Ewell Ross McCright (1917–1990)
Ewell Ross McCright was an Army Air Corps lieutenant in World War II. While a prisoner of war, he secretly recorded detailed information about fellow prisoners of war while captive in Stalag Luft III in Sagan, Germany. McCright was awarded the Legion of Merit posthumously in 2004 after his ledgers were published.
Ewell McCright was born on December 4, 1917, in Benton (Saline County) to Lewis Ross and Minnie Lee (Donham) McCright. He never married or had children. On December 4, 1940, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He applied for aviation cadet training on June 21, 1941, and was assigned to training as a bombardier on the B-17 on August 6.
McCright was a B-17 bombardier with the 360th Bomb Squadron, 303rd Bomb Group, Eighth Army Air Corps, on a mission to the Lorient, France, submarine pen. The aircraft was hit on January 23, 1943, by bombs from a high squadron. (During bombing missions, one bomb group flew higher than a lower one for protection against fighter planes. In this case, the high bomb group drifted to the left over the target and dropped their bombs on the lower one.) The plane was subsequently attacked by German fighters and went down. Seven crew members were killed, but McCright and two fellow crewmembers bailed out of the plane; all three were captured.
In captivity, McCright maintained four ledgers detailing the personal backgrounds and wartime injuries of 2,194 prisoners. He hid the ledgers under the floorboards of the prisoners’ barracks and in a false wall. When the Stalag Luft III prisoners were marched to Stalag 7A in Moosberg, Germany, McCright secretly carried the journals on his back in place of food.
McCright’s ledgers contained accounts of the downed U.S. airmen confined to the Buchenwald concentration camp, as well as Nazi atrocities, such as letting dogs tear apart Buchenwald civilian prisoners and the conducting of medical experiments on prisoners.
After the war, McCright graduated from the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville (Washington County), became an attorney, and served in the state House of Representatives from 1951 to 1953. He died on April 24, 1990.
His wartime ledgers laid in a foot locker for forty-five years and were rediscovered only after his death. In 1994, they were published posthumously, providing comfort for many families seeking information on the status of their loved ones. From McCright’s information, fourteen Purple Hearts were issued—many that had been denied for lack of proof of injuries.
For additional information:
McCright, Ewell Ross. Behind the Wire: Stalag Luft III, South Compound. Benton, AR: A.A. Wright, 1993.
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