Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

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

February 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 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).

Highlights from this week’s letters include speculation that Forrest’s unit will soon leave for Europe, partially based on the departure of other soldiers from Fort Leavenworth, and discussion about the new .45 caliber Colt automatic pistol he was issued (“Now don’t you wish I could come home and go shooting with you? I can hardly wait for the target practice”).

 

Friday Feb. 22, 1918.

Dear Marie,

We are celebrating Washington’s birthday by taking the day off. We are having regular Spring weather after a short cold snap. Every few minutes this morning someone would remark “’Wish we had them durn horses back,” and believe me “them’s my sentiments,” too. You should see our radio class in the new stables. We have big tables and a number of buzzers and a large blackboard nailed on the wall. We have fifty minute periods, the same as in High School, do assigned problems in electricity, and have buzzer practice in here.

The Fifth Battalion, S.C. [Signal Corps] left for the coast a few days ago. There were quite a number of the boy’s mothers, wives and “best girls” to see them off. Believe me, those fellows looked pretty “blue.” Not very much “Where-do-we-go-from-here-boys” spirit in the whole outfit.

We expect to go within the next four weeks. Our mess sergeant has orders to be prepared to provide us with one days rations at the port of Embarkation and five days rations in England. I quit helping the Supply Sergeant Monday with the clerical and strong back stuff. We know now just what we lack and the requisition was sent in last week. We will get our guns in U.S. but new French radio equipment on the other side.

We were issued thirty .45 cal. Colt automatic pistols, yesterday, for practice on the range. These will be returned to the Ordnance Dept. before we leave. They sure are some guns. When you take the barrel of one out to clean it, it looks like a piece of young gas pipe. In appearance the .45 Colt is the same as yours, which is a .25 cal., but the working parts inside are altogether different. The hammer is outside and can be cocked with the thumb.(?) The .45 caliber bullet only lacks 5/100 of an inch of being twice the diameter of the .25 cal., so you can see how large the cartridge is. Now don’t you wish I could come home and go shooting with you? I can hardly wait for the target practice. Did you get the S.C. Drill book yet? I know the package got there alright.

No, I don’t care to learn to dance at any time. To have a share in making the Kaiser dance is the height of my ambition and I don’t care two whoops after that.

Glad you are having good luck with your elocution. Did “Bat” perform, he is “right there” when he does.

Stock is getting along great at Champaign, Ill. I will send his letter to Mother as soon as I answer it.

Say, if you ever get a chance to see Elsie Ferguson in “Rose of the World,” don’t miss it.

Well I must drop a line to Blanche.

Sincerely,
Forrest.

 

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

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

Monday, Feb. 25, ’18.

Dear Marie,

A letter from you this morning and a cake tomorrow, I hope. I know I need not worry about how good it will be if “S.M.A.” [Ava Marie Shaw, backwards] made it.

I don’t remember what day it was when we went to Rockford, but I do remember that game of “rhum” we played before we went to the theatre. I think you wore that silk dress with the big pockets – didn’t you? Anyway, I know how hard it was for me to keep from holding you tight in my arms for just a short second. But I didn’t dare to for fear you wouldn’t understand. What would you have done, can you tell me?

Gee, little Sweetheart I am mighty thankful that nothing ever did happen to spoil your trust in me.

I am thankful too that I can help you in the way you spoke of in your last letter. Please tell me when ever I can help you in any possible way. I am going to try and answer every letter you write from now on. It won’t be very long now until we leave. Tonight another trainload of Engineers pulled out. We could see them from the mess hall windows while we ate supper. It made me think of the last train I took to Chicago and then to You.

Well the “Y” Secretary just said ten minutes till lights out so goodnight.

With love, Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

 

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: February 12-18, 1918

February 12th, 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 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).

Highlights from this week’s letters include Forrest’s ride through a trench tunnel like an amusement park ride.

 

Tuesday, Feb. 12, 1918.

Dear Marie,

I am on a “light occupation” today, acting as Room Orderly at the Cantonment Y.M.C.A. The Company is on guard except a half a dozen, who are hauling coal, and others on special duty.

