Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: May 7-13, 1918

May 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).

This week’s letters focus on telegraphy and Morse code, with Forrest sprinkling in news and advice to Marie: “whatever you do, you simply must get plenty of sleep“; “It would be fine if you could join an organization of real outdoor girls“; and “please be careful not to be too much in love with the Camp Grant boys because that sure would make me jealous.”

 

May 7, 1918.

Dear Marie,

I sure did miss your letters but know you must be very busy, especially this part of the school term. That is one reason why I was afraid to interest you in telegraphy. Whatever you do, you simply must get plenty of sleep. Remember that nothing is so absolutely important as one’s physical health and I believe that in your case, the early to bed stunt is most necessary. So don’t you ever dare to write again and tell me that it is 10 or 10:30 P:M, and you aren’t in bed yet. Some time I will write you a letter about Physical Culture, but to tell the truth I still have hopes of seeing you again and it would be better for me to talk than write about it. However I want to say a few words about sour milk. The only difference between the sour milk I used to drink and common butter milk is that ordinary butter milk lacks the fat, or cream – which is not important. I wouldn’t bother to sour the whole-milk, but would prefer to buy the butter milk, unless the soured milk tasted better.

I am glad you decided to learn to telegraph. Do you want the key to stay on my desk and use it there, or would you rather have it on a table at 389 Highland? Be sure to tell me just what you want as I am sure Roy [likely Forrest’s older half-brother Roy Treadway, born 1879] would fix it for you if you want it moved. The main thing in fixing a key is to have it on a solid table of the same height as an ordinary writing table or desk. The key must be far enough forward to allow plenty of room for the elbow to rest on the table without being cramped in any way. Also, the key arm must be in a straight line with the operator’s forearm. The position of the arm, wrist, and fingers is the most important thing in telegraphy.

First – the elbow must be supported on the same board, on level with the key. The elbow must rest, without any strain or tension on the muscles of the upper arm or shoulder. Unless the muscles not moving the key knob are relaxed, one will get cramped and tired easily and pretty soon the sender is apt to be victum (?) to a nervous trouble known to telegraphers as “glass arm,” as the arm becomes stiff and uncontrollable.

Second – the position of wrist and fingers. This is perfectly described in the little Signal Drill book, page 321, paragraph 846. Every word in every sentence in # 846 ought to be underlined. Note the picture showing the hand on the key – the position of thum and forefinger, and the curve of the latter. Every time you touch the key knob copy this position faithfully. Also read paragraph 846 p. 321 each time. The quality of your sending will depend on the proper holding of the key knob, and the relaxation of the upper arm, every time. If you haven’t the drill book or can’t find the paragraphs I refer to let me know.

Paragraph 844 page 320 explains about spaces, etc.
(1.) The dot is the unit of time.
(2.) – etc.

I have enclosed a sheet of cross ruled paper [see below] in which each square is a unit. There is no long dash in the radio code[.] It is impossible to make a dash exactly twice as long as a dot or a space between letters twice as long as a space between dashes and dots in a letter as I show on the word “come.” Better make it like this:

C           o        m     e
_._.   _ _ _   _ _    .

Letter space [marked with an arrow between C and O, above].

The letter space must be plenty long enough to thoroughly separate one letter from another.

The word space is longer than the letter space so as to set off each group of letters into words.

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

Click image to enlarge.

“Come Here”

C       O           M   E       H   E    R   E
_._.  _ _ _   _ _  .       ….   .   ._.   .
1   2         2            3    1           1

  1. Space between dots and dashes – as short as possible.
  2. Letter – space – much longer.
  3. Word – space – still longer.

So you see paragraph 844 is mostly theory.

Do you understand this fully now? Read this:

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

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T   h    i   s      i   s        t    h   e       f       o        r   e   s   t          P       r    i   m   e   v      a    l
_   ….  ..  …    ..  …       _  …. .      .._.  _ _ _  ._.  .  …  _      ._ _.  ._.  ..  _ _  .  …_  ._  ._..

