A 65-year search comes to a sad end
Veteran who searched for brother’s remains dies
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.”
Baltimore County resident Vincent Krepps, shown in May, sought to find the remains of his brother, a Korean War POW.