Yesterday, I passed the wigwag test with a perfect copy. I know I will have no trouble with the Radio or Acetylene lantern tests[.] Sunday afternoon, Sgt. Brown, Fritchie and Cp’l. Sundberg & I went out for some wigwag and semaphore practice. We got over a mile apart and used Sig. Cps. binoculars. After an hour of this, we looked over the Engineer’s new trenches. (These are shown in the 5×7 pictures of the radio men in the field, that I sent Mother. One tunnel is boarded on sides, roof & floor and has a track on which they run a little car to carry out the dirt. The tunnel is about 150 feet long and goes down hill. Sunberg & I got the car at the top and rode down the full length of the tunnel. We had a flashlight so we could tell when we were nearing the sandbags at the end of the tracks. When we were coming back, Fritchie surprised me with the remark, “This reminds me of riding the “figure 8” at Harlem Park.” I never had any idea he had ever been near Rockford. Do you remember riding the “dizzy dips” last summer. Gee, I wish we could have those good times again this year.

We have been having some great weather lately, and today is one perfect Spring day.

Most of us would give three months pay if we could have our horses back again.

We are spending nearly all of our time now with our technical work, radio and visual signaling. It sure is interesting. After the Battalion field maneuvers, of which I told you, Captain Murphy complimented the performance of Co. “A-6.” And, this morning Lt. Butler told us we were the best trained Radio Company in the Army. Class to us, huh. We are going to lose him as he has been promoted. Believe me, we are all sorry to see him go too.

I haven’t heard from Stock yet but I suppose he is very busy getting down to business at Urbana.

With love,
Forrest.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, February 14, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, February 14, 1918

Feb. 14, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Your cards received, and I am returning Charlie’s letter which came today. Isn’t he a good scout though? But then look whose “Little Girl” you are.

I have been helping the Company Clerk and Supply Sergeant check up ordnance and clothing equipment yesterday and today: You have no idea of the enormous amount of “junk” it takes to outfit a Signal Company.

Everything is being straightened out ready for a “French Leave,” which may occur sometime this year. (?) It all depends on transportation.

Our Battalion Commander, Major Moore, has been promoted; another mighty good officer lost to us.

With love,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

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

February 5th, 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 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).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, February 8, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, February 8, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, February 8, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, February 8, 1918

Friday, Feb. 8, 1918.

Dear Marie,

George Stock left Monday for Urbania, Ill. A young fellow from the Wisconsin University is in his place. He is a A-1 recruit, drafted, I guess, as he came here in his civilian clothes and knows absolutely nothing about military life.

We shipped all our horses to Ft. Riley a few days ago. “Ten” is in the Cavalry as his tag was marked “Cav.” A few of the horses were tagged “Artillery.” We kept most of our pack mules. One mule executed a perfectly good “Halt,” when we led him to the car door, but a rope from his halter around his hind legs, and ten men pushing, just naturally changed his mind.

Yesterday at 4:30 P.M. we had a formal “retreat” with a review of the whole 5th and 6th Battalions. It sure was some fancy.

Today we had our first battalion maneuvers in the field. We had telegraph and radio stations set up in a number of places between Leavenworth and Kickapoo. Our new radio tractor is showing itself to be some machine. I copied a message from it for the first time yesterday afternoon.

Tuesday I passed the semaphore test without an error. We are going to be tested in radio, wig-wag, and acetylene lantern later in the month. Those that fail these tests are not allowed to leave the Cantonments.

I doubt if you would find it worth while to learn either the radio or semaphore code. It is very interesting though.

Well I have hiked quite a bit today and will have to walk home so I guess I’ll quit.

With love,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

 

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: January 29-February 4, 1918

January 29th, 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 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).

Highlights from this week’s letters include Forrest’s frozen ear (“this morning I froze the top of my left ear on my way to school”) and a dispute during guard duty (“[the Officer of the Day] criticised me for not turning out the guard when he came in sight…I was on duty from 10 to 12 P.M. and believe me I halted everyone strictly according to regulations”).

 

Jan 30, 1918

Dear Marie,

No letter came Monday nor Tuesday but three came today which made it all “fine” once more. You didn’t tell me exactly what an Earth Trodder is, so I am not justified in condemning the idea, however it doesn’t “listen” very good to me. I would be glad to get a fruit cake from you, so you better get Blanche to show you how to make one. I would eat it all myself, too – you see if the whole First Section were tied up with a “tummy-ache,” Co. “A” would be very seriously crippled.

Marie, don’t ever think for a minute that I will get tired of receiving your letters. I am at least as glad to get letters from you as you are to hear from me. But at the same time I think it would be better to write every other day as lots of times I get two letters on one day and none the preceding day.

Now please, little sweetheart, don’t think that I am tiring of you in the least.

We rode all afternoon yesterday. As soon as we hit the hills we left the main road and hit for the tall timber. You should have heard the hooting and yelling when we got in the woods. There is only about six inches of snow on the ground and the ground underneath is hard and slippery so we could not trot very much. Even at that we had a lot of fun. Our new first sergeant is a fine fellow. The other one was promoted and Sg’t. Ryan took his place. Sg’t. Ryan is the one that got kicked just below the eye by the same horse that tickled me on the jaw. I guess he will wear that scar all his life.

The Co. had a big test in semaphore yesterday. We are supposed to be able to send and receive five to eight words a minute in wig-wag and ten to fifteen words a minute in semaphore. The words are supposed to average five letters each. It is easy to read wig-wag as it is impossible to transmit very fast with a large flag. I didn’t take the test as I was down to the class at the Army Service School. During the wig-wag class period in the afternoon, I sent wig-wag at the rate of eleven words per minute for a few minutes, and when I quit I had a blister on the side of my hand. Sending semaphore is not so much work, but it takes lots of practice and a quick eye to get fifteen (that is 75 letters) a minute. This is about as fast as the average person writes. I can receive about twelve words and send about fifteen words per minute. Sometimes we semaphore French words and one is out of luck if he misses a single letter.

This morning I froze the top of my left ear on my way to school. It was hard and stiff so I kept it in the snow until it got soft then I turned the cold water facet on it. It is swollen up and is pretty blue and tender, but I guess it will be O.K. in a few days.

Tonight, Stock and I hiked to town – an auto delivery took us most of the way.

Tomorrow is muster day, so we will have Battalion inspection, which means that yours truly must scrub his leggins before he hits that little straw bunk.

Stock says “That’s enough Bassett, that’s enough” and I guess he is right, don’t you think so?

With love,
Forrest.

I know this writing is fierce but I had to hurry.

 

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

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

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

Feb. 3, 1918

Dear Marie,

Glad to hear you liked the pictures. I guess we say our final “Goodbye” to our horses this week. Yesterday we saw our motor radio set. It is for the main station and is set up on a “White” motor truck. The motor class I was in was discontinued at the end of the month. (Jan.)

Stock leaves for Urbania, Ill. tomorrow or Tuesday. He will attend the “ground school” and then go to some aviation field to learn to fly, later. I wish I were going to Urbana as it is only about 160 miles from Beloit. Stock’s final success in getting his transfer has stirred up quite a spirit of unrest among some of the more ambitious men in the Co. Serg’ts Ryan, Carr, and Ward are going to try for a transfer but I doubt if they can “put it over” in the way that Stock did. Maybe Stock will go to Beloit some time before he leaves Urbana.

Friday night and Sat. we were on guard again. The “Officer of the Day” was a pretty strict one and about fifteen minutes after “retreat” was blown he came around to look us over. I was on duty at the Guard House (Post No 1.) and he criticised me for not turning out the guard when he came in sight. Well it happened that I was right because the thirteenth special order, applying to Post # No 1, starts out “Between Reveille and Retreat, turn out the guard for —- etc.”, but it got my goat anyway. The O.D. came around again on an inspection tour and Cpl. Abrams told me to be very sure to challenge all persons and to advance no one without calling the Corporal of the Guard. I was on duty from 10 to 12 P.M. and believe me I halted everyone strictly according to regulations. At midnight I was relieved and went to bed. Just as I was dozing off I heard Corporal Clayton make a remark about “Bassett waking him up several times by calling the Cpl. of the Guard to advance men coming to the guardhouse. Finally he said, “He’s a d-d good kid, but bullheaded as H—l.” I thought that was about “nuff ced” so I cut loose with a few remarks on the subject that cleared the atmosphere considerably. I knew he was pretty unpopular with almost every man in the Co. so I didn’t leave very much unsaid. It’s a gay life. I have only been to one “movie” since Thanksgiving. I saw one of the “Bab’s Diary” pictures last summer. It was the one where her mother wouldn’t let her have her new party dress made with a low neck. She scared her folks into thinking she was going to run away and marry, and finally got her dress. It sure was a good story, was it the one you saw? Well I must quit for tonight. Would you like to learn the radio telegraph code and the Semaphore method of signaling?

With love,
Forrest.

The radio code is the same one we used to use with the buzzer in my desk.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: January 22-28, 1918

January 23rd, 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 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).

Highlights from this week’s letter include horseback riding (“nearly three weeks of loafing around in the corral made them feel pretty funny”) and guard duty (“All I did Wednesday after 8:30 A:M was to take one of the prisoners from the guardhouse to his Company mess house for dinner. This fellow had a couple pretty serious charges against him”). This week’s letters also include a field message from Forrest (writing as “Gen. Nuisance”) to his sister Blanche, thanking her for the “war munitions.”

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 27, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 27, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 27, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 27, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 27, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 27, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 27, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 27, 1918

Jan. 27, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Stock has gone to K. City so I came down to the Leav. “Y” to write. I sure was glad to get your letter. Yesterday I tried to bribe the C’p’l in charge of quarters to bring a letter from Beloit with the mail, but even a big slice of Blanche’s cake was not enough.

I am still going to the motor class at the Service School. Have you a picture of the latter?

Tuesday afternoon we took the horses out for exercise. Nearly three weeks of loafing around in the corral made them feel pretty funny. We had quite an exciting time rounding up our own horses. I got “Ten” out before the stampede but had a gay time “snagging” a mule to lead. “Ten” had fattened a little since I saw him last, and when I saddled him, had to let out the cincha (which is the strap around the belly) about two inches more than usual. I am showing the effects of Army starvation in the same way. The mule I caught was a new one but he performed alright except that he kept a good stiff pull on the rope most of the time. Neither the Captain nor the Lietenants were with us and when we got into the woods we kicked a few slats loose. We hooted and yelled like a bunch of kids on the last day of school. The horses and mules had the same spirit and about every two minutes one would get loose (accidently on purpose on the part of the rider) and we would have some more fun catching them. Ten sure is one wise horse and is “on” to everything going, whether it’s heading off loose mules or jumping up a slippery hill. Gee, but you can’t imagine what great fun it is to ride a good, easily guided horse. When I think of the good times we used to have canoeing, and in the water, and shooting, it makes me wish we could be together on horses. We have fine saddles and the Company looks great mounted, every man in same uniform and every one in line with his “lead” horse to the right of the horse he is riding. We rode again Thursday but we didn’t have much fun as it was too slippery to let the horses go faster than a walk.

Tuesday night and Wednesday the Co. A-6 went on guard. I had it pretty soft, as I only had 6:30-8:30 P:M 12:30-2:30 A:M and from 6:30-8:30 A:M on actual guard duty. The night was not very cold and was clear and moonlight. All I did Wednesday after 8:30 A:M was to take one of the prisoners from the guardhouse to his Company mess house for dinner. This fellow had a couple pretty serious charges against him. One was impersonating an officer and the other was being absent without leave. He belonged to the same Co. that the other Bassett is in. The latter is in the same class with me at the Service School. His home was in Rockford, Ill. and he worked for awhile as telegraph operator at the N.W. R.R. depot in Beloit. When he enlisted he was in San Francisco. This makes me think about addressing my letters. It is uneccessary to write out my middle name. (but always my first)

Here is the address:

Forrest W. Bassett
Co. A-6th Fld. B’n. Signal Corps
Ft. Leavenworth, Kans.

Write Signal Corps in full as you have been doing but abbreviate the Fld. B’n.

Well I am in hopes that there will be a letter from A.M.S. [Ava Marie Shaw] on my bunk when I come in tomorrow noon. Please.

With love,
Forrest.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's field message to sister Blanche Treadway Poquette, January 27, 1918

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant