The superintendent of West Point Military Academy has taken full responsibility for a violent 20 August pillow fight among cadets that left 30 injured. The right-of-passage annual event that marks the end of summer training for freshman cadets lefts dozens with concussions and others with injuries such as a broken nose, dislocated shoulder and a hairline fracture to the cheekbone.
According to the New York Times, some of the participants used pillows stuffed with hard objects such as helmets during the pillow fight. Lieutenant General Robert Caslen issued a statement on 5 September that military police are investigating the bloody incident. "I assure you that the chain of command will take appropriate action when the investigation is complete," Caslen said.
The annual pillow fight by freshman cadets, known as plebes, has been an annual event for generations that was created to instill "esprit de corps" among classmates, USA Today reported. Caslen said this year's freshman class had a "tough first summer".
He added that the academy does not condone "any activity that results in harm to a teammate. Although the vast majority of the class appears to have maintained the spirit of the event, it is apparent that a few did not."
The military academy superintendent said the two dozen concussions suffered by the cadets were minor and that the academy's medical personnel are monitoring the injured. All injured cadets have returned to duty, USA Today reported.
Initial reporting by the Times, however, stated that one of the cadets had been knocked unconscious, taken away in an ambulance and had not returned to the academy. The Times also reported that the bloody pillow fight had left one cadet with a broken leg.
According to the Times, video of the pillow fight showed crowds of the plebes rushing together in a central quad yelling as they surged towards each other. Army-issued glow sticks were seen flying through the air as daylight dimmed and a group of impromptu cavalry of laundry cart-riding cadets rushed in.
Photos later emerged on Twitter showing the 'plebes' with bloody faces and bloody pillows, the Times reported. "4 concussions, 1 broken leg, 2 broken arms, 1 dislocated shoulder, and several broken ribs. That's one hell of a pillow fight. #USMA19," one freshman cadet wrote on Twitter.
Following the violent pillow fight, West Point staff members reportedly went door to for in the barracks to give quick concussion checks.