Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: April 23-29, 1918

April 24th, 2018

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 selected letters from Forrest 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).

Highlights from this week’s letters include updates on Forrest’s transfer request (“I guess I may hope for a transfer, some day”) and advice to Marie about learning to telegraph (“to an experienced ear, there is as much beauty in good, accurate, clear cut ‘Morse’ as there is in a sheet of fancy writing”). “My life before I came here,” wrote Forrest on April 27, “seems more and more like a dream every day.”

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 25, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 25, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 25, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 25, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 25, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 25, 1918

Click images to enlarge.

April 25, 1918.

Dear Marie,

The letter I wrote to you from the City “Y” was returned unstamped – I can’t see how I overlooked it – but anyway that’s why you didn’t get it. Well it wasn’t a nice letter anyway – all about telegraphy.

I don’t think you ought to bother to learn to telegraph unless it really interests you very much. Otherwise it would be a waste of time. The International Code, European Morse Code, and U.S. General Service code all exactly the same. You will find it given in the drill book in the chapter on Wig-Wag. Now if you really want to learn – learn right. The proper way to hold the key knob, the position of the fingers and the movement of the forearm and wrist are all very important. There is as much difference in different operators’ “style” of sending as there is in their writing. Generaly a good penman is a good transmitter, and vice versa. A good arm movement is essential in both “pen pushing” and “key pushing.” To an experienced ear, there is as much beauty in good, accurate, clear cut “Morse” as there is in a sheet of fancy writing. It is usually thought that receiving is much harder than sending, but I’ll always say that the cultivation of a snappy, easily-read style of “cutting out the dots and dashes” is just as hard as learning to play exercises on a piano or learning to typewrite. However I really think you could learn to send perfect “Morse” if you want to. So if you would like to try it let me know so I can tell you more about it.

My application for transfer has at last left the office but Lieut. Kilbury warned me it may be blocked by the Major of the Battalion. Well if it is I sure will be some disappointed. Things have calmed down a little and I will probably have to “mark time” for awhile yet. Last Friday we did some rough weather maneuvers. It rained hard all morning with a cold, chilling north wind. We had to set up two Radio stations in the field – one was the tractor set and the other the old type sets we had last Summer. The 4th & 5th Sections set up the tractor radio & the 1st & 3rd sections operated the pack set.

We (1st & 3rd) had a truck to take us out in the field and the clay was fierce. One hill stalled us and we got out and got behind. Well we set up our station by the Engineers’ trenches – the big tent and all. It sure was an awful morning and I thought my fingers would freeze while we were putting up the antenna. Everything went like clockwork and in record time. When we came in at noon we had the thick yellow clay up to our knees. I had to scrub my shoes, leggins and raincoat and shelter tent.

The visual signaling was not very efficient as the wind would tie up the wet flags about the sticks and it was very hard to see very far in the rain, even with the field glasses.

We just had another “all-around” physical exam yesterday and a couple “one-lungers” found. I guess they will not be discharged though.

Guess I’ll have to call this enough for this time, or I won’t have enough to write about next time.

With love,
Forrest.

 

April 27, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Your little note came this morning. I don’t blame you a bit for feeling that I ought to write oftener, for I guess I haven’t written much to anyone lately. Please don’t think that I haven’t thought of you much lately. And Marie, whatever you think don’t get the idea in your head that I might think myself too good for you or that I ever tire of your letters.

My life before I came here seems more and more like a dream every day. When I look at those two portraits of you (I have them back again) I can hardly believe that I ever held you close in my arms. It seems as if the days when we were together were years ago, and you seem like a big precious thing, altogether lost to me.

Well I don’t suppose I ought to write to you this way but I love you so much I can’t always hold back the feeling it causes.

Lietenant Kilbury is now a Captain and is our Company Commander. He has been in the Army all his life and has seen considerable active service. He is known all over the Fort as “Hard boiled Willie” and the title fits to a hair, for I don’t believe any officer could be any more rigid in discipline than he is. He sure is just plain “Hard Boiled.” He gave one man in our section five days in the guard house at hard labor for not marking his shoes with initials and Co. number. His favorite theme is absolute unyielding discipline – also that “non-commissioned officers will win the war.” Woe to the private that dares to speak to a non-com without addressing him as either “Corporal” or “Sergeant.”

He made a little speech this morning in which he said that Co-A of the 6th was the crack signal outfit in the Army and that he was going to make it a Company that never need have fear of meeting anything superior. Well there may be some “bunk” in that , but the Personnel Officer from Washington, who examined us for qualification as Signal men, told Captain Murphy that the men of “A”-Company were of the highest class he had worked with yet.

