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

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

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