Biographies - James Willis

LTC James Tillman Willis

United States Army  •  No. 10612  •  Class of 1936, West Point
Died November 21, 2000, in Houston, Texas, at the age of 87

JAMES TILLMAN “TIM” WILLIS was born in Columbus, Georgia. While attending West Point, Tim earned varsity letters in track and gymnastics. Upon graduation, Willis was sent to Randolf Field, San Antonio, Texas. He was not, however, destined to be a pilot and ended up at Ft. Sam Houston.

In 1940, he was assigned to the 21st Infantry at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, where he commanded his first company and met an Army nurse, Francis Quintrell. They married at the Post Chapel in August 1941.

As newlyweds living on post in Makua Pocket, one morning they were awakened by loud explosions and could see bombs falling on Wheeler Field. A year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Willis was sent to Camp Roberts, California.

He attended the advanced course at Ft. Benning and, in February 1944, was assigned to the 70th Division at Camp Adair, Oregon. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel and assumed command of the 2d Battalion, 274th Infantry. The division subsequently was ordered overseas.
Willis saw his greatest action of WWII in Phillipsburg, France, where he was cited for gallantry in action and received the Silver and Bronze Stars. As quoted in Snow Ridges and Pillboxes, Axis Sally, on Radio Berlin, referred to him as the “Mad Major of Phillipsburg,” who leaped from foxhole to foxhole leading his men into battle.
Willis attended CGSC following his overseas assignment but was soon ordered to Korea, where he made the Inchon landing. After Korea, he was sent to G-4 section, Japanese Logistic Command and Headquarters. In 1953, he taught at Sam Houston State University-Huntsville, Texas, as professor of Military Science and Tactics.
Tim retired from the military in 1957 and moved his family to Houston, where he taught math at Spring Branch High School for four years.