MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- The year is late 1950, and artillery shells are bombarding the area of North Korea known today as the Chosin Reservoir. Approximately 10,000 Marines from the 1st Marine Division are surrounded by approximately 200,000 Chinese troops making up eight different divisions.
Battling frostbite, hunger and imminent danger, ammunition begins to run low for the Marines. Fearing a possible break in intelligence communication codes, the Marines develop new code words for their much-needed supplies.
"You heard me," shouts a radio operator relaying supply orders for more ammunition. "We need Tootsie Rolls dropped ASAP!"
Within hours, the beleaguered Marines are again bombarded, this time by thousands of canisters of candy.
Actual Tootsie Roll candies were being dropped on the Marines who had no choice but to chew on the frozen treats as their C-rations had already frozen and burst in their cans causing them to go bad.
Although these stories are not depicted in history books, they are, nevertheless, part of the rich tradition that is shared by the select few of the 1st MarDiv. known as The Chosin Few.
The Depot recently hosted a mini-reunion for the group May 3-5, giving the Marines a chance to witness modern-day recruit training and lifestyles of Marines. The group was given a bus tour of the island and also had a chance to visit the Depot museum. The group enjoyed golf and other activities, but the highlight of the weekend was Saturday night's reunion banquet which was attended by Weapons and Field Training Battalion's Commanding Officer Col. Timothy B. Howard and Depot Sergeant Major SgtMaj. Gary W. Harris.
Showing their enthusiasm for sharing time with Marines, the group also invited their bus tour guide, Cpl. Martin Proper, visitor center receptionist. Once there, the Marines of the Chosin Few wasted no time showering Proper with gifts, attention and stories of their exploits in Korea.
"It was amazing," said Proper. "It felt great to be able to sit at the same table as them and share a meal. I truly felt honored."
From stories of Col. Chesty Puller relieving a machine gun post so his Marines could go get hot coffee, to Tootsie Roll drops, the stories kept coming as the night grew older.
As the night came to an end, the Marines paused once again to pay tribute to those Marines who could not be there with them. The entire weekend gave those in attendance the chance to witness what could only be described as moving.
In the words of LtGen. Stephan Olmstead (Retired), "The purpose of these reunions is to restore bonds of brotherhood that we created in November and December of 1952. In that battle, we forged a relationship that should not ever be broken - that can not ever be broken."
A better understanding of the commitment may be understood by viewing the front page of the Chosin Few's web site: http://home.hawaii.rr.com/chosin/.
The site reads: Whatever we were in that frozen long ago, and whatever we are now, we are bound for life in an exclusive fraternity of honor. The only way into our ranks is to have paid the dues of duty, sacrifice and valor by being there. The cost of joining in short, is beyond all earthly wealth. We few, we Chosin Few, we eternal band of brothers.
The next reunion of the Chosin Few is scheduled for mid-August in San Antonio, Texas.