World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: February 5-11, 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).
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Friday, Feb. 8, 1918.
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.
Public Services Student Assistant