How Tootsie Rolls Saved US Soldiers in Korea


Julias Van Den Stock of Company A, 32nd Regimental Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, rests on a Chinese Communist bunker with a Russian type Browning automatic rifle, along the slope of Hill 902 north of Ip-Tong (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

You’ve probably heard that candies and chocolates are a good thing to avoid if you’re trying to lead a healthy lifestyle. In fact, doctors around the globe recommend avoiding high-sugar foods if you want to live longer.

With that said, would you believe us if we told you that Tootsie Rolls actually proved to be a lifesaver for US soldiers amidst the Korean War? If you want to learn how this bite-sized chocolate treat contributed to one of the most significant events in US history, keep on reading below.


Setting the Stage

Soldiers from the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division in action near the Ch’ongch’on River, 20 November 1950 (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

The Korean war was sparked by an invasion of about 75,000 North Korean soldiers across the 38th parallel. This border was the sacred boundary separating the North’s Soviet-supported Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the South’s Western-backed Republic of Korea. The invasion, which began on June 25, 1950, eventually drew the involvement of The United Nations and the United States.

The battle took a turn in November of 1950, while the Allied forces found themselves in a fierce battle with Chinese troops in North Korea. With the change of season, soldiers on all sides found themselves fighting not only each other but against the region’s coldest winter ever recorded. Food rations, weapons, fuel lines, and more were suddenly useless with the freezing temperatures, and many men suffered from frostbite, starvation, or both.

The situation worsened once the American forces quickly ran out of ammunition, causing them to call for a resupply of vital weaponry and supplies. Due to volatile conditions, such items could only be delivered through an airdrop. Commanding officers desperately requested additional “tootsie rolls” – their code name for special ammunition – only to receive something they didn’t prepare for…


A Simple Mistake

Pershing and Sherman tanks of the 73rd Heavy Tank Battalion at the Pusan Docks, Korea (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Despite having such an important task, the radio operator at the time failed to have a code sheet on hand. As such, he took the commanding officers’ orders a little too literally.

Instead of receiving the necessary supplies, soldiers found themselves showered with Tootsie Rolls – the actual candy, not the ammunition – which was sourced from a base in Japan. While the silly mistake could’ve easily ended in disaster, it only proved how resilient and resourceful soldiers could be while in the heat of battle.

Troops quickly found these small candies to be of use in a variety of ways. After warming the gooey materials in their mouth, the treats proved to be remarkable sealants, as they would freeze soon after application due to the cold air. From sealing cracked fuel lines to repairing bullet holes, it seemed there was little they couldn’t do. With repaired fuel lines, the soldiers were able to get their tanks up and running once more, enabling them to escape from opposing forces.

Fort Worth, Texas – Lt. Gen. Richard E. Carey USMC (ret.) presents a plaque to Ellen R. Gordon, Chairman and CE)- Tootsie Roll Industries, on Sept. 8, 2016, for the support that Tootsie Rolls provided Marines during the Koran War. (Official Marine Corps photo by Sgt Alfredo Ferrer/ Released)

This group, now named the Tootsie Roll Marines, is proof that even in the darkest of times, there is a way to find the light. Of course, the tools they used to do so were far different – and sweeter – than their expectations, but the message still stands strong.

So, next Halloween, maybe you’ll recognize that these tiny candies are more than just a solution for a sugar-starved child. They’re part of a nation’s history.


Author: Admin