 1985.
Rear Adm. Rucci’s awards include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Unit Commendation (Hancock CVA 19), National Defense Service Medal (2), Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Korea), Vietnam Service Medal (one bronze star), Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation Gallantry Cross Color, and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with device.
Rear Adm. Rucci was a Member of American Medical Association, the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, as well as a Fellow and Diplomate of American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He was also a member of the Miramar Men’s Golf Club and the Committee of 100 for the Preservation of Balboa Park.
From the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War to Morocco and installations in between, Paul Rucci served our Navy and nation with great distinction. In his OB/GYN specialty he no doubt provided peace of mind to Navy personnel knowing that their families were getting the best of care too. According to his obituary he was “known for professional tenacity, integrity, loyal friendships, and dedication to family and country. He was held in the highest esteem by all who knew him and was an aspirational icon, mentor and provider to family.” In addition to his medical skills, his superb leadership was recognized by his continued advancement to positions of ever greater responsibility, to include command of large regional medical facilities, particularly as the first Commanding Officer of Naval Medical Command, Southwest Region, a command he held for five years. He remained a fixture on the San Diego long after his retirement, contributing to the betterment of his community. There is no doubt that multiple generations of Navy families owe him a debt of gratitude for his service, as does the rest of our Navy and the nation.
Rest in Peace Admiral Rucci.