An annual pillow fight among freshman at the United States Military Academy, West Point, turned violent and left 30 cadets injured, the school’s superintendent said on Saturday.
According to the Chicago Tribune, injuries occurred after students loaded up their pillows with heavy objects, including helmets.
The tradition 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. We remain committed to the development of leaders of character.”
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) September 6, 2015
The normally benign pillow fight turned bloody and resulted 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 Wall Street Journal.
According to the New York Times, all the injured, including 24 with concussions, have returned to campus and that “appropriate action” will be taken when the investigation is finished, Caslen said.
— Breaking News Feed (@PzFeed) September 6, 2015
“While these spirit events do occur, we never condone any activity that results in intentional harm to a teammate,” Caslen added.
Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Kasker, an academy spokesman, told the New York Times there were no plans to cancel the tradition.
“West Point applauds the cadets’ desire to build esprit and regrets the injuries to our cadets. We are conducting appropriate investigations into the causes of the injuries.”
— Firstpost (@firstpost) September 5, 2015
He said upperclassmen supervising the freshmen had required the cadets to wear helmets, but many put the helmets in their pillow cases instead, the New York Times reported.
While many condoned the actions of some of the “plebes” as freshman cadets are known, some upperclassmen praised the actions of some on social media.
— Sputnik (@SputnikInt) September 5, 2015
“My plebe was knocked unconscious and immediately began fighting when he came to. I was so proud I could cry,” one wrote.
The pillow fight dates 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.