66 years ago, thousands of American and allied forces were saved thanks to a very small, very chewy secret weapon:

Tootsie Rolls.


Photo by Allison Carter/Flickr (cropped).

Yep, that's right. The mediocre-at-best chewy chocolate candy that you eat reluctantly six weeks after Halloween or if you're really good at the doctor's office also totally saved lives.

But what? How? Buckle up — it's history time.

It was the winter of 1950. Allied troops had been deployed to help an underarmed South Korea fight off powerful North Korean invaders.

United Nations troops, which consisted mainly of U.S. Marines from the 1st Marine Division, joined forces with a U.S. Army combat team, some South Korean Military Police and a detachment of British troops, around 25,000 men altogether. The group was chasing North Korean soldiers — who, by the way, had the might of China's Mao Zedong along with the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin behind them — out of the Changjin Reservoir, often referred to as Chosin.

But they weren't alone.

Hearing the North Korean soldiers were in a bad way, Mao sent 150,000 Chinese soldiers to back them up. The Chinese soldiers surrounded the allied troops, hoping to isolate and destroy the 1st Marine Division.

"I thought the whole division was going to die," Capt. Richard Wayne Bolton told Military.com. "The Chinese came to annihilate the 1st Marine Division and I thought every one of us was going to die."


Photo by U.S. Marine Corps/Wikimedia Commons.

Not only were the men surrounded and outnumbered, they were freezing cold.

This wasn't "Wow, I could use some cocoa" cold. It was cruel, punishing, unforgiving cold, as low as 40 below zero at night.

Bulldozers and tanks couldn't move. Fuel lines cracked. Guns wouldn't fire properly. Sweat froze on skin and between toes. Rations and extra blood for the wounded were frozen solid and rendered useless.

They were hungry, tired, frostbitten, and running out of options.

Photo by U.S. Marine Corps/Wikimedia Commons.

That's when someone put in a call for more mortar shells, the code name for which was — you guessed it — "tootsie rolls."

Only someone back at command wasn't familiar with the code.

When the supplies arrived via airdrop, instead of ammunition, the soldiers opened the crates to reveal thousands of frozen Tootsie Rolls.

GIF via Great Big Story/YouTube.

But the troops didn't have time to get mad. They needed to get home.

Desperate for food, the allied soldiers thawed the candy in their mouths and armpits for some quick energy.

And given the sticky properties of the Tootsie Rolls, once defrosted, they could also be used to repair broken fuel lines and bullet holes in equipment.

The men applied the melted candy over a rip or tear and waited for it to freeze again. Boom. This was their way out.

GIF via Great Big Story/YouTube.

For 13 days, the allied forces at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir refused to give up.

The Marines formed a column and marched toward the port city of Hungnam and the Sea of Japan, where other American forces were waiting.

When asked if his company was retreating, 1st Marine Division Gen. Oliver Prince Smith responded: "Retreat? Hell, we are attacking in another direction."

A column of troops move through Chinese lines during their successful breakout from the Chosin Reservoir. Photo by Cpl. Peter McDonald, USMC/Wikimedia Commons.

For 78 miles, they marched the steep, dangerous road, fighting through 10 Chinese infantry divisions.

Fueled by sheer will, guts, and a few thousand pieces of candy, the men managed to claw their way back from certain doom.

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."

Photo by U.S. Marine Corps/Wikimedia Commons.

While many would hesitate to call the 13-day event a victory in the traditional sense, the withdrawal is one of the most well-known campaigns in Marine history.

There's even a Navy ship named after it.

The men, outnumbered and surrounded, managed to not only get to the sea but to slow the progress of the Chinese troops and immobilize several of their divisions.

Those who survived, who call themselves the Chosin Few, owe their lives to ingenuity, grit, and highly under-appreciated candy.

It may not be the tastiest treat around, but the story of how it earned its place in American history should never be forgotten.

Marines and their families attended the Chosin Reservoir monument dedication in California. Photo by U.S. Marine Corps/Wikimedia Commons.

See a re-creation of the heroic and surprising turn of events in this video from Great Big Story.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Your weekly roundup of internet sunshine.

Hey everyone! Hope you're staying safe and healthy, and if you're not, at least you know you're not alone. I mean, omicron? Phew. Pandemics certainly know how to keep us on our toes.

If you need a respite or distraction from all that, we've got you covered. If immersing yourself in cute animal videos and feel-good stories of human awesomeness is wrong, who wants to be right? Nobody, that's who.

We all need a break from the less pleasant parts of life, and cheering ourselves up with simple, happy things is a tried and true way to push those endorphins and lift our mood for a bit.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

The scarf, a simple accessory that some find an essential fashion piece. Both fashionable and function with the warmth they provide, scarves can be a valuable gift for any occasion or person. Here, we've selected our best selling scarves from our store. At Upworthy Market, when you purchase a product, you directly support the artisans who craft their own products, so with every purchase, you're doing good. These scarves are not only unique, but they are hand-made by local artisans and all under $30.

1. Fair Trade Woven Dark Gray Alpaca Blend Scarf

Celinda Jaco selects a cozy blend of Andean alpaca for this handsome men's scarf. Classic in style, it features fine stripes of white and black woven through the dark grey textile. Hand-tied fringe completes a distinguished design.

cdn11.bigcommerce.com

Keep Reading Show less

Ronny Tertnes' "liquid sculptures" are otherworldly.

Human beings have sculpted artwork out of all kinds of materials throughout history, from clay to concrete to bronze. Some sculpt with water in the form of ice, but what if you could create sculptures with small drops of liquid?

Norwegian artist Ronny Tertnes does just that. His "liquid sculptures" look like something from another planet or another dimension, while at the same time are entirely recognizable as water droplets.

I mean, check this out:


Keep Reading Show less