Last Chance

Driving down the nine mile stretch of the Georgetown, Maine peninsula to my eventual resting place, I have frequently noticed a series of warning signs. They each announce that the Georgetown Country Store is coming up soon. One sign announces “Last chance for sandwiches before the water(read end of peninsula),” another “Last chance for drinks (both not true but how would a tourist know).”

These signs reminded me of highway signs that announce ” Last Chance for Gas before Expressway”  or whatever.

In 1968 I had the pleasure of serving with the Second Infantry Division in the northern reaches of South Korea. My Battalion typically rotated up for duty on the DMZ for 4 months and then back to Blue Lancer Valley for 4 months in reserve. Prior to a 4 month stint on the DMZ, the junior officers would spend several weeks ferrying back and forth from BLV to the DMZ to participate in patrols with the unit already in place. I arrived in Korea in late June, reported to Blue Lancer Valley, was assigned to an infantry platoon in B Company and was informed that five days later I would be sent to the DMZ for patrol training with our sister unit which would switch with us in early July.

During the late sixties we had two full combat Divisions in South Korea, the Second and Seventh. This was the period before the great economic growth of  South Korea. Seoul sits roughly 35 miles south of the Imjin River, the DMZ and North Korea. At this time the area adjacent to the Imjin was populated with farmers and various contingents who made there livings servicing the roughly 30,000 US troops assigned to the area.

On my fifth day with my Battalion, I climbed in the back of a jeep with my combat gear. The front seat was commandeered by a first Lieutenant who was a short timer. He explained that there were only 2 bridges across the Imjin River that led to the DMZ. Only Army personnel were allowed north of the river and then only with special passes. There were no civilians living on the north side of the bridges. Male Korean civilian support personnel were trucked in each morning and trucked back out each evening. The population at all times was 99.9 % male.

As we passed through the last small village that abutted the river and was at the southern terminus of one of the bridges, the First Lt. explained that this village, Chang Pari, was the evening destination for the enlisted men stationed north of the river. Most of the infantry enlisted men might get a pass one night out of ten. The one street village seemed to consist of seedy looking bars and slightly more upscale collections of shacks that were discribed as brothels.

Turning left at a small crossroads, we approached the bridge with defensive barriers, armed guards etc. Fifty yards short of the bridge there was a three story stucco billing painted a robins egg blue. In large letters on the side of the building were the words “Last Chance.”

Four days later after having survived my first ambush patrol in the DMZ (listening to Commander Lloyd Bucher beg to come home over North Korean loudspeakers), I was again in the back of a jeep returning to my Battalions base at Blue Lancer Valley. As we crossed the bridge into the village I again noticed the robin’s egg blue building. In prominent lettering on the side of the building facing the bridge I read “First Chance.”


22 Responses to “Last Chance”

  1. 1 Kids Territory August 16, 2007 at 9:58 pm

    Thanks for sharing this information. Really is pack with new knowledge. Keep them coming.

  2. 2 Eliyahu June 18, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    If you want to experience a sort of “let down”, check out BLV on Google Earth. Almost all the buildings are gone, and it’s mostly overgrown with brush now. Grid coordinates are 37-55’01.39″N, 126-51’38.56″E . The parade fields is still there, though.

  3. 3 Raymond Taylor August 30, 2009 at 2:23 am

    I was in Korea , 1968-69 rotated from the 44 eng
    to someplace up north can’t remember where
    aprx 2 hours from where train stopped.
    I was crane operators, played a lot of hearts during the time in crane. there was a compound on the Right side of street
    we where on the left in a 1/2 Qawaski hut. that was all that was left . No Guards there was a crane and aflat bed truck was all we had. we went once a week to bridge, no town new bridge built around 1966 or 67,
    If you can help me with name of camp or Bridge
    thank you, Trying to get Disability Agent Orange
    I was also rotated after 1 day from down south by the 44 engineers and have no earthly idea what I was doing up there.

