An Apache helicopter waits in a hangar at Camp Page, South Korea.

An Apache helicopter waits in a hangar at Camp Page, South Korea. (Seth Robson / S&S)

An Apache helicopter waits in a hangar at Camp Page, South Korea.

An Apache helicopter waits in a hangar at Camp Page, South Korea. (Seth Robson / S&S)

Staff Sgt. Darius Lazare, 34, of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, services the tail rotor on an Apache helicopter.

Staff Sgt. Darius Lazare, 34, of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, services the tail rotor on an Apache helicopter. (Seth Robson / S&S)

(Editor's note: This story is part of an occasional series on U.S. bases to be closed in the coming year.)

CAMP PAGE, South Korea — Soldiers and civilians preparing to move out of Camp Page when it closes early next year say they’ll be sad to leave the facility, in the heart of one of South Korea’s most popular tourist regions.

Joe Bell, Camp Page manager, said soldiers who serve there regard it as the Army’s best kept secret. The installation, slated to close as early as March, is home to 700 soldiers from 14 different units.

The most prominent include the 1st Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment, which flies Apache Longbow helicopters, and the 542nd Air Med Ambulance Company, which flies Black Hawk helicopters. The base also is home to the 55th Military Police Company and the 65th Ordinance Company, Bell said.

Camp Page was established during the Korean War as an airfield for Mosquito observation aircraft, he said. According to the Web site, from 1958 to 1978 the base was home to the 4th Missile Command, a major 8th Army subordinate command. The 4th Missile Command included the 100th Field Artillery Rocket Battalion, infantry, engineer, signal and supply units.

Lt. Col. John U.D. Page’s portrait still hangs in the Camp Page administration block entrance. The base was named in honor of the U.S. Army officer, posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross for Gallantry while serving with Marine units in the 1950 Korean War breakout from Chosin Reservoir.

“Realizing the extreme danger to the stationary convoy while under relentless fire of the enemy forces commanding high ground on both sides of the road, Lieutenant Colonel Page bravely fought his way to the head of the column accompanied by a Marine private. Undaunted by point-blank machine-gun fire, he continued directly into the hostiles strong point, taking 30 of the enemy completely by surprise and inflicting severe causalities among them,” his citation reads.

A hand grenade wounded the Marine private; Page ordered him to withdraw, then provided him covering fire, “fiercely continuing to engage the enemy single-handedly and killing 12 of them before he was mortally wounded … he was directly responsible for disrupting the hostile attack, thereby making it possible for the members of his convoy to regroup, redeploy and fight off succeeding attacks.”

The Korean War’s aftermath eventually grew into prosperity for Chunchon city and picturesque Kangwon Province, which surround Camp Page.

The area is famous for its lakes, mountain climbing and Buddhist temples. Chunchon also includes numerous restaurants, hotels, ski fields and golf courses for the thousands of tourists who flock there each year.

Camp Page lacks some facilities that other bases in South Korea have; the base theater, for example, collapsed last year. However, the remaining buildings are in good condition and include a community center, commissary, bar, game room, bowling ally, arts and crafts shop and dining facility.

“I am sad that the base is closing because it is such a beautifully put-together facility and we have so many good employees here,” Bell said. Camp Page soldiers also will mourn it’s passing, he added. “They consider Camp Page the best kept secret in the Army. We have one of the best sports programs, a paint ball range, soccer field, model race-car facility and a softball diamond.

“There is a lot of outdoor recreation they can do in this area that they would not be able to do in places such as Uijongbu or Seoul.

“Soraksan National Park is only two hours’ drive away … there is a ski field 20 minutes away … lots of fishing, biking and hiking,” Bell said.

Staff Sgt. Henry Bourgeois, 50, of A Company, 602nd Aviation Support Battalion, is on his third tour to Camp Page but has never explored the area’s outdoor attractions. So far the highlight of his time has been a visit to the nearby Animation Museum.

His most lasting memory of Camp Page is working on the flight line in a 1996 thunderstorm, he said. “A big storm came through and lightning was hitting the airfield while we were tying town the aircraft. That was a bit scary.”

Bourgeois said he’s not looking forward to moving to Camp Eagle, where he’s been reassigned. “There is nothing down there except for a ROK air force base that causes hearing damage,” he said.

PREVIOUS STORIES: ¶ As Camp Howze closing nears, many historical items are being preserved(Oct. 19, 2004) ¶ Camps Casey, Hovey spruced up for influx of troops(Oct. 19, 2004) ¶ At Camp Garry Owen, "setting the standard" for closing bases in Korea(Oct. 22, 2004) ¶Camp Stanton created close bonds for troops in S. Korea(Oct. 24, 2004)

author picture
Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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