In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature Bassett’s letters to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.
Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.
Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.
Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).
The first of this week’s letters is addressed to Forrest’s mother, and he reports that “I will have a four day pass so I can spend Thanksgiving Day in Beloit…It will be the only time I can ever come home – not even Christmas – until I am discharged.”
Tues. Nov. 20, 1917
I will have a four day pass so I can spend Thanksgiving Day [November 29, 1917] in Beloit. This all depends on getting the money from you. The O.D. pants and blouse will cost $30 & the fare $15 at the most. Can you send this much so it will reach me by Saturday morning? It will be the only time I can ever come home – not even Christmas – until I am discharged.
I was baptised in the Leavenworth City Baptist Church last Sunday eve.
Remember I will be sending $15 a month home in the Summer.
Please send the money so it will get here by Sat. morning if you have to telegraph it.
Thurs. Nov. 22, 1917
Your letter with the pictures came this noon. It seemed like old times to see you with the gun again. Sure was glad to get them.
I was baptised in the L. City Baptist Church last Sunday.
Well I don’t feel in the mood to write tonight so guess I’ll wait till later.
Public Services Student Assistant