Violent West Point pillow fight investigated

Commanders at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point vow "appropriate disciplinary measures," after a pillow fight turned violent.

The event is an annual tradition meant to build camaraderie among freshmen, but some cadets filled their pillow sacks with more than just feathers, reports CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod.

More than 1,200 "plebes" were admitted into the class of 2019, and they spent much of the summer completing cadet basic training, also known as "Beast Barracks." At the end of that grueling six-and-a-half-week program, freshmen unofficially celebrate with a massive pillow fight.

The cadets streamed into the quad by the hundreds, armed with pillows and let each other have it.

As upper classmen looked on and cheered, glow sticks rained down from above.

The event is supposed to bring the cadets closer together, but according to the New York Times, some plebes were swinging pillow cases containing helmets.

Thirty were injured during the melee, 24 had concussions while others suffered a broken nose, a dislocated shoulder and a hairline fracture of a cheekbone.

"This is a failure of leadership at a number of levels," 1972 West Point graduate Col. Jeff McCausland said. "At all colleges there are traditions, on the other hand it's an academy preparing them professionally to be military officers."

The pillow fight took place August 20, but West Point, which trains many of the army's top officers, confirmed it only recently.

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Pillow fight at West Point

On social media, many cadets boasted about the event.

One wrote: "My plebe was knocked unconscious and immediately began fighting when he came to. I'm so proud I could cry."

Although not officially sanctioned, mass pillow fights have been held at West Point for years.

At this year's event, plebes were ordered by their commanders to wear helmets, but it appears many did not.

West Point said it regrets the injuries, but applauds the cadets' efforts to build team spirit. In a statement, the academy's superintendent, added: "I take full responsibility for all actions that occur here at West Point... We will continue our investigation, ensure accountability, and reinforce with the Corps that we must all take care of our teammates."

"This is an opportunity for the officer leadership at the academy to have a conversation with themselves and 'Is this a tradition which is consistent with the objectives and values of this institution?'" McCausland said.

West Point said the concussions suffered were minor, but that medical staff were following up with the injured plebes according to established concussion protocols.

The academy also said that no cadets left because of their injuries, and that all have been returned to active duty.