Bullies and Cowards: The West Point Hazing Scandal, 1898-1901

Bullies and Cowards: The West Point Hazing Scandal, 1898-1901

Bullies and Cowards: The West Point Hazing Scandal, 1898-1901

Bullies and Cowards: The West Point Hazing Scandal, 1898-1901

Synopsis

When Oscar Booz 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.

Excerpt

But at my stumbling they gathered in glee,
they gathered together against me;
ruffians whom I did not know
tore at me without ceasing;
they impiously mocked more and more,
gnashing at me with their teeth.

--Psalm 35.15-16

The fellows have talked terribly to me ever since the fight, for they say that I dropped out because I did not want to fight, and not because I was knocked out. I think they just wanted to kill me, if possible, or come as near it as possible. There is no use of talking. the fellows here are brutes, and they have evil in their minds.

--Oscar L. Booz, 7 August 1898

Oscar looked anxiously across the makeshift boxing ring at his opponent, a man whose name he did not know, an upper class cadet whom he had not personally offended. His classmates tried to make him understand that he would be fighting for the honor of all the plebes, but he had no desire to fight at all. He had prayed . . .

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