Tell Me the Story of the Foot Soldier

By | June 27, 2018

[June 27, 2018]  Tell me the story of the foot soldier and I will tell you the story of all wars.1  I like this quote from an old war movie and it has been a favorite of mine since I watched it for the first time more than 40 years ago.  From the time we were little boys, my friends and I wanted to be soldiers.

It wasn’t that we glorified war or that we like the way these men (yes, all men) looked in their uniforms or carried guns and explosives.  Nor did we want to put up with the horrors of war (we didn’t know anyway) or that these men were somehow superior to other men.

What we appreciated was the fact that these foot soldiers were fighting for the cause of freedom.  Specifically, in the film, the date was September 6, 1950, and the early part of the Korean War; nearly driving the struggling South Korean military into the sea and destroying the nation.

The idea that little kids knew enough to identify with these foot soldier is an amazing thing.  What I think precipitated this understanding were the many Korean War veterans that were part of our lives growing up.  These young men were local car mechanics, soda fountain jerks, linemen on the railroad, gas station attendants, and so on.

Those veterans who were willing to tell us what it was like, gave us an appreciation of life (a life with accomplishments), of camaraderie with others, family, and hard work but most importantly, helping free a nation.  We were told hundreds of stories of battle, not of blood and guts, but of how their buddies endured the difficulties of battle and how they felt when they came home.

Tell me about the foot soldier is truly the real story of war and the consequences of strategic decisions made far above them.  It is a story that has been told countless times but needs to be heard often enough that grand decision-makers understand the impact of their decisions on the lives of everyday men and women.

Leadership means having good judgment and that rests upon personal experiences and experiences of those around us.  As kids, we listened intently to the veterans and we wanted to be just like them.  We wanted to experience hardship and come out victorious over evil.


  1. This quote opens the war film Men in War (1957) by Anthony Mann and tells the story of combat close-up and personal.
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

32 thoughts on “Tell Me the Story of the Foot Soldier

    1. Bill Sanders, Jr.

      Yep, I read them daily. Some of the most interesting articles are about other nations and their leadership challenges. Today it was about what successful leaders consider as their top 10 rules for success. Good stuff. This website is a gold mine for leaders!

    2. Albert Ayer

      I agree Gil that the daily favs are a good source of information. Gen Satterfield is selecting what he thinks might be interesting and might actually make us think too.

  1. Shawn C. Stolarz

    Another bunch of great comments. Thanks all. I too watched the movie (a few years ago) and found it strangely attractive because it educated me on combat and the emotions attached to stress in a war zone.

  2. Ronny Fisher

    I’m not a fan of movies, especially war movies but I will watch this one if I can find it. War movies are usually distorted greatly because they have an agenda to be anti-American (sometime after the 1960s). There are exceptions, of course, but I’m not into leftist propaganda any more.

  3. Dale Paul Fox

    Very good article today. I enjoyed it along with my wife who sometimes reads your blog. I think my adult sons will also want to get on board to learn from this leadership blog also.

  4. Jerome Smith

    War is often about good versus evil. And I want to make it clear that “evil” is not some socio-cultural construct that changes over time as many whackos today say it is. Evil is about enslaving people, killing and taking of property, torture, etc. The communist nations have been responsible for the killing of an estimated 100 million people and that is just the start of it. Socialism always tends toward totalitarianism and communism.

  5. Jung Hoon Kim

    The Korean War was about good and evil. Evil was communist North Korea and their allies Russia and China. Evil still lurks there.

  6. Tracey Brockman

    Humans learn their most enduring lessons from stories that are told. Everyone I know, who grew up with me, remember those tales, whether from church, from vets, or from their parents and friends of their parents. It is perhaps human nature to remember best when told of a compelling story. I found that the best storytellers are often the best leaders.

  7. Wilson Cox

    I’ve never seen the movie but I plan to find it on Amazon Prime tonight after I get home from work. I read several reviews about the movie and while it was not the best on the Korean War it gave those watching it a sense of battle. Thank you for bringing this up.

  8. Mr. T.J. Asper

    I’m creating a lesson plan for High School students about the Korean War. Does anyone have any idea what book would be the best to recommend me? I have always found that this war was a clear victory in the defeat of totalitarianism and communism. While the war was a tactical stalemate it was a strategic victory because it showed that free nations would stand up for other free nations.

    1. Mr. T.J. Asper

      Thanks everyone for the quick response.

    2. Mark Evans

      Mr. Asper, I cannot tell you the best single book to read because there are many scholarly works out there that add to the basic ideas of warfare in the early 1950s. What I appreciate most are those that tell about the failures of the allies when confronted by North Korea soldiers. It didn’t take long to adjust and when we did, things went better.

  9. Janna Faulkner

    I truly liked your story about the Korean War veterans who helped make you who you are today through their own stories about combat. The Korea War is the “forgotten war” and so there aren’t many people who can say it had an impact on them.

  10. Army Captain

    War has been both the history of humankind and the interest in it seems to never wane. Thanks for a great article today, Gen Satterfield that tells us of the average “foot soldier.”

  11. Yusaf from Texas

    When I read your article today, Gen Satterfield, it reminded me of the history of my state of Texas. Their history is full of tales about the foot soldier. Thanks today for this wonderful article.

  12. Danny Burkholder

    Long time reader of your leadership blog and I must say this I enjoy it every day.

  13. Max Foster

    Excellent movie. Saw it at least 5 times and enjoyed it each viewing of it.

    1. Len Jakosky

      Saw it twice myself. One of the first times as a young man and didn’t really know what to think at the time about the emotions it generated.

    2. Eric Coda

      I thought the movie a bit weird (for lack of a better term) but my son and daughters enjoyed it; so they say.

Comments are closed.