Dead in a November winter of North Korea in 1950, candy was the last thing on these U.S. Marines freezing minds. They were stranded with their ammunition running low, and with broken pipes making their army tanks immovable. Among the 1st Marine Division were a U.S. Army combat team, dispatched British soldiers, and South Korean Military Police making their numbers altogether around 25,000 soldiers. The soldiers were trying to chase Chinese soldiers under Mae Zedong's mighty army out of the Changjin Reservoir, otherwise known as Chosin Reservoir. To back up the Chinese army, 150,000 more soldiers were being sent as backup to surround the group of Allied servicemen. Capt. Richard Wayne Bolton of the U.S. 1 Marines once commented to a magazine, "The Chinese came to annihilate the 1st Marine Division and I thought every one of us was going to die."
When the extra Chinese soldiers arrived, a 17 day battle ensued with the dominant temperature of 40 degrees below freezing most nights. As the days went on the bulldozers and tanks stopped moving due to fuel lines cracking from the dire cold, and the supply blood for the wounded was deemed useless as it froze along with the healthy soldiers sweat between their toes. The soldiers soon were losing hope. The captain soon put in a call for reinforcement ammunition and nicknamed it, 'tootsie roll' as a code name in case it was intercepted by the opposing side. However, instead of boxes of ammo arriving by parachutes from the sky, the soldiers got a mouth watering surprise. They were all so desperate for food and eagerly thawed the candies in their mouths and in their warm armpits for some much needed energy. The soldiers also discovered that once they were able to defrost the candies, they could smear them flat and seal the broken fuel pipes before they froze again. A sweet finding!
Within a few hours the morale of the Allied troops were adding some hope to intense energy! By the 13th day they were busy marching 78 miles fighting through 10 Chinese infantry divisions to meet fellow American troops who were waiting at the Sea of Japan. This was a great feat in Marine history, where a Navy ship was even later named after. These troops were on the outs, outnumbered for sure, and surrounded yet they somehow managed to immobilize several Chinese troops and head to the sea where the Americans were waiting, and of all things Tootsie Rolls save the day!
The ones who survived this miraculous, and quite ironically funny, battle were soon known and titled "The Chosen Few", as they owe their lives to grit and what was a highly underrated candy.
One Marine wrote: "By large, Tootsie Rolls were our main diet while fighting our way out of the Reservoir. You can bet there were literally thousands of Tootsie Roll wrappers scattered over North Korea."