US & Canada

US West Point military academy bans mass pillow fights

Pillow fight at West Point (2008) Image copyright West Point
Image caption A pillow fight at West Point in 2008. The annual tradition is said to date back to at least 1897

Huge pillow fights among US cadets to mark the end of summer training at the prestigious West Point military academy are to be banned, officials say.

A recent event at the end of August left at least 30 soldiers injured.

At least 24 cadets were reported to have been left unconscious because pillows were stuffed with hard objects.

West Point Superintendent Lt Gen Robert L Caslen said the academy was pursuing unspecified disciplinary measures against those involved in the fights.

He was quoted in the New York Times as saying that those facing such measures included "senior military members and cadets alike".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cadets are known to have exuberant celebrations when graduating from West Point
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption West Point has a proud military tradition - World War Two Gen Douglas MacArthur is an alumnus

Gen Caslen was not reported to have identified or provided the ranks of those who may be punished, but said he was determined "to send a clear message that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated".

An army investigation dated the pillow fights to 2001, but congressional testimony reported in the New York Times suggests they date back more than a century.

One cadet suffered a broken nose in the August pillow fight, while others had dislocated shoulders.

West Point academy argued at the time the fight was designed to build "esprit de corps". None of the injuries was severe and all cadets have returned to duty, it said.

Image copyright West Point
Image caption West Point is a publicly funded academy, where many of the US Army's top leaders are trained

Video of the fight posted online shows crowds of yelling cadets, some wearing body armour as well as helmets, surging together in a central quad.

The annual night-time event has been described as a harmless way of blowing off steam at the end of a gruelling summer of training.

But this year's event seems to have been a little over-exuberant, with pillow cases reported to have been stuffed with hard objects, thought to have been helmets.

A report into the incident cited by the New York Times said that the injuries were largely caused by cadets being struck by "elbows or other body parts" or from being knocked down.

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