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World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: September 25-October 1, 1917

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).

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, September 25, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, September 25, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, September 25, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, September 25, 1917

Click images to enlarge.

Tues. Sept. 25, 1917

Dear Marie,

Your letter of Sun. 23rd came this noon. Sorry to hear that the Sundays go so hard but I am glad to know that you do miss me. It seems like two years instead of two months since I last saw you yet it seems as if I had been in the army about two weeks. The time sure does fly. Strained most of the day so we had it pretty soft. The captain gave the company a little mounted drill on “shank’s horses” this morning then we had a buzzer class in the barracks. I am holding a seat at the speed shark’s table but it is too fast for me. 20 to 25 words a minute is faster than I can write and I lose a word about every three words. I should worry though as I am no longer expected to become an operator anyway. After this class we put on our slickers and waded over to the stables and groomed and fed our horses. Our saddles are expected this week and then we will have a gay time. When we came back we had an hour of practice at setting up and sighting the heliograph.

After dinner we had a class of semaphore and an hour of infantry foot drill on the muddy roads. At 3:30 the day’s work was called done. I am down to Leavenworth “Y” now and want to get an early car home so will have to quit.

Marie don’t feel that you are making me homesick by writing letters like the one of Sunday. That’s the kind that help me the most and make me want to get someplace. It’s the very most you can do for me and you don’t realize how much that is.


Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

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