WILLIAM B. COLLETT, III, LT, USN

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Birthdate & Date of Loss

Date of birth: August 7, 1921
Date of death: January 13, 1952
Age: 30

Lucky Bag

1944 Collett LB.jpg

From the 1944 Lucky Bag:

William Barrow Collett, III

St. Joseph, Missouri

Women, politics or the Navy, it made little difference to "Wild Bill." As long as he was talking, he was happy. After a year at Westminster College, Bill turned to the Academy for additional knowledge and for a career. An ardent believer and participant in athletics, Bill's choices were soccer and football. Although he could not be classified as a "Red Mike," Bill frequently vowed that marriage did not interest him. Instead, his one ambition is to some day serve on the China Station. His enthusiasm about anything, especially a good time, made him an easy fellow to get along with and won him many lifelong friends at the Academy.

He was a second set striper.

The Class of 1944 was graduated in June 1943 due to World War II. The entirety of 2nd class (junior) year was removed from the curriculum.

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 Navigation

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