A 65-year search comes to a sad end

Vet­eran who searched for brother’s re­mains dies

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Tim Prudente tpru­dente@balt­sun.com

In his last months, af­ter the shin­gles he beat and the can­cer he couldn’t, Vin­cent Krepps was still search­ing.

The Bal­ti­more County man had flown to China, climbed hills in Korea and at­tended vet­er­ans meet­ings across the coun­try in his decades-long search for his twin brother. On Satur­day, his time ran out. Krepps died Satur­day morn­ing of com­pli­ca­tions from can­cer. He was 85.

He never found the re­mains of his twin, Richard, taken pris­oner in the Korean War and miss­ing since 1950.

“That was his whole mis­sion in life,” said Angie Kauf­man of Cock­eysville, his niece. “His brother was left over there, but part of Vince was, too.”

Krepps searched for 65 years and nine months — ever since he re­turned from Korea with­out Cpl. Richard “Dickie” Krepps, his two-min­utes-younger brother.

The sur­viv­ing brother be­came an ad­vo­cate for fam­i­lies of miss­ing vet­er­ans. His years of re­search, enough to fill 13 binders in his Parkville home, was a re­source for oth­ers search­ing for their own loved ones.

Butch Maisel, a his­tory teacher at Boys’ Latin School, said Krepps helped him learn how and where his brother was killed.

Maisel had not yet been born when his older brother van­ished in Korea. Krepps, who edited the Korean War vet­er­ans mag­a­zine The Gray­beards in the 1990s, shared news of Maisel’s search. They reached a sol­dier who had served with Maisel’s brother.

“Vince helped me un­ravel the whole thing,” Maisel said. “He was shot in the chest and died in­stantly.

“To ac­tu­ally be able to find some­one who stood there with him was gut-wrench­ing.”

Some 7,800 Amer­i­cans re­main miss­ing from the Korean War — more than from the Viet­nam War.

About 90 mil­i­tary re­searchers are work­ing at labs in Hawaii, Ne­braska and Ohio to iden­tify the bones of Amer­i­cans re­turned from over­seas. Fam­i­lies across the coun­try have sub­mit­ted DNA to a database for match­ing. Krepps did, too.

The mil­i­tary iden­ti­fied the re­mains of 73 Amer­i­cans miss­ing in for­eign wars last year. Thirty-five were from the Korean War.

That’s up from 69 the year be­fore, and 60 the year be­fore that.

Still, the num­bers have fallen short of ex­pec­ta­tions. Congress has or­dered 200 iden­ti­fi­ca­tions a year, but the tar­get has proved elu­sive.

Jen­nifer Love of Cal­i­for­nia grew up won­der­ing about the fate of a great-un­cle.

“I just knew he died in Korea,” she said. “I never knew what hap­pened.”

Her search on­line led her to Vin­cent Krepps. To­gether, they dis­cov­ered that her great-un­cle served in the same ar­tillery bat­tery as the Krepps broth­ers.

They also learned that her great-un­cle was in the same prison camp as Richard.

The Krepps twins, from Es­sex, en­listed in the Army to­gether in 1949, and went to war the fol­low­ing year. Richard Krepps went miss­ing Dec. 1, 1950, af­ter the Chi­nese poured across the Yalu River.

Vin­cent had been hos­pi­tal­ized af­ter a truck crash. He re­turned to the broth­ers’ ar­tillery bat­tery to learn Richard had dis­ap­peared.

Vin­cent Krepps re­turned to Es­sex in the spring of 1951 and his search be­gan.

His story spread through the net­work of vet­er­ans. Even­tu­ally, in De­cem­ber 1998, he heard from Ron­ald Love­joy of Nevada. Love­joy said he was with Richard in the prison camp. Love­joy said Richard starved to death, his body stacked with oth­ers.

Vin­cent Krepps spoke of his search four months ago in an ad­dress at the Memo­rial Day ser­vice at Du­laney Val­ley Memo­rial Gar­dens in Ti­mo­nium.

Vin­cent’s niece and nephew promised to watch for Richard’s re­mains. The rel­a­tives of vet­er­ans he helped iden­tify ex­pressed sup­port.

“I told Vince that if Richard’s re­mains are ever re­cov­ered, I would like to be there,” Love said. “He helped a com­plete stranger, no ques­tions asked. I would do any­thing for him.”

AL­GE­RINA PERNA/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Bal­ti­more County res­i­dent Vin­cent Krepps, shown in May, sought to find the re­mains of his brother, a Korean War POW.

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