I guess my application for transfer passed the Major alright. Captain Kilbury marked my character “Excellent,” and the Company Clerk told me it was very unusual to get higher than “Very Good.” So I guess I may hope for a transfer, some day. Sergeant Baber, my Section Chief, has been recommended for the Officers traning Camp. Sergeant Williams, who used to be my Section Chief when I was in the 5th Section, went to the Officers training camp last January and is now a lieutenant. Well it’s a gay life and I can’t be worried, and lose my Milwaukee shape.

What kind of work do you intend to do this summer? I wish you would write more fully. I hate to think of you working outside, especially during a vacation.

With love,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: April 2-8, 1918

April 2nd, 2018

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 selected letters from Forrest 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).

Highlights from this week’s letters include Forrest arguing for the importance of sleep to good health (“that is one reason why all of us here gain in weight and health”), discussing new service radio equipment (“it is all for use in the trenches, while our training radio apparatus was all for open field service”), and advising Marie about his sister Blanche (“don’t let a few little sharp words hurt your feelings”).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 7, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 7, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 7, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 7, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 7, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 7, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 7, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 7, 1918

Click images to enlarge.

April 7, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Well, I haven’t written for quite awhile but still I can’t think of much to write about.

I am glad you can have a bed of your own and hope you will stick to that rule of going to bed at 9:00 P:M. Then, if you get too much sleep – why get up earlier. Perfectly simple, isn’t it? That is one reason why all of us here gain in weight and health – we get little rests after breakfast, dinner and supper. Our bunks are right handy in our “parlor” and a half an hours “bunk fatigue” is fine after each meal. (The army name for work is “fatigue.” Overalls are called “fatigue suits.”) Stick to the advice of Doctor Fox. However, I wish you would read every article by Alfred McCann, that you see. There is a good one in April “Physical Culture.” Did you try to read any of “Starving America”?

Well I am waiting for your Easter snapshots now.

I hope you join the “Campfire Girls,” it sounds pretty good to me. Be sure to tell me all about your doings, if you do.

Has Cashus got a key and buzzer like I had? Why don’t you get him to teach you? I sure do wish we could be “fixed” so we could telegraph to eachother. I passed the 20-word per minute test which, in civil life would qualify me for a Gov’t license as a commercial operator. I may set up a long distance receiving set if I ever see Beloit again. Our trip to France has apparently been called off for awhile. We were supposed to get part of our service radio equipment at the Port of Embarkation. It has been shipped to us and it is all for use in the trenches, while our training radio apparatus was all for open field service. The new sets are run by storage batteries and a part is carried on each man’s back. The transmitting sets are not very powerful but the receiving sets are extremely sensitive.

Well this isn’t a very “nice” letter, is it? Guess I’ll have to wait until you write some more nice letters, send a box of stuffed dates, and your pictures. That ought to be enough to make most anyone write a “nice” letter wouldn’t it? Even if it wasn’t to “S.M.A.” Don’t forget all packages are opened by the Captain or the Lieutenant, so don’t enclose any notes.

I am still working in the office doing duty on the typewriter. Friday I wrote a regular book; five copies at a time, using four carbon sheets of course.

Now, about Blanche [Forrest’s older half-sister]. I know positively that Blanche loves you very much, and that my few days home hasn’t changed her a bit. Don’t let a few little sharp words hurt your feelings. That is just her way, and I know she doesn’t realize that they hurt. I understand how you feel, alright, and know Blanche well enough to see just where the trouble is.

Also Blanche hasn’t been in the best of spirits after the trouble she has been having – and you know that makes a little difference. Marie, just act as if you thought Blanche loves you just the same as she always has, and you will soon find out that she really does.

With love,
Forrest.

(Give the enclosed typed letter with note to your Father.)

Please: Tell Lou I received her candy O.K. and will write later.  FWB.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: March 19-25, 1918

March 19th, 2018

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 selected letters from Forrest 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).

In this week’s letter, Forrest gives Ava advice for dealing with boys: “Please believe me there, little sweetheart – be the goodpal sort of girl, a “tomboy” if you like, for all boys love that type, but let them see ‘Hand off,’ and that you mean it. You may think you will have fewer friends, but nothing could be further from the truth.”

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 21, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 21, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 21, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 21, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 21, 1918

Click images to enlarge.

Thursday March 21, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Well what do you think of the hair? I let it grow about as long as the law will allow, and now nearly all of it will come off or the “cooties” will get me if I don’t watch out.

Now Marie don’t judge boys too harshly. You will find that your boy friends will be just what you make them. No matter what a boy may apparently think of you, he will, way down in his heart, respect you all the more for being a sweet, clean-hearted girl. Please believe me there, little sweetheart – be the goodpal sort of girl, a “tomboy” if you like, for all boys love that type, but let them see “Hand off,” and that you mean it. You may think you will have fewer friends, but nothing could be further from the truth.

I am not giving you any purely personal opinion of my own.

For the last eight months I have heard men of different types and character discuss “Girls.” (Lots of times it’s the only thing they talk about). So I believe I know something of what others think, – as well as myself.

