Alta Corbett Thomas
May 26, 1918- August 28, 2017
Training Location: Houston Municipal Airport (Tex.) and Avenger Field (Sweetwater, Tex.)
Assigned Bases: Camp Davis Army Air Field (N.C.) and Liberty Field/Camp Stewart Army Air Field (Hinesville, Ga.)
Planes flown: AT-6, AT-11, A-24, A-25, B-34, UC-78
Alta was born on May 26, 1918, the fourth of five daughters, to Elliott Ruggles Corbett and Alta Smith in Portland, Oregon.
Alta lived life to the fullest, never backing down from a challenge. She was an adventurer in spirit and actions. Circa 1940, she summited Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, Mount Adams, The Sisters and Mount St. Helens with an ice ax and crampons handmade for her by an old climbing guide.
Nature was one of Alta’s lifelong passions. She related to it on a deeper level, which is apparent in a lot of her poetry. She was also an avid fly-fisherman… catching just what was needed for her cat, dog and herself. We can imagine Mom happily standing knee-deep in the river, casting her hand-tied fly onto the water’s rippling surface while smoking a cigarette and chewing on the makings of a poem.
Early life consisted of horses and a freedom to explore. Painfully shy, she did not want to go off to school, but a compromise was made that she attended one year to “broaden her horizons” at Smith College.
After acquiring her Bachelor of Arts in history at Smith College and her private and commercial pilot’s licenses at Swan Island Airport, Alta worked at the Pentagon for Air Branch G-2 as a research analyst when the W.A.S.P. (Women Airforce Service Pilots) program emerged.
During World War II, Alta Corbett went to Washington, D.C., and worked for the War Department in the Air Branch. Corbett was accepted into the Women Airforce Service Pilot program in 1943 and towed targets, first at the Camp Davis antiaircraft school in North Carolina and then at Camp Stewart in Georgia. This required that she fly above antiaircraft guns that fired at the targets she towed behind her plane. She also flew night missions to train searchlight crews in detecting and tracking aircraft. Following the war Corbett applied for pilot positions with no success. To remain in aviation, she served in airport communications in Alaska. Alta Corbett returned to the Pacific Northwest and in 1961 married Ralph Thomas (1904-2003). They eventually settled in Sequim, Clallam County.