AT CAMP SWIFT 1942by
Tragic Death of Little Lucy Maynard
of men came and went through Camp
Swift, Texas during its brief wartime life span. Of all the Army training
camps in Texas, Swift was by far the largest, even without counting the attached
Prisoner of War barracks.|
The law of averages dictates that out of the
thousands of men stationed there, some of the trainees had to have been criminal,
insane, or both. Such was the case with 38 year-old George S. Knapp, a former
gunsmith from Minnesota who had been in a mental institution in St. Paul before
his induction into the U.S. Army.
was an incredibly busy place throughout the war. By the time the weekend rolled
around and passes were issued, thousands of troops were eager to leave the confines
of the post. Kerrville Bus Lines had seventeen buses per day that shuttled between
Bastrop and Austin. The soldiers got
a free ride back from Austin on army trucks - but to get to Austin, they had to
pay. The overworked, multi-patched and rationed tires frequently blew out and
left stranded soldiers all along the highway. But civilians driving into Austin
would almost always stop and transported the stranded troops the rest of the way
Bastropians also frequently invited soldiers into their homes for Sunday
dinners. This was a tradition in the home of Judge C. B. Maynard, who was also
a Major in the Judge Advocate General's Office at Camp Swift.
day the Judge's little daughter, Lucy failed to return home from school. Since
the school was only two blocks from her house, a search was immediately ordered
and MPs at Camp Swift were notified of the missing girl.
Later that evening
in Austin a man gassed up a Lincoln Zephyr at the Gulf gas station at 29th street
and Duval and drove off without paying. Since the thief was in uniform, the license
number was reported to the Austin police and the police, in turn, called the MPs
at Camp Swift.
Pvt. Knapp showed up at the Camp Swift gate behind the
wheel of the stolen car and was immediately placed under arrest. The car had been
reported stolen earlier that day by the car's owner, a Camp Swift Captain.
Knapp, was confined, but slept warm and comfortable, while Lucy Maynard lay unconscious
and exposed to the October chill with a crushed larynx. On the afternoon of the
next day, her body was found in a pasture three miles from town. Despite the efforts
of Dr. Gordon Bryson, the family physician who delivered Lucy into the world nine
years before. she died at 4 a.m. the next day.
Knapp was questioned
about any involvement with the girl. He admitted that he saw her walking home
from school and offered her a ride. "Come on, little sister, and I'll ride you
home," he reportedly said. His story expanded and he told how he drove around
Bastrop for some time. When the little girl became frightened and started screaming,
he strangled her with his hands and then threw her into the pasture where she
A court martial was ordered and his confession helped convict
him. Psychiatrists were split on his mental competence, because of his time spent
in the Minnesota mental hospital. The vote was 2 to 1 in favor of his standing
trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to hang. But due to the fact that he
was in uniform, a decision to carry out the sentence of the court had to come
from the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces - the President of the United
States, Franklin Roosevelt.
in the Camp Swift file of the Bastrop Historical Museum, a copy of a telegram
sent from Washington D.C. to Judge Maynard shows the terse message: "Confidentially,
matter is ending to your satisfaction." There was no signature.
man was held in the stockade at Fort Sam Houston, although the sentence was to
be carried out at "an undisclosed location."
The Maynard family was notified
that the execution was to take place at Leon Springs Military Reservation, 20
miles NW of San Antonio. They were asked to come early if they wanted to attend.
On the morning of March 19th, 1943 a lone Maynard family member stood with other
witnesses on a platform about level with the gallows that had been constructed
75 feet distant. George Knapp spoke with his guards as he climbed the traditional
13 steps. He looked in the direction of the witnesses and said clearly: "Say,
folks, I didn't rape that girl - I want you to know that."
In a light
drizzle, the drop was sprung and George Knapp departed this earth. Although he
was hung in uniform, protocol dictated that all insignia be removed from his uniform.
The brass military buttons had been replaced by plain civilian ones.
hanging took place a short five months after the crime and newspaper coverage
was very limited compared to the type of attention it would receive today.
The Maynard family moved from Bastrop, leaving behind a large family plot
in Bastrop's Fairview cemetery - including little Lucy's marker. The former Maynard
house is one of the many architecturally significant homes in Bastrop and was
recently used in a 1996 movie - (The Whole Wide World) standing in for the home
of Texas author Robert
Howard - creator of Conan the Barbarian. - TE
John Troesser |
shoe horses, don't they?"
April 11, 2004
Newspaper clippings, typewritten sheets and telegram from the Camp Swift file
at the Bastrop County Historical Museum.