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.
Bastrop 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 in.
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
One 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
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
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 was found.
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
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
The condemned 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.
The hanging took place a short five months after the crime and newspaper
coverage was very limited compared to the type of attention it would
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