The Korean War Begins – the “Invisible War”

By | July 25, 2023

[July 25, 2023] I was in Seoul, Wonju, Daegu, and Busan, South Korea (home of 8th U.S. Army and United States Forces Korea) two winters ago.  There, I had the pleasure of seeing troops perform as they went about their business of intense fieldwork.  Their mission was to show the enemies of the United States and our Republic of Korea (ROK) allies that we stand united against aggression.

Nothing wakes me up and makes me happier than seeing thousands of troops in the early morning hours going about their tasks and the temperature being only 25 degrees Fahrenheit with snow.  Moreover, nothing makes me more proud than to stand today beside our American veterans, current active-duty troops, first responders, and medical personnel who are also at the forefront of fighting for our freedoms and way of life and doing that every single day.  This is what being a good citizen is about.

The Korean War is known as the “Forgotten War” or the “Unknown War.”  Or as I like to say, the “Invisible War.”  Invisible because Americans, at the time, wanted nothing to do with it.  We turned our heads away from the horror of the Korean battlefields, having seen so much death and destruction during WWII.  The war was invisible because it reminded us that the world was not a safe place and the rise of Communism promised a dark future, a difficult struggle, and the pervasive Evil of that ideology.

The war began with the invasion of South Korea by the Communist forces of North Korea on 25 June 1950, less than five years after WW2 ended.  At the end of major military operations, millions had died, more than half of them civilians.  Officially the Korean War is still ongoing.


  • South Korea  Dead=227,800,  MIA(never found)=43,500
  • United States Dead=54,246,  MIA(never found)=8,196

  • North Korea  Dead=350,000,  MIA/POW=300,000
  • China  Dead=400,000,  MIA/POW=25,000
  • Soviet Union  Dead=299

I was assigned as the senior Wartime Engineer in 2011, giving me insight into the internal goings on of the entire Allied effort.  And for a time, I was the First ROK Army’s senior American advisor (living and working in their Wonju FROKA headquarters.  There is, however, a more exciting story for me to tell.

I met a man there who was the true hero of the Korean War.   You may have heard about him.  Many call him the Douglas MacArthur of South Korea.  General Paik, Sun Yup, is a true leader and hero in every sense.

I visited General Paik in early 2014.   He told me much about the Korean War, things not printed in textbooks but only spoken about among war veterans.  We had tea on that cold Winter day.  He pointed to a painting on the wall in his office called “We Go Together” by artist Don Stivers.

The painting shows General Douglas MacArthur, Lt. Gen. Ridgeway, Maj. Gen. Chung Il Kwon, and …, you guessed it, Gen. Paik Sun Yup.  These four leaders rose to the great challenge of saving a fledgling South Korea 73 years ago as they bound together to defend freedom on the Korean Peninsula.  Forged in a crucible of war, that gathering of leaders remains imprinted on the minds of all those present to share the common danger of the Communist hordes flowing south into a new nation, South Korea.  Their watchwords are the same today, “We Go Together” and in the Korean language, “Katchi Kapshida”

I asked Gen. Paik what he considered the most crucial lesson in generalship in war.  He was not hesitant to say that the Korean War was a fight for freedom from Communism which was and is a “very bad government.”  He was quick to add that “freedom is not free.”

At the beginning of the war, Colonel Paik was a Division Commander and finished the war as the ROK’s first four-star general and the Army’s Chief of Staff.  When the North Korean army invaded on June 25, 1950, the ROK military was under-equipped, under-trained, and under-manned.  Colonel Paik’s division initially held fast but was pushed southward, remaining a cohesive unit, unlike so many that disintegrated.

Over the next three years, General Paik was the stone in the river for the ROK government.  Although limited, his English speaking ability allowed him to gain favor among the U.S. military because he could clearly explain the ROK’s needs and concerns.

General Paik says that the main lessons in generalship and being a successful senior leader are knowing the troops, their abilities and caring for them.  Indeed a great patriot and a great man.  It was an honor to meet him and have tea.

Gen Paik presented me with an autographed version of his memoirs.  They are in a three-volume set, leather-bound, high-quality paper, and large print.  His memoirs may someday be translated, and although I speak Hangul (Korean) at the most basic level, I cannot read his writings.  That may have to wait for my children to have it fully translated.   I’m sure some surprises await us.


Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

18 thoughts on “The Korean War Begins – the “Invisible War”

  1. Max Foster

    Yesterday, I stood at a ceremony in my hometown of Plano, Texas to be part of the celebration and memorialization of those who fought and died during the “Invisible” war known as the Korean War. Regardless of your thoughts – and they will be inadequate thoughts – on this war, it is important to realize that we made a huge difference in the world. The Republic of Korea was saved by the United States military and altho folks wanted to look away, we nonetheless sent our sons and fathers there to fight for freedom of this country. And, I will say from experience, the Korean people have not forgotten. Let’s also not fail to recognize the more than a quarter of a million dead and missing ROK people.

  2. Bryan Z. Lee

    On June 25, 1950, the Korean War (1950-1953) began when 75,000 members of the North Korean People’s Army crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea. It would be the first military action of the Cold War. North Korea still denies the North invaded the South. Simple propaganda and many willingly blind Americans believe it because they will believe anything that is anti-American and pro-communist.

    1. Valkerie

      The Korean War became a proxy war between superpowers clashing over communism and democracy. Between 2 million and 4 million people died, 70 percent of them civilians. No peace treaty was ever signed, although in December 2021, North and South Korea, the United States and China agreed to declare a formal end to the war. General Satterfield continues to recognize important historical events.

        1. Eddie Gilliam

          My friend great article. The life lessons by Gen Piak are life lessons for our military leaders today.

  3. Idiot Savant

    Excellent. Appreciate you recognizing this war and its importnace. The results of the war continues to reverberate thru our society, even today and yet we don’t even see it.

  4. Ursala J. Simpson

    I’ll bet the Korean War is not even taught in schools anymore in America. And, I would be right.

    1. Willie Strumburger

      Right, Ursala. Ignore your history and you will suffer the consequences. ✔✔✔✔✔✔

  5. Army Captain

    Thank you, Gen. Satterfield for recognizing the Korean War as one of the most critical events in the 20th century and one that is invisible to us.

        1. Peigin

          I’m really appreciating Gen. Satterfield’s leadership website. And, this leadership forum is helping me put things into perspective.


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