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Colonel K.R. Kreps: A Soldier's Life Rediscovered

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posted on 2024-06-05, 19:00 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

My grandfather, Colonel Kenneth Ray Kreps, talked about his World War II experiences only once and never again. Although he managed to give my father a brief summary on his 16th birthday, the conversation was left unfinished because he was overwhelmed by haunting memories. He also told my dad he had a "war chest" that he didn't want opened until after his death. He lived into his 90s, and the family honored his request.

In September 2022 my wife and I discovered not only the fabled war chest, but a treasure trove of records and artifacts that had been sitting in a storage unit with other miscellanea unexplored for decades. It was literally one day away from being lost to history forever. (His official military personnel records were among the nearly 18 million files destroyed in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center.) The contents of the storage unit were almost beyond belief.

We learned that Colonel Kreps was the recipient of the Silver Star, Purple Heart, Citation for Distinguished Flying Cross, Citation for Air Medal, Citation for Legion of Merit, and Air Force Commendation Medal. He had documented interactions with Dwight Eisenhower, Winston Churchill, George Patton, George C. Marshall, Henry Stimson, and many other high ranking dignitaries. He and my grandmother had Hollywood connections and were "entertained at Romanoff's by their friends the Gary Coopers." He served in both the Pacific and European theaters during the war and later carried out intelligence work in Ireland, had an office in the Pentagon, taught at the Air War College, and advised Congress on the future of air power on the world stage. Artifacts recovered include his M1911 handgun and a cigar from Winston Churchill.

We'd been asked to present these findings at a WWII memorial event and put together a google slide deck. A pdf of the google slide deck can be found within this record.

History

Item list and details

The cigar was given to Colonel Kreps from Winston Churchill. The backstory: Towards the close of the war Churchill was meeting with Stimson and other dignitaries. Kreps was in the room. Churchill was passing around cigars and Kreps pocketed the one given to him. Churchill asked, "Well aren't you going to smoke it?" Kreps said he'd like to give it to his father [actually stepfather]. Churchill said "In that case, you can smoke this one then" and handed him another. Kreps' stepfather was so moved by the gift from his son that he carved a monogrammed ivory cigar case and gifted it back to him. The others are a letter from Kreps to his daughter from the jungles of the Philippines when his survival was in doubt and a follow-up from a friend a year later.

Person the story/items relate to

Colonel K.R. Kreps

Person who shared the story/items

Erik Kreps

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

He was my grandfather.

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID

107159