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article imageAnnual West Point pillow fight turns bloody, 30 cadets injured

By Megan Hamilton     Sep 6, 2015 in Odd News
A pillow fight that has been part of a West Point tradition turned bloody when cadets swung pillowcases stuffed with helmets and other hard objects at each other.
Thirty cadets were injured, including 24 who suffered concussions.
The brawl, part of an annual pillow fight between freshman cadets, took place Aug. 20, USA Today reports. The fight, however, wasn't confirmed until Thursday.
Traditionally billed as a harmless way to build class spirit and blow off steam, the pillow fight turned ugly and left plebes with dislocated shoulders and split lips. One cadet suffered a broken leg and another was knocked unconscious, The New York Times reported.
Discussions about the brawl swirled across the social media, but West Point didn't confirm it to the Times until Thursday.
The pillow fight is organized by first-year students as a way to bolster camaraderie at the end of the summer program that prepares them for the stresses of plebe year, Lt. Col. Christopher Kasker told The Times.
Kasker noted that upperclassmen supervised the freshmen and "allowed the spirit activity to occur out of the desire to enhance the spirit of the class," and that those upperclassmen took "mitigating measures" to prevent injury, including requiring cadets to wear helmets.
Video, however, shows that many cadets didn't wear helmets. Instead, in at least a few cases helmets were stuffed into pillowcases and used as weapons, the cadets said.
Many of the cadets could be seen wearing body armor and a few helmets, turning into a surging mass, echoes of their yells bouncing off the stone walls of encompassing barracks, videos posted online showed.
Amid a flurry of white pillows, the cadets pummeled each other and when the fight was over, several cadets were left with bloody faces and at least one person was loaded into an ambulance, The Times reports.
Some seemed to view the injuries with pride.
"My plebe was knocked unconscious and immediately began fighting when he came to," one unnamed upperclassman, who was apparently on the sidelines, wrote on the social media forum Yik Yak. "I was so proud I could cry."
"4 concussions, 1 broken leg, 2 broken arms, 1 dislocated shoulder, and several broken ribs," one freshman posted on Twitter. "That's one hell of a pillow fight. #USMA19."
In a statement, Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr. noted that medical personnel will follow up with the injured students, CNN reports.
Caslen also said he takes full responsibility for the fight.
""We remain committed to the development of leaders of character. We will continue our investigation, ensure accountability, and reinforce with the Corps that we must all take care of our teammates."
He added, per BBC News
"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 incident is being investigated by military police and they will take appropriate action when the inquiry is complete, he said.
Pillow fights at West Point have been going on since at least 1897, according to testimony from a 1901 congressional inquiry that focused on hazing at the school, the Times reports. No other reports of injuries over the decades have been recorded until recently.
The 2013 pillow fight was canceled after a cadet put a lockbox in a pillowcase during the 2012 fight, injuring others.
Some West Point cadets had mixed feelings about the injuries this year, the Times reports. Some apparently see them as a rite of passage in a school with a reputation for being tough, while others saw it as a lack of judgment and restraint.
"At first the body count, people were joking about it," said one female first-year cadet. "My friends were really excited. And right after, when we learned how many people had gotten hurt, everyone felt totally hard-core. I know it looks weird from the outside, but it really bonds us."
She had second thoughts though, when she saw a male cadet being loaded into an ambulance outside her dorm room.
"If you are an officer, you are supposed to make good decisions and follow the rules," she said. "You are supposed to mediate when everyone wants to go out and kill everyone. The goal was to have fun, and it ended up some guys just chose to hurt people."
Kasker said all of the cadets have returned to duty, USA Today reported, per the Times. No cadets have been punished, he added, and there are no plans to end the tradition.
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