T  h   e      m     u    r    m    e   r     i   n     g            p     i   n   e  s       a   n   d       t   h   e       h  e  m     l           o
_  ….  .     _ _  .._  ._.  _ _  .  ._.  ..  _.  _ _.     ._ _.  ..  _.  .  …     ._  _.  _..     _  ….  .     ….  .  _ _  ._..  _ _ _ _

c         k         s
_._.    _._       …

Write each letter above the signal as in the first word

T   H   I    S
_  ….   ..   …  (this) and send it back with your next letter, please.

In my next letter I will tell you how to connect buzzer and key with battery and why and how it works.

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

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Roy can fix them for you.

Well I must quit for this time.

Read paragraphs 845, 846, 847, 849, 850, 851, 852, 853 and 854, but remember that some of the letters in the Morse code are different than in the radio code, but that the method of handling the key is the same.

For instance a Morse J _._. is the same as a radio C _._. , and a Morse numeral 1 is the same as a radio P ._ _.

Well goodnight little girlie.
Forrest.

Tell Mother I got her letter O.K.

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

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May 9, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Your letter of the 3rd just came today, so I guess it must have been lost some way.

I most certainly do think that you should get more sleep, as I said in answer to your letter of the 5th. I hope that you will be feeling better in a short time. Have you read “Starving America” through yet? What did you think of it and did you understand the main things pointed out by the author. I have read many books on food but believe that Alfred McCann has the only real common sense ideas on the subject. You will find his writings quite often in “Physical Culture” and his work is endorsed by McFadden in every detail.

It would be fine if you could join an organization of real outdoor girls. Wouldn’t it be great if you could go to some kind of a girls camp for a short time during your school vacation. I had a fine time at the Phantom Lake Y.M.C.A. camp in 1914, and it seems as though there ought to be something similar for girls. Let’s talk more about this; you know I want you to have the best times possible and we may think of lots of things if we write about it.

Was glad to hear that Morse is coming here, for he will never find a better camp with a better bunch of fellows. Be sure to have him look me up.

Are you doing anything with the buzzer yet? Are you sure you are not getting interested in too many things?

I forgot to tell you about a few elementary things in forming letters.

The first thing to do is to practice making dot letters.

E   I   S   H   5
.    ..  …  ….  …..

At first make the dots slowly with a full wrist (not finger movement) always uniformly and accurately.

When you make an i count 1, 2. That is dot, dot. And S would be 1, 2, 3; H would be 1, 2, 3, 4; just the same as counting time in music. The above is simple enough but some amateurs have trouble in combining dots and dashes without having too much space between the last dot and the first dash.

For instance the letter A = E+T or . _ , but there must be very little space between the dot and the dash —  ._ and not . _ . The count is 1, 2 (the same as in I ..) and not 1, and 1.

In making the letter “S,” which is three dots, the count is 1, 2, 3. Also, the letter U, which is two dots, dash, is counted 1, 2, 3 holding 3 so as to form a dash instead of a dot. Again, F is counted the same way; .._. is 1, 2, 3–, 1. V is …_ or 1, 2, 3, 4–. and not …  _  [1 2 3, 1]. Do you see? The point is to have the dots connected to the dashes.

It’s the same thing in music. Take 4/4 time: You have quarter notes and whole notes, quarter rests and whole rests. Now a “rest” in music corresponds to a “space” in telegraphy

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 9, 1918

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Do you see?

Now do you understand why to count 1 2 3 and 1 when you make F (.._.) instead of 1, 2,   1, 2.?

If you make F like this . . _ . it is going to sound like the word “in” which is ..  _.  [I N]. Also be careful not to make C (_._.) like double n (_.   _.).

The best thing to do is the connect up that sending board of mine with the buzzer and battery and then if you use it right it will combine the dots and dashes with true mechanical precision and will accustom your ear to the proper sound of each letter. Tell me if you can find this board alright.

Today, Sergeant Baber gave the First Section a speed test in telegraphy and I have been rated at a speed of 20 words per minute, which is the average commercial radio operator’s speed.

Among my magazines you will find the July 1917Wireless Age.” Read the article on page 765, entitled “What Women Can Do, and Are Doing.” If you can’t find it I will send it to you.

With love,
Forrest.

 

May 11, 1918.

Dear Marie,

I think you got two letter this week didn’t you? Will be expecting a visit from Morse pretty soon now but can’t see how you expect me to like him if you like him nearly as well as you like me. And please be careful not to be too much in love with the Camp Grant boys because that sure would make me jealous.

I thought your reading, “The Service Flag” was good. Are you still taking both elocution and music? It seems to me you must be pretty busy, and I am not sure it would be a good thing for you to learn telegraphy.

What are your plans for this summer’s vacation, and what grade will you be in if you “pass” in June? Please really be my “little sister” and tell me more about yourself and what you intend to do.

Well I am going to go ahead and tell you more about telegraphy, but want you to tell me whether or not you really want to take the time and trouble to study it in earnest. If you you do want to learn it I will do a lot more to help you.

I explained in Mother’s letter, last night, how my transfer from Co A-6 has been blocked by Colonel Allison so you see I should become a pretty fair operator if I keep up with the progress I have already made. Of course it is slow work as telegraphy is only a small fraction of the “stuff” a signalman has to learn and we don’t get very much practice with it.

I am going to try to explain in as simple a manner as possible how the apparatus works. Now please be fair and tell me if you don’t really understand any of the things I try to explain because I am sure I can make everything quite plain and clear if you just tell me what you don’t “get.”

So hear goes with a few definitions, descriptions, etc. especially revised and calculated for a buzzer telegraph student.

— Will mail in a separate envelope – F.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 12, 1918

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May 12, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Your letter about Earl [Forrest’s older half-brother Earl Treadway, born 1881]* came this morning and will be on the lookout for more news. Sure do hope everything comes out alright.

Mother must be having an awful time of it.

Don’t let them kid you about Physical Culture, nor about the “Buzzer” either.

If you get time send me a buzzer message. Use the typewriter for the dots and dashes if you want to.

With love,
Forrest.

*Earl Treadway had apparently died after Marie sent her letter to Forrest but before the date Forrest wrote this letter; Earl was buried on May 12, 1918. He was thirty-seven years old.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 13, 1918

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May 13, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Don’t write to me at Fort Leavenworth. Wait until you hear from me again.

Tell all the folks not to write until they hear.

With love,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: April 30-May 6, 1918

April 30th, 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 a report on muster day (“all Signal troops were inspected by the Colonel; the first time since I’ve been here. It sure was some big doings alright and I wish you could have seen it”) and a thorough explanation of Morse code and telegraphy (“you say you are crazy to learn but I want to caution you that it takes practice with lots of patience – the same as music or anything else”).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 30, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 30, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 30, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 30, 1918

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April 30, 1918.

Dear Marie,

I sure am mighty sorry I didn’t write to you oftener this month, You are one real little sweetheart to continue writing and I will remember that. I wish you could just belong to me, for there isn’t another girl in the world as lovable as you. I am going to do my best to write at least twice a week next month.

Here are a few snapshots of “A”-men. The ones of the Battalion at Retreat are not good because they were taken late in the afternoon, against the sun. The one of M.S.E. McKelvey gives but a glimpse of the elaborate radio equipment on the radio tractor. We are very proud of our band and it has been highly complimented by outsiders.

I am not in the Photographic Section yet and will consider myself lucky if I get there during May. My application has to go to the Chief Signal Officer at Washington, and then a lot more red-tape I’m afraid.

Today is muster day and all Signal troops were inspected by the Colonel; the first time since I’ve been here. It sure was some big doings alright and I wish you could have seen it.

Well I must cut this short or I won’t be able to get in my pictures, but will write again very soon.

With love,
Forrest.

Please tell me if these pictures don’t come in good condition when sent this way.  FWB.

 

May 3, 1918.

Dear Marie,

The Company has been digging trenches this afternoon and I am a little tired from the snappy pick swinging, so will only write about telegraphy this time. You say you are crazy to learn but I want to caution you that it takes practice with lots of patience – the same as music or anything else. And here is the point:

If you try it at all do your best – not simply to be able to tap the key like some “ham,” but really strive for some degree of perfection. If you don’t want to go at it seriously the same as you do your elocution, do not waste your time – for no time is so utterly wasted as time spent doing a thing half way.

I don’t want to scare you away from learning to telegraph but simply want to warn you not to start something that you haven’t the interest nor enthusiasm to see through.

So think it over and let me know if you want to learn to be as good an operator as the average commercial radio operator. Girl radio amateurs have shown real ability, and right now the government has women teaching telegraphy to Signal Corps recruits.

And again let me say that you have the “stuff” in you to make a first class operator, not a “Morse butcher,” as we call one who chops out the dots and dashes in ragtime.

Telegraphy is similar to playing the piano in that one has to consider “time” and rythm, also one must hold the fingers, wrist and forearm correctly to send well with the key. When you hear the clatter of telegraph instruments in an office, did you ever stop to think that every little combination of dots and dashes forms a letter? Take the word “receive” for instance:

R|E|C|E|I|V|E|

Morse =  · ··|·|·· ·|·|··|···-|·

Radio =   ·-·|·|-·-·|·|··|···-|·

The American Morse is a little harder to receive because if the letters are run together an R (· ··) can’t be distinguished from EI (·|··) nor a C (·· ·) from IE (··|·) However the European Morse (radio) is better because there are no spaces between parts of one letter. R is (·-·), C is (-·-·), Y is (-·–) instead of (·· ··).

Of course I am taking it for granted that you know what a dot or a dash, or a space is; if you don’t be sure to speak up.

The slightest error in time length of the dots, dashes, and spaces makes one’s best efforts a jumble of unreadable Morse. So you see one must cultivate that sense of time and rythm the same as you do in music. It is easier in telegraphy than in music but at the same time more important

“And” (·-|-·|-··) will sometimes sound like “p’d” (·–·|-··) if it is sent rapidly without proper spacing.

Well you see I am making an awful fuss about accuracy and clearness in transmitting (sending) because anyone with enough practice can read telegraphy at any speed when it is sent properly.

Suppose you were learning to read and write in Greek or any language in which the writing is absolutely different than English. You would first have to learn to draw (not write) each letter, which would be similar to “sending” in radio; and then you would have to learn to recognize each letter, written by another person, which would be similar to “receiving” in radio.

If this is too big a strain on your imagination, then just consider how a 1-B pupil learns to read write.

I am pointing this out to make you see how very simple receiving in radio is.

At first you will think of C as dash, dot, dash, dot (-·-·) but after awhile you will forget the dots and dashes and think of the sound of the combined dots and dashes. For instance when you read you don’t look at each separate letter in a word but you see the whole word at a glance and recognize it without thought of the letters composing it.

I am analyzing these steps in one’s progress in learning telegraphy simply to make you see that it is simply a matter of time and patient practice.

Now for the amount of practice for best results. I wouldn’t advise practising too long at a time – and only when you are “all keyed up” for it. If you feel that you can spare a half an hour or forty minutes each day you will learn fast, and I believe you will like it and find it well worth the effort.

If you decide to try it, I want you to use my telegraph key, as it is a J.H. Bunnell key, which is the best on the market, and is almost “brand new.” Also you may find that sending board of mine useful – do you remember the thing I mean? Well I have a lot more to tell you if you want to go ahead so tell me one way or the other in your next letter.

When you get started, if you do, you will be surprised to find how easy it all is.

Will have to call ten pages enough this time. My next letter will be “nice.”

Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

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