By Sally Benford, Senior Editor, Phoenix Patriot
Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a sweet tooth—a major sweet tooth. Cookies, cake, pie, candy—if it contains sugar, bring it on. We all need a little sweetness in life, right? And no one needs it more than deployed service members. But sending baked goods or chocolate overseas can be challenging—except for one sweet treat that’s been making a difference to the troops for more than 100 years: All hail the Tootsie Roll.
What started as a penny candy in New York City in 1896 has become a favorite of U.S. military service members for decades. This chocolate-flavored confection was the creation of Leo Hirschfield, who named the candy after his daughter Clara’s nickname, Tootsie.
During World War II, Tootsie Rolls were included in troop ration kits as a source of nutrition and because they were the only chocolate candies that held up in weather extremes. In fact, military lore has it that during the Korean War, Tootsie Rolls saved the day for soldiers and marines who fought in the Chosin Reservoir Campaign in November and December 1950.
The story goes that when the trapped troops radioed that they were running low on 60mm ammunition, they referred to it by its code name, “Tootsie Rolls.” The person on the other end didn’t recognize the code and sent the real thing—a mistake that turned into a miracle. Due to below-zero temperatures, rations were frozen and Tootsie rolls were the only food the troops could eat for a few days, giving them the energy they needed to continue fighting. Chosin veterans consider Tootsie Rolls such an important part of their Korean War experience that they serve handfuls of them at their reunions.
February 23, 2013 is the 117th anniversary of the Tootsie Roll. I invite all my fellow sweet tooths, military and otherwise, to join me in enjoying one of America’s all time favorite candies. And while you’re on a roll (pun intended), support our troops—send them a box or two or three.
If you’d like to know more about supporting care packages for military service members, check out these organizations.
Operation Gratitude http://www.operationgratitude.com
Packages from Home http://www.packagesfromhome.org
Give2 the Troops http://www.give2thetroops.org
To learn more about Tootsie Roll memories, visit http://www.tootsie.com/gal_your.php.