Marines Have Long Said Tootsie Rolls Saved Them in the Korean War. Here's What We Found

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On Feb. 23, 2024, or National Tootsie Roll Day, the official X account for Joint Base Myers-Henderson Hall posted a video in which several members of the armed services told an incredible story about the Marines' connection to Tootsie Rolls: 

The claim has been shared online countless times, including posts on Facebook, X and Reddit. All of these posts claim that Tootsie Rolls were mistakenly parachuted into the battlefield during the Korean War and helped Marines survive the harsh cold. 

According to the United States Marine Corps Community Services website, during a 1950 conflict called the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, Marines in the 1st Division were sent Tootsie Rolls through the sky. The article states: 

During the Korean War, the First Marine Division met the enemy at Chosin mountain reservoir in subfreezing temperatures. Out of ammunition, Marines called in for 60mm mortar ammo; code name "Tootsie Rolls." The radio operator did not have the code sheets that would tell him what a "Tootsie Roll"  was, but knew the request was urgent; so he called in the order. Soon, pallets of Tootsie Roll candies parachuted from the sky to the First Marine Division!  While they were not ammunition, this candy from the sky provided well needed nourishment for the troops. They also learned they could use warmed Tootsie Rolls to plug bullet holes, sealing them as they refroze.

Tootsie Roll Industries has honored the "Chosin Few," survivors of the battle, by sending them boxes of its candy. In 2023, WATE, a news channel in Knoxville, Tennessee, featured one of these boxes in an article about Korean War veteran Cary Stewart. 

The box read, "Tootsie Roll salutes The Chosin Few. We are proud to have been with you." Stewart related the same details from the Marine Corps Community Services article, noting that although he didn't arrive at Chosin Reservoir until two years after the candy was dropped in, other service members who were there when it happened told him the story. 

An Iowa PBS documentary, "The Forgotten War: Iowans in Korea," features commentary from Korean War veteran Dennis Dorman, who also recounted that a young lieutenant stationed in Japan didn't understand the code language for 60 mm mortar shells and parachuted two pallets of the candy into the battle. 

We kept hollering for Tootsie Rolls, and some young lieutenant over in Japan thought we wanted Tootsie Rolls. So, he loaded up two of those great big pallets of Tootsie Rolls.

And so we broke those Tootsie Rolls out and we stuffed them in our pockets, because it was cold, you know, and they were frozen. So we'd take… unwrap a Tootsie Roll and we'd lay it on the ground and we'd take a bayonet and lay it down there and hit it with a butt of a rifle, and break a piece off and stick it in our mouth. Then we'd take Tootsie Rolls and stick them inside of our clothing, you know. Warm 'em up, so that we could bite them and chew them.

A video from The Hutchinson News, published on YouTube in 2017, features the story of Raymond Miller, another Korean War veteran and member of the 1st Marine Division, who recounted the same details about the mistaken candy drop: 

In an email, the National Museum of the Marine Corps told Snopes that the "myth" of the Tootsie Rolls being parachuted in by mistake did happen. We have asked them for any evidence related to the incident and will update this story if they respond.

However, an article on the website of nonprofit group Veteran's Breakfast Club casts doubt on the validity of the story. Historian and group founder Todd DePastino explains that the airdrop of Tootsie Rolls into the Chosin Reservoir probably didn't happen. He writes:

Before their encirclement by the Chinese, Marines in the Post Exchange Section had trucked in tons of merchandise to sell at the PX when the shooting in the area stopped. Those shipments included a lot of candy, especially Tootsie Rolls.

But the shooting didn't stop, and the Marines at Hagaru had to plot their evacuation. The plan was to load everything of value aboard trucks for the return trip to the coast. There would be no room on the vehicles for the Tootsie Rolls and other retail stock designated for the never-to-be-realized PX at Hagaru.

So, General O.P. Smith gave the order to distribute the supply (worth $13,547.80, according to official Marine Corps history first published in 1957) free-of-charge to the Marines at Chosin.

That accounts for the Tootsie Roll dump Chosin survivors all remember so vividly. And, sure enough, some used the candy to plug leaky radiators.

But while there were indeed airdrops of badly needed 60mm mortars and other supplies, mostly ammunition, Tootsie Rolls weren't delivered by air.

A letter on the Tootsie Roll website also has no mention of an airdrop, with its author, veteran Clifford W. Meyer, saying the boxes of candy were discovered as Marines evacuated.

Although the story of mistakenly airdropped Tootsie Rolls is a heartwarming tale of battlefield survival passed down through the generations, there are conflicting accounts of how the Marines got the candy and the exact details remain murky. If we find any new evidence to verify the tale, we will update this story to reflect that.


"Code Name 'Tootsie Rolls': Soldier Candy Rations | Iowans in Korea." PBS LearningMedia, Accessed 25 June 2024.

How Tootsie Rolls Accidentally Saved Marines During War. Accessed 25 June 2024.

Kim. "The Myth of the Tootsie Roll Airdrop at Chosin." Veterans Breakfast Club, 17 July 2023,

TheHutchinsonNews. Raymond Miller Tells the Korean War Tootsie Roll Story. 2017. YouTube,

"Tootsie Roll Drop: How a Codeword Mix-up Led to Marines Getting a Sweet Treat." WATE 6 On Your Side, 28 Dec. 2023,