Hale County WWII woman combat artist featured at national Army museums

Hale County WWII woman combat artist featured at national Army museums

HALE COUNTY, TX (KCBD) - The work of a combat artist from the South Plains will soon be displayed in both the U.S. Army Women’s Museum in Fort Lee, Virginia and the National Museum of the United States Army outside of Washington, D.C.

The family of Sergeant Ann B. Tilson, who was born in Hale County in 1912, has been digging through documents and other family possessions to provide information to the U.S. Army Women’s Museum. That museum has housed Tilson’s work for many years, something her family never knew, because they never knew the extent of her work in the Women’s Army Corps.

The family of Sgt. Ann B. Tilson researches her work while in the Women's Army Corps (Source: KCBD)
The family of Sgt. Ann B. Tilson researches her work while in the Women's Army Corps (Source: KCBD)

“We didn’t know much about what she had done in [World War II],” Tilson’s niece Dena Matthews said. “We finished a different family project and thought about her. We knew what she did since but not about what she did in the War. So, we Googled her and found a picture.”

That picture was a watercolor painting in the possession of the museum. Matthews contacted the museum and employees explained that they didn’t know anything about Tilson and wished to know more.

“That set us off on an odyssey to fill in those gaps,” Matthews said.

The family discovered that Tilson enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in 1942 when she was 30 years old. After training, she was attached to combat engineers assigned to rebuilding Cherbourg Harbor in France after the Battle of Normandy.

Sgt. Ann B. Tilson documents the work of combat engineers during WWII (Source: KCBD)
Sgt. Ann B. Tilson documents the work of combat engineers during WWII (Source: KCBD)

“After VE Day she was sent back to WAC headquarters in Europe and was given a command,” Matthews said. “She was to do illustrations of WAC activities all over Europe. Twenty-six of those paintings are in the U.S. Army Women’s Museum.”

Tilson would also help create other Army documents like pamphlets and posters and then go on to join the Civil Service and was in charge of craft shops on Army bases around the world until she retired. She died at the age of 68 in San Angelo.

Many documents and other information in Matthews' possession was turned over to the museum for archiving. Now, the museum has built a gallery housing Tilson’s work. It will open on November 2.

“We are just so proud and pleased to know that she is getting that recognition that they had never been able to give her because they didn’t know her except through her paintings,” Matthews said.

The museum told Matthews that at least one piece of the collection would be transferred to the National Museum of the United States Army when it is constructed.

“It pleases us immensely to know that this kind of recognition is out there today for her and also for other women who were doing unique jobs.,” Matthews said. “It’s just good to know that she represented not just women but also represented West Texas and represented us well.”

Copyright 2018 KCBD. All rights reserved.