Many of the US Army's future leaders were injured in combat on August 20, but they weren't anywhere near a war zone. More than two dozen freshmen cadets at the US Military Academy ended up with concussions, broken bones, and split lips after a massive pillow fight that has become an annual rite of passage at the campus in West Point, New York.
Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Kasker, a spokesman for the academy, told the New York Times that first-year students — known as "plebes" — organize the fight as a way to build camaraderie. Kasker said that upperclassmen overseeing the freshmen "allowed the spirit activity to occur out of the desire to enhance the spirit of the class," and that the cadets were supposed to wear helmets to prevent injuries.
But, according to one West Point cadet, injuries are part of the design. "If you don't come back with a bloody nose, you didn't try hard enough," that student said he was told by an upperclassman commander.
According to the Times' report, instead of wearing the helmets, some cadets put them inside of their pillowcases and swung them like clubs. A total of 30 cadets were injured in the melee, including one with a broken leg and others with dislocated shoulders. One recruit was knocked unconscious and had to be taken away in an ambulance.
Video of the chaotic brawl posted on YouTube shows hundreds of cadets slamming each other with pillows on the publicly funded school's basketball court. Some can be seen riding in laundry carts and using mattresses as shields.
Following the fight, West Point staff members went door to door in the barracks checking cadets for concussions, the Times reported.
The West Point pillow fights date back to at least 1897, but according to the Times, the bedding battles royale have escalated in recent years, leading to reports of serious injuries. One cadet injured several of his peers in 2012 by putting a lock box in his pillowcase, a stunt that caused the fight to be cancelled in 2013.
Kasker told the Times all cadets injured in this year's pillow fight have returned to duty.
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