Annual pillow fight turns bloody at West Point military academy

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 05, 2015 1:32 PM

(Reuters) - An annual pillow fight among freshman at the United States Military Academy turned violent and left 30 cadets injured, the school's superintendent said on Saturday.

The event, part of a tradition for first-year students at the service academy in West Point, New York, is intended as a way to help them relax and build team spirit after a summer spent preparing for a grueling program, according to a statement released by Lieutenant General Robert L. Caslen, Jr.,

superintendent at the academy.

"I take full responsibility for all actions that occur here at West Point to include the event on August 20, 2015," Caslen said. "We remain committed to the development of leaders of character."

The brawl turned bloody after many of the cadets stuffed helmets and other hard objects into the pillow cases resulting in injuries that included concussions, a broken nose, a dislocated shoulder, broken bones and a cheekbone fracture, according to Caslen's statement and a report in the New York Times.

All the injured, including 24 with concussion, have returned to campus and that "appropriate action" will be taken when the investigation is finished, Caslen said.

"While these spirit events do occur, we never condone any activity that results in intentional harm to a teammate," Caslen said.

Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Kasker, an academy spokesman, told the Times there were no plans to cancel the tradition.

He said upperclassmen supervising the freshmen had required the cadets to wear helmets, but many put the helmets in their pillow cases instead, the Times reported.

The pillow fights date back to at least 1897, the Times reported, citing a 1901 congressional inquiry on hazing. The 2013 fight was canceled after a cadet put a lockbox in a pillow case during the 2012 event and hurt other cadets, the paper reported.

(Reporting by Karen Brooks in Austin, Texas; editing by David Clarke and Marguerita Choy)