Bullies and Cowards:
The West Point Hazing Scandal,
& London: Greenwood Press, 2000)
When Oscar Booz entered West Point
in 1898, the older cadets decided that this mild-mannered, highly religious
plebe did not conform to their image of what a cadet should be. After
enduring 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.
Two years later, following Oscarís death from tuberculosis of the larynx,
his family claimed that the older cadets had killed their son by inflaming his
throat with hot sauce, thereby creating a fertile field for the
infection. This is the story of the ensuing scandal that brought West Point under fire in the press nationwide.
Official investigations following Oscarís death would reveal that West Pointís
brand of hazing, generally considered harmless fun at most colleges at that
time, had evolved into a long-standing pattern of cruelty, latent
homosexuality, and anti-Semitism.
Cadets who were the sons of the rich and famous received more hazing than
the average cadet. Boozís classmates in the summer of 1898 Ulysses S.
Grant III and Philip Sheridan, Jr., both became targets because of their famous
relatives. Douglas MacArthur, who entered in 1899, was hazed so severely
he went into dangerous convulsions.
In light of shocking testimony by cadets revealing cruel and sadistic
practices, both the Senate and the House of Representatives hotly debated
closing the Academy.
Distilling startling accounts from trial transcripts, contemporary newspaper
stories, archival records and correspondence, Bullies and Cowards
exposes a little-known dark chapter in the history of West
Philip W. Leon is a professor of American Literature at The Citadel, The
Military College of South Carolina. He is the author of William Styron
(1978), Walt Whitman and Sir William Osler (1995), and Mark Twain and West Point (1996), along with numerous articles and
essays. A retired Colonel of Military Intelligence, he served as a senior
advisor to the superintendent at West Point
from 1987 to 1990.
Critical Acclaim for Bullies and Cowards: The West Point Hazing Scandal, 1898-1901
"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
Hardly dimmed by the passage of ten decades, much potential for such evil lurks
on campuses still."
-Dave R. Palmer, President, Walden University;
Superintendent, United States Military Academy,
"Bullies and Cowards 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,
Professor of History, United States Military Academy.
"Philip Leon has used a single case of cadet hazing
from a century ago to evoke the external context and internal realities of West Point as it approached its centennial. His study
reminds us that we are not the first generation live with sensationalist journalism
and political posturing as a backdrop to events involving military
institutions. He handles his materials masterfully, giving readers new insights
into the Military
Academy's past and the
ways in which its traditions have evolved."
-Brig. Gen. (Retired) Harold W.
Nelson, former Chief, U.S. Army Military History.
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