WILLIAM B. COLLETT, III, LT, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

William Collett, III '44

Date of birth: August 7, 1921

Date of death: January 13, 1952

Age: 30

Lucky Bag

From the 1944 Lucky Bag:

Obituary

From Collett Family History:

William Barrow Collett III was born in Atchison, Kansas on 7th August 1921 when his parents were living at 319 T Street. A photograph is available. He graduated from Central High School in St Joseph Missouri and started college at Westminster College where Winston Churchill made one of his famous war-time speeches. He transferred to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland shortly before the US joined World War II. He graduated in 1943 and married Dorothy Alyce Butler, who was known as Stormy, at Annapolis in September 1943 just before he was assigned to sea duty on the US cruiser Nashville. Dorothy was the daughter of retired US Navy Captain Willard/William Cornwallis Butler and his wife.

It is interesting to note that in 1944 a Japanese kamikaze pilot crashed his plane into the cruiser Nashville with the loss of 138 lives. The long separation was too much for them and they were divorced soon after William's return to the States. He then entered flight school and became a naval pilot and was transferred to Ottumwa in Iowa where he met his second wife Corrine Phillips who was born there in 1920. It was on 29th May 1948 that William married (2) Corinne at West Orange, New Jersey and the couple originally settled in Florida before moving to Washington in 1951, where William was becoming proficient in the Russian language.

William used to fly with the navy just at weekends in order to retain his pilot’s rating. It was during one of those flights that he was tragically killed on 13th January 1952 at Wayne City when the plane crashed into the frozen over Detroit River. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, where his father and mother had also been buried.


His obituary appeared in the Ottumwa newspaper and read as follows: Corrine Phillips’ Husband Dies in Navy Plane Crash. Lt. William B Collett III, U. S. Navy, was killed in a plane crash near Detroit on Sunday afternoon when flying a navy Beechcraft patrol plane from Washington to Detroit. He was the son-in-law of Mr and Mrs Howard Phillips of 1805 North Court Street. His wife, the former Corinne Phillips, was at home with their baby daughter in Washington, D. C. when she learned of the accident. Lieutenant Collett was a flying officer in the navy but for the past year he has been stationed in Washington, D. C. in intelligence duty. However, he maintained his flight status by flying regularly. It was on one of these routine flights that he was killed. Following the death of her husband, Corrine was remarried first to Bob Long and then to Dick Smith.

As noted above, he is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Class of 1944

William is one of 66 members of the Class of 1944 in Memorial Hall.