Pottawattamie County

Robert Joseph Knapp





KINGMAN, Ariz., Jan. 7 (U.P.) – A Transcontinental fast freight slashed into an army bus crammed with air cadets just outside the main gate of the Kingman air bast last night, killing 27 and injuring eight in one of the worst bus-train wrecks in Arizona's history. Army authorities said the bus, a semi-trailer type, was returning 36 cadets from night gunnery practice when the accident occurred.

Witnesses said the heavy diesel-powered Santa Fe freight was rolling west of a slight downgrade as it approached the crossing.

Bus Leaps Forward.

At a signal from the crossing guard the bus halted. After pausing for several seconds, it suddenly leaped forward onto the tracks directly in the path of the onrushing freight.
The train's cowcatcher caught the vehicle squarely jackknifing it and dragging the crumpled wreckage several hundred yards down the track. Pieces were thrown over a wide area.

Base medical officers immediately set up a field hospital at the scene and ordered 300 men to stand by for blood transfusions to the more seriously injured.

Difficulty Is Met.

Considerable difficulty was met in removing dead and injured from the mass of crumpled steel and metal that had been the bus. In some instances it was necessary to pry the wreckage apart to extricate the bodies.

Engineer C. L. Hickley, Needles, Calif., said his train was making a normal, 45-mile-an-hour approach to the crossing at the time.

"I whistled for the crossing and noticed the bus in the glare of my headlight," Hickley said. "It appeared to be making a full stop at the crossing. Suddenly if jumped forward and landed squarely in front of us. I didn't even have time to apply the air before we hit it."

Twenty-five of the dead were air cadets, one a student officer and the other, the driver, an enlisted man. One officer miraculously escaped injury.
[Among] the dead:
. . . ROBERT J. KNAPP, 26, mother Mrs. Elizabeth A. Knapp . . . .
 Source: Yuma Daily Sun, Yuma, Arizona, Friday, January 7, 1944

In Memoriam

Robert Joseph Knapp, son of Louis J. and Elizabeth Knapp was born in Muscatine on December 03, 1918. He lived in Davenport for sixteen years. Robert attended Saint Anthony's School Saint Ambrose Academy from 1940 to 1943 and Iowa State Collegein Ames. Prior to enlisting in the United States Army Air Force on May 23, 1943, Robert worked at Rock Island for two years. He served at Sheppard Field Texas, an airfield near Santa Ana California, and at Kingman Air Base in Kingman Arizona.

On January 06, 1944, Robert and 31 other cadets plus four cadres boarded a bus for night time gunnery practice. On their return to the base the bus was struck by a diesel-powered Santa Fe freight train killing twenty-seven. Base medical officers immediately set up a field hospital at the scene and ordered 300 men to stand by for blood transfusions to the more seriously injured.

The Kingman Air Base commander called Robert's mother on 7 January informing her of Robert's death.

Robert was survived by his mother and two brothers; Louis T, a Sergeant in the United States Quartermaster Corps stationed in England, and Charles E., with the United States Army Air Forces stationed at Lincoln Nebraska.
Source: Saint Ambrose Academy school newspaper, Thursday, January 13, 1944