The Good Girl is the only kind that any self respecting man loves. She is the kind of Girl that makes the world move.

And take my word for it these are no personal views of mine.

Please dont think that what I’ve said is altogether uncalled for – I just want you to know that allowing too much freedom on the part of the boys you meet, will never win you more real friends. And don’t be too quick to condemn a boy because he seems to expect the things you know are not quite right. Other girls – that didn’t care – let him go just a hair too far, – and he doesn’t know you real good – yet.

So forget it if you think the clean, decent fellows are few and far between. I don’t know what you think of my telling you all this; – most boys don’t write to little girls in this way do they?

But, Girlie, you are my Little Sweetheart and little sister, all in one, and I love and worship you as I never have anyone else. So please believe I am just trying to help you to be the kind of a girl that “makes things move.”

The Y.M.C.A. is about to close so I will have to finish this.

Sincerely,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: March 5-11, 1918

March 7th, 2018

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 selected letters from Forrest 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).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 11, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 11, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 11, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 11, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 11, 1918

Click images to enlarge.

Monday, March 11, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Your letter of the 9th came this noon. I have told you that I shall not marry and that is the very good reason why I can’t call you “my little girl,” and why you should “look ahead a few years.” The thought of marrying a French girl is furtherest out of my mind, so forget that clipping.

Marie, I always want to be the very best true friend to you that I possibly can be. I want to help you in every way I can. If there is a single thing I can do to make you happier, I want to do it. If there is anything I have written that you don’t understand, tell me. I have never known and never hope to know any girl so perfect in every way as you are, so you may be sure that you are in no way responsible for what I said in the first of my letter.

I will surely send you a lock of my hair in a few days.

We are not drilling very much now as there is so much other work to do in preparing to leave. Last Saturday Major Sanger gave us a formal inspection with full packs and shelter-tent pitching drill. Lietenant Killberry told us when we returned from the parade ground that we had done “excellently.” It will be impossible for you to see me as we may get orders to go any day now. There is nothing I would like better than to see you but we might just as well shut the thought from our minds.

Did you get the picture (vest pocket size) of me shooting the pistol?

Later I may send one of me with full pack as we go in the field.

Within the next few days I will probably send several packages home; will you please tell Mother to drop a card acknowledging receipt?

Here is what Sgt. Brown’s girl wrote to him:

“If my kisses to you had weight, I would have to send them by freight.”

“How is it by you?”

Won’t you please tell me that?

With love,
Forrest.

P.S. Don’t forget to tell me if you got the picture. When I say that I believe you are by far the most perfect girl – I mean it in every way.

No other girl can ever approach the place you have in my thoughts.

Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: February 26-March 4, 1918

February 26th, 2018

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 selected letters from Forrest 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).

Highlights from this week’s letter include Forrest receiving a fruitcake and singing book from Marie, clearing the air about their relationship, and advising Marie against purchasing a rifle.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 3, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 3, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 3, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 3, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 3, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 3, 1918

Click images to enlarge.

Sunday March 3, ’18.

Dear Marie,

The fruit cake came this morning with your letter. Gee, but it sure tasted good although it was a little fresh to cut. Sheridan, the one who took Stock’s place, got the first piece and he said “Gosh, Bassett’s cakes are getting better and better.” I am not kidding you either for “them’s my sentiments,” too. So you see Blanche is going to have to go some to beat your cooking, according to the impartial verdict of those that help eat “Bassett’s cakes.” I will send you further instructions by radio.

I got the book O.K. and while I don’t sing and don’t care much about singing I am going to keep it for the fellows at the “Y” to use. Marie you are doing everything for me that I can think of and I will always remember what I owe you too. The way in which you answered the questions about Rockford made me feel a great deal better – for I have often thought of it. Don’t think for a minute that you have ever offended me in the slightest way.

I do think it was wrong for me to kiss you when we said goodbye Thanksgiving – for your sake – because you know I can’t always call you my little girl. Things like that make me love you all the more Marie, but I must think ahead a few years. If you don’t understand me perfectly please say so.

I am mighty glad that you have broken that habit and to say I am more proud of you hardly tells it all. I will send the hair in a few weeks.

I wouldn’t advise you to even think of getting a rifle at all. My rifle cost me $16.00. The marble tang peep sight cost $3.00 extra. And an extra snap-shooters disc for this sight cost 50ȼ more so by the time I was all set for action, the gun cost about $20.00. Of course fairly good guns can be bought much cheaper but I wouldn’t even think of getting one at any price. Forget it. As for care, the small .22 cal. bore requires more careful cleaning than any other rifle.

One of our men was just recently discharged because of nervousness. He just left for his home in Baltimore, Maryland, last week.

Well I will send that radiogram later. F.

Please excuse this awful attempt at writing[.] Will surely do better next time.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant