Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: November 20-26, 1917

November 20th, 2017

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.”

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 20, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 20, 1917

Tues. Nov. 20, 1917

Dear Mother,

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.

With Love,
Forrest.

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.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 22, 1917

Thurs. Nov. 22, 1917

Dear Marie,

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.

Yours,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: November 13-19, 1917

November 17th, 2017

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).

In this week’s letter, Forrest mentions a parade in Leavenworth City, an event that was covered the next day (November 18th) by the Leavenworth Times. In reporting on the parade of 4,000 troops stationed at the fort, the newspaper noted that it “brought forcibly home the proximity of the war in which the United States is now engaged.” Even “residents of long-standing, to whom the military reservation has ceased practically to be a point of interest, were surprised at the number of men under the Fort Leavenworth command.”

Image of Leavenworth Times article, "Troops' Parade an Eye-Opener for This City," November 18, 1917

Image of Leavenworth Times article, "Troops' Parade an Eye-Opener for This City," November 18, 1917

Leavenworth Times article, November 18, 1917. Accessed via Newspapers.com.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 17, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 17, 1917

Sat. Nov. 17, 1917.

Dear Marie,

Well we moved into our new home last Thursday. It is pretty crowded but it won’t be so bad when we get settled down. We are at least a mile and a half from our stables now and that means six or seven miles kicking just for that. Here is a picture of Stock and I with the Wagon set. Some class to yours truly with a dress cap on. Stock borrowed it so I used it, too. The other picture is a case of three jugs of cider for the four of us. We sure had a gay time that Sunday.

This morning the Fort turned out for a parade in L. City. Believe me it was a parade & a half. Well I must quit and send some pictures to Blanche.

Yours,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: November 6-12, 1917

November 6th, 2017

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).

Previous letters have alluded to photographs being exchanged between Forrest and Ava. These photos appear to have not survived with the collection. However, one of the pictures Forrest sent Ava this week has been preserved with the letters, and it’s shown below with his caption.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 11, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 11, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 11, 1917

Sunday, Nov. 11, 1917

Dear Marie,

Was glad to hear that you are getting along so well in school. I am afraid that my report for that grade does not come up to yours.

Let’s forget all about that letter. It really was my fault anyway – I am pretty well acquainted with the feeling that prompted you the write that way. Wouldn’t you feel better if you went out more for good times among your boy and girl friends?

Anyway I do understand perfectly, and like you all the more for your mistake – (for it surely was one).

This is a fine afternoon for riding but I don’t feel quite so “funny” now. Stock and I got a few pictures this morning; if they are good I’ll send them later.

We are going to move into “winter quarters” this week. They are wooden cantonment barracks. The brick barracks will be occupied by reserve officers in training. We worked with picks and spades Thursday and Saturday morning at the “shacks.”

Here are a couple pictures that I took Saturday 3rd.

Yours,
F.

Be sure to have Roy take that picture.

Photograph of men on horses, enclosed with Forrest W. Bassett letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 11, 1917

Photograph of men on horses, enclosed with Forrest W. Bassett letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 11, 1917

Sg’t Westrum leading. Others: Weber, Gorney, Howe, & Meyers.
This is blurred – thanks to Ten, who was pulling on the rein I had slung on my arm.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: October 30-November 5, 1917

October 30th, 2017

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).

In last week’s letter, Forrest asked Marie “would your Mother let you use my .25 cal. automatic? If you want to shoot, and your folks don’t object, you’re welcome to it.” The answer to the question was apparently “yes,” because in this week’s letters Forrest instructs Marie on how to handle, load, and clean the gun. “I am going into detail so as to be sure you will know how to take good care of it,” he writes, “you know how ‘fussy’ I am about my ‘junk.’”

 

Friday 11-2, 1917

Dear Marie,

I managed to get hold of a Colt instruction sheet and will try to give you a clear explanation of it. (Seeing as how you are only a girl.)

I am going into detail so as to be sure you will know how to take good care of it – you know how “fussy” I am about my “junk.”

Let’s know what the names of the main parts of the pistol are. On the second page is a diagram showing:

No. 1. The receiver.
2. “ slide
3. “ barrel
21. “ Retractor spring guide.
20. The retractor spring.
7. “ Firing pin.
8. “ Mainspring.
9. “ Mainspring guide.

When the gun is taken apart you will have the loose parts shown on the third page. The firing pin – 7, 8 and 9 – will not always fall out.

The end of the barrel where the cartridge is “seated” when fired is the chamber. The other end is the muzzle end.

The magazine – No 23 – is the little box that holds the six cartridges. It must never be in the gun (empty or not) when the gun is being taken apart or put together.

  1. Remove the magazine.
  2. Pull back slide just as if you were going to shoot. This will throw out a cartridge that may be in the chamber of the barrel.
  3. Remove all cartridges from magazine and replace it in gun. Then pull the trigger – just as if you were shooting. When it snaps, the “hammer” is “uncocked.”
  4. Remove magazine.
  5. Hold the pistol in left hand exactly as if you were going to shoot, as shown on fourth page, except, keep your thumb down in normal position and not on the slide. The instruction sheet says to hold the slide back with the left thumb but your hands are too weak to do it this way. Instead – (of right hand) put thumb and index finger on the muzzle end of the slide so as to push it back instead of pulling at the rear.

Push it back far enough so that the muzzle end of the barrel shows as in picture on p. 4. Now, if you placed your thumb and finger right, you can hold the slide back and at the same time turn the barrel to the right a quarter turn, so that the 3 catches show, (as I have marked.)

Let the slide come forward and the gun will fall apart, exactly as shown on p. 3.

Note position of

No. 21 and 21 in

No. 1 and 2. Also 7, 8, &, 9

in No. 2.

Now remove the barrel from the slide by turning the barrel a quarter turn to the left and drawing it out to the rear.

Put the cleaning rod in the barrel with its ring end at the muzzle. Put a small patch of soft cloth (no lint) in the slot and moisten it well with “Hoppe’s Nitro Powder Solvent – No. 9.” Draw this thru the barrel several times – always from the chamber toward the muzzle.

Now wipe dry and apply 3-1 oil in the same manner, leaving a thin coat in the barrel. The first dope cleans only – 3-1 oil lubricates and prevents rusting. <- PLEASE

Now before you put the gun together be sure there are no bits of lint or threads in barrel or working parts. Read the above instructions Chinese fashion and you will know how to put the pistol together. Put the magazine – empty – in last and take the whole outfit to bed with you.

Always be careful to keep dirt out of the barrel so don’t put gun in a dirty sweater pocket.

Don’t let anyone stand at your right hand where he may get hit in the eye by the empty shell which is thrown out.

If the gun is ice-cold, warm it up before cleaning.

“””A gun is always loaded.””””

Do I get your goat at last?

Forrest.

See other letter.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 2, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 2, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 2, 1917

Fri. 11-2, 1917

Dear Marie,

Have just finished writing the “gun” letter so will write another short note and enclose the instruction sheet in this.

I sure do wish I could be there with you but no such luck. Here’s hoping you will get lots of fun out of it. It will keep you busy tutoring to pay for its fodder, but it’s great sport – how is it by you? I am glad you like it so well and want you to keep it for me while I am gone just as if it were yours.

You will find the dope in that black tin box. If there are any of my cartridges in sight burn ‘em up. Gee, if I could only be there to keep you. I like this life here, but there is one big thing missing and that’s You.

How are you coming with the dancing? Hope you will get a chance to try the horseback riding. It sure is good sport.

Forget about the chevrons.

Don’t plan on sending me anything. May think of a stunt later. If there is anything I can do speak out.

Yours,
Forrest.

Don’t forget that picture with S.C. emblem

Sorry about your teeth – know what it is.

See other letter

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: October 23-29, 1917

October 23rd, 2017

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).

Both of this week’s letters focus on Forrest’s “first taste of riding” a horse. “My horse certainly is a dandy,” Forrest tells Marie, “he knows his business to a dot. One trouble with him is that he shys [shies] at motorcycles, and once, when we were at a halt out in the hills, a cannon fired a salute back at the fort and I thought he jumped a foot.”

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, October 26, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, October 26, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, October 26, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, October 26, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, October 26, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, October 26, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, October 26, 1917

Fri. Oct. 26, 1917

Dear Marie,

This sure has been a fine day for us here. How is your throat; I hope you won’t have any hard luck with it. Yesterday the weather was fierce, cold, drizzly rain all P.M. Of course it was the 5th section’s turn to water the horses and distribute the hay and grain. When we got back from the stables my feet were soaked. We have big heavy greenish colored raincoats. (Everything in the line of clothing and equipment has that olive drab color and just matches the dead grass. A motorcycle sidecar in the field seems to blend into the background so you can hardly distinguish it.) Well – these raincoats have a very queer cut as they are intended for mounted service men. They are so long that they just miss touching the ground, and when buttoned single breasted they are a regular tent. The back is split clear to the waist.

Yesterday I had my first taste of riding. After an hour of snappy drill on “Shank’s horses” the fifth section and a few others went to the stables and saddled the horses. We have 34 borrowed saddles now so we had a pretty good column, riding single file, each man leading an extra horse or pack mule. We went out in the hills which are heavily wooded. Gee, it was great riding that morning; the weather couldn’t have been better. The lietenant got lost once and had to ask a party of Engineers, who were out making maps, the right road in. We went about five miles altogether, half of it on a good trot, and got in about 11:00 A.M.

My horse certainly is a dandy – he knows his business to a dot. One trouble with him is that he shys at motorcycles, and once, when we were at a halt out in the hills, a cannon fired a salute back at the fort and I thought he jumped a foot. One fellow was thrown off his horse but not hurt. Our saddles ought to be here pretty soon now, and I suppose we will have regular mounted drill on our horses when they do come. Lietenant Butler gives us Sig. Corps drill maneuvers every morning now. It is a lot more interesting than the Infantry foot drill. We are learning the silent commands now, as when we are on horses we will be spread out so as to make it hard to hear spoken commands. First the Liet. blows a whistle for attention and gives the command by holding or waving his arm in a certain way for each maneuver. The section chiefs repeat the command then the Lietenant gives the command of execution, (which means to go ahead and do it), by raising his arm straight up and dropping it out sideways to the saddle. (That is when he is in one.)

Well I must quit. Won’t you let the chevrons be enough? Will let you know about them later. Be sure to take good care of your throat.

Yours,
Forrest.

Here is a picture of a couple of the fellows. Sgt. Brown is the chief of the fourth section.

 

Sunday, Oct. 28, 1917.

Dear Marie,

Just finished the hardest days work I seen for a month. My turn at stable police came today after I had planned to do a lot of picture work. Jerry Berry and I worked steady from breakfast till 11:00 then I saddled my horse and went to the barracks (a short mile) for an early dinner. This was only the second time I had been on a horse, and the first time alone, so had to watch my step. The most trouble I had was when we passed motorcycles and autos. He’s no city bred horse by a long shot and sure does hate those little three wheeled buzz wagons. When we came near an auto he slowed down from a trot to a walk and as the auto passed he laid back his ears and stopped short. We sure had some dinner. Pork-chops, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cabbage, bread pudding, and cocoa. I guess Tom was hungry too, for, on the way back, when he caught sight of the stables, he lit out on a gallop. This is easier riding than a trot so I let him go to it. I am mighty glad we have horses, for the riding is sure great stuff. We are allowed mounted passes from 1:00 P.M. to 4:00 on Sunday. When I got back the other fellows went to dinner. At 1:30 we bedded the stalls and put out the hay and grain. I took a few pictures and then it was time for me to go to supper, so as to get back before regular mess.

Say, would your Mother let you use my .25 cal. automatic? If you want to shoot, and your folks don’t object, you’re welcome to it. Of course the gun has to be thoroughly cleaned right after using, and I will have to show you how to take it apart and remove the barrel.

Don’t you think it would be better if you did go to these parties even if you don’t care very much about them? I wish you would – I don’t like to hear of people noticing that you only go with me. Please don’t misunderstand me – I simply think you out to go just for that one reason, don’t you?

I can’t get the goods nor the fine olive drab silk floss for the chevrons so will have to give it up. Here are some cards.

Yours,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant