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).
Forrest’s recent illness features prominently in this letter. “Here is the one [photo] of me writing to you at the hospital,” he tells Marie. “You can see a small scar on the edge of my jaw.”
Wed. Oct. 21, 1917*
Just got your letter of the 21st. You got me guessing as to what “this” is, but the stakes are so high that I’ll take you up on the bet anyway. Better stick to regulation style of slapping the stamps on my letters but I am curious to know this one means anyway. Did you get the pictures O.K.? Here is the one of me writing to you at the hospital. You can see a small scar on the edge of my jaw. It won’t show much but there is a small knot (that’s what the Doc calls it) on the bone. I left the hospital Monday morning. It was cold and rainy all day. I got pretty rusty on my telegraph receiving but my transmitting is a lot better.
My best luck was in getting my horse. I can hardly wait to strap a saddle on him. It will be my first time on a horse.
Please invest the 15 cents in stamps. Co A-6 bought over $7,000 in Liberty bonds. I signed up for $100 to be paid at the rate of $20 per month – 5 months. Well I must quit & scrub some clothes.
*Forrest meant either Wednesday, October 17th, or Saturday, October 21st.
Public Services Student Assistant