Investigates the death of a severely hazed West Point cadet at the end of the 19th century and reveals a variety of hazing practices and long-standing institutional cruelty.
When Oscar Booze entered West Point in 1898, the older cadets decided that he did not conform to their image of what a cadet should be. After four months of constant torment, including a beating in an organized boxing match, ridicule for reading his Bible, and the forced consumption of hot sauce in the cadet mess hall, he resigned. When Oscar died a year and a half later from tuberculosis of the larynx, his family claimed that the West Point cadets had killed their son by scarring his throat and creating a fertile field for the fatal infection. This is the story of the ensuing scandal that brought West Point under fire in the press nationwide.
Investigations following Oscar's death would reveal a long-standing pattern of cruelty that had become inextricably identified with the academy, related to notions of social Darwinism and initiation rituals popular at the time. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate considered closing the Academy in light of testimony by cadets in two separate investigations that revealed cruel and sadistic practices. Distilling startling accounts from trial transcripts, contemporary newspaper stories, archival records and correspondence, this book exposes a little-known chapter in the history of West Point.
Beast Barracks The Ordeal The Scandal The Secrets Revealed The Hazing Law The Mutiny Conclusion Glossary Index
Reviews [Leon's] work is very valuable...because it presents a difficult historical situation that has great relevance to today's world, both civilian and military. The reader gains real insight into the problems and divisions that arise in a situation of intense mental pressure and demanding physical stress.—Army History
Endorsements Philip Leon has exhaustively researched and superbly written the story of a century-old incident at West Point, flamed into a notorious scandal by the yellow press of the day. While the record shows the Academy to have been falsely maligned in the sad incident--which involved the death of a former cadet--the resulting investigation revealed an underlying maliciousness in a student body let run amok by a lack of controls. This book should be read and carefully pondered not only by officers and cadets at West Point, but by responsible persons at every college in America. Hardly dimmed by the passage of ten decades, much potential for such evil lurks on campuses still.—Dave R. Palmer^LPresident, Walden University
^IBullies and Cowards^R provides us unique insights into cadet life at the Military Academy a century ago and skillfully reminds us that hazing erodes not only the spirit and will of young people, but also the highest ideals of any military institution.—Colonel Robert A. Doughty^LProfessor of History^LUnited States Military Academy