Blog 12/11/2020 - Chosin Reservoir - Tootsie Rolls

MHT Blog December 11, 2020 - Chosin Reservoir – North Korea
“Hey Mac, Got an Extra Tootsie?”

Have you ever wondered why Tootsie Rolls hold significance with the Marine Corps? During the Korean War, the First Marine Division met the enemy at Chosin Reservoir in North Korea in subfreezing temperatures that ranged from minus five degrees below zero in the day to minus twenty-five degrees below zero at night. The ground froze so hard that bulldozers could not dig artillery revetments. The cold impeded weapons firing, slowing down the recoil of artillery and automatic weapons. The cold numbed minds, slowed movement, frostbit fingers and toes and froze rations into blocks of ice.

Needing a resupply of ammunition, Marines radioed for 60mm mortar rounds that were code named “Tootsie Rolls.”  The radio operator did not have the code sheet that would tell him what a “Tootsie Roll” was but knowing the request was urgent he passed on the request to the USAF and logistic people in the rear. Soon, pallets of Tootsie Roll candies parachuted from the sky to the First Marine Division! While not the mortar ammunition, the candy from the sky provided well needed nourishment for the Marines, soldiers and sailors on the ground. There are also many tales of warmed Tootsie Rolls used to plug bullet holes in vehicle pipes and hoses sealing them as they refroze.

As Chosin Reservoir Veteran Clifford Meyer remembers, "We put our seriously wounded in sleeping bags, and secured our dead to the fenders and hoods of the trucks. Those we had no space for we buried. Every Marine became a rifleman. Unable to build a fire to heat our rations the men were close to starvation. Destroying non-essential equipment, we discovered boxes and boxes of Tootsie Rolls, frozen solid from the sub-zero temperature. The Tootsie Rolls were issued to all the men. The sugar gave us energy and the candy satisfied our hunger. Ask any man that served at the Chosin, to be good a Tootsie Roll must be frozen!"

Fun Fact: How did you come up with the name "Tootsie?" An Austrian immigrant, Leo Hirshfield, produced the candy in a small store in New York City and ended up naming the candy after his five-year-old daughter Clara, whose nickname was "Tootsie."

The Chosin Few lived the tales of courage and candy and the National Museum of the Marine Corps has a tribute in their Chosin display of a Tootsie Roll wrapper at the feet of a Marine on the frozen ground. Even after 70 years The Chosin Few and Tootsie Roll bond remains strong. At the 2019 Chosin Few Reunion in Norfolk, Ellen R. Gordon, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Tootsie Roll Industries, Inc. spoke to the entire group and was an honored guest at the banquet (she is seated in the center of the group of Chosin Few Veterans above.) Tootsie Roll Industries manufactures and markets products to over 30 countries including not only Tootsie Rolls but such brand names as Tootsie Roll Pops, Charms, Cella's Chocolate Covered Cherries, Junior Mints, Charleston Chew, Sugar Daddy, Sugar Babies, Andes Mints, and Dubble Bubble Gum. The company is headquartered in Chicago with operations in IL, TN, MA, WI, PA, Canada, Mexico and Spain.