    Ray Taylor

  4. 8 pfc John B September 16, 2011 at 5:15 am

    I was in blv the same time in 1968 and 1969,i arrived to late. to go to op dort so i stayed there at blv for 4 months training I was stationed with the 2/38 i was with the 1/23( sgt center )was the supply sarge. when the 1/23 or the 2/38 went to the barrier fence they had a soldier killed by the name of spec 4 Thomas Omalley he was from Studenville Ohio from friendly fire from the barrier fence during a mad minute.Spec 4 Omalley was on an ambush patrol at the time just north of the fence. The soldiers in the foxholes was not informed that there would be a patrol near by. They were all from the same company,the patrol and the barrier guards.The rok soldiers were stationed next us at the dort. well gotta go I hate being over there in the 48 below 0 weather.

    • 9 jcm March 3, 2013 at 10:25 am

      It was James E O’Malley died 13 Dec. 1968 he was in 3rd squad, A co.1/23d. one of the good people, I was in A co 3rd squad for about 5 mo. James was a good friend, at the time of his death I had been transfer to B co. we were told that he had stepped on a land mine. I took the time to go back and take to members of the squad and a friend of both of ours a then a Sgt. Santis and was told the same story! the sad thing is James is not listed a killed in action! and it does matter if it was by friendly fire or a land mine it was on the dmz! and should of been listed as such!
      John C.M

      • 10 Robert Van Vlack November 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm

        I was in HHQ Company Battalion Supply. I heard the same story along with the fact that the Lieutenant had taken the patrol across the line into North Korea so he could say he had been there before he went home. I wrote a requisition for a plaque, in honor of James E O’Malley, that was to be erected at the outpost near where he died, not sure if it is still there.

        I arrived in Korea on Thanksgiving day of 1968 and left the following December.


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  7. 13 Ron Brown September 23, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    I was at Camp Jeb Stuart at a short walk south of Last Chance Village with the 4/7th Cav, 2nd Infantry in 1969. Is that the imjin River there that I was next to? I have always wondered. I also was an authority on Last Chance Village. Could I tell a story that ya`ll wouldn`t believe!

  8. 14 juan p. arvizo January 23, 2016 at 3:42 am

    I was stationed at Blue Lancer Valley 1960 out basic training as a 112 mortor crewman but wound up as a truck driver. HHC 12 Cav 1 CAV Div.
    I have pictures if anyone wants to see them please let me know.

  9. 15 Michael Brownstein February 28, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    Served with 1st/9th across Libby in the DMZ. Was battalion surgeon, 1968-1969

  10. 16 Dzieciecewozki.Info February 7, 2017 at 12:07 am

    Fantastic blog you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any discussion boards that
    cover the same topics discussed in this article?
    I’d really love to be a part of community where
    I can get comments from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Kudos!

  11. 17 メンズTBC March 20, 2017 at 4:44 am


  12. 19 BILL MCINERNEY March 1, 2018 at 1:24 am

    Greetings, Regarding Camp Walley and James O’Malley; I was with A Co. 1/23 from Feb. 68 to Apr. 69. I was in the same unit as O’Malley. What a tragedy. It could have happened to any of us over there. It was a common occurrence to stumble across old land mines and mortar rounds while out on patrol from OP Dort. I never heard the story about the lieutenant leading the patrol into North Korea. I heard it was an old mine left over from the war. Does anyone know what it would take to have him listed as killed in action?

    I believe OP Dort was renamed OP O’Malley? Does anyone remember the spider holes?

    The other bridge that crossed the Imjin was Freedom Bridge.

  13. 20 Erin O'Malley March 27, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    is this still active?

  14. 21 Erin O'Malley March 27, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    I’ve been doing research into our family history after my brother recently passed. I believe this James O’Malley you are talking about on this thread is my uncle. I’d love to hear any stories or information anyone has on him since I was never able to meet him and my dad doesn’t talk about him or his death much. All I know is he was killed in Korea in 1968 by stepping on a landmine. We are from Youngstown, Ohio. Email me at

  15. 22 William Kinkopf April 11, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    Served with the 84th Engineers building the Libby Bridge April to July 1953. Then built prisoner compounds in the DMZ. Known as The Traveling Gypsies the 84th moved all over the country doing all kinds of projects. A really eye opening experience.

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