From the 1996-97 Catalog and a Prospect
us booklet sent by Admissions to candidates:
"The Military Academy's Academic
Program includes an excellent, broadly structured under graduate curriculum that balances the
physical sciences and engineering with the behavioral and social sciences. The goal is for every
graduate to be able to think creatively and express clearly original ideas on both technological
and interpersonal issues. In addition, the Academy seeks to instill in cadets a commitment to
progressive and continued educational development. Class size is small, usually 14 to 18 cadets
per class, so a cadet is far more than a face in a crowd. Small classes assure cadets receive
personalized, individual attention. Tutoring and additional instruction are also available."
MORE ON ACADEMICS
GOATS:A cadet or cadets academically near the bottom of the class.
ORIGIN OF THE TERM AND THE
3. LIFE AT WEST POINT
THE EVERYDAY LIFE OF A CADET
We have titled this topic The Everyday Life of a Cadet because the stories in it reflect that title.
While these stories could easily be shown in one or the other of the many Topics, we believe they
represent things that were more likely to occur on any given day in the four year experience at
FOOD AND CADETS
100th NIGHT SHOW
PETS.... Yes, Pets!
Although cadets call each other by their nicknames, until the admittance of females in 1976,
cadets frequently referred to their roommates as their wife or wives if there were more than two
in a room. This was natural since in many cases, they lived with each other for three or more years
in the olden days when cadets were not shuffled at the end of yearling year as they are today.
As far as can be determined this tradition has gone into the history books. Today, roommates
are referred to as 'roommates' or 'roomies' or 'room dawgs'.
MORE ROOMMATE STORIES
Plebe duties have not materially changed over the years. For
historical perspectives and current duties, click on the link below.
HISTORY AND CURRENT DUTIES
In addition to necessary memorization of academic formulas, etc. for academic proficiency, plebes are required to memorize certain things so that they may demonstrate proficiency in Fourth Class studies. Some of these may be found by clicking on the following link .
MORE ON PLEBE KNOWLEDGE
FUN AND MISCHIEF AT WEST POINT
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"
Life at West Point was never easy, but there were days and nights of mischief and fun.
JOIN US FOR A LITTLE MISCHIEF
4. CLASS RINGS, MINIATURES,
The custom of wearing class rings, now universally popular, was inaugurated in
this country by the United States Military Academy beginning with the Class of 1835. Class rings
are presented by the Tactical Officers to the First Classmen at a ring ceremony early in the First
RING INFORMATION AND PICTURES
5. TAPS VIGILS.
When a Cadet dies, a memorial
formation is held at West Point which few outsiders ever see. It is a quiet, solemn ceremony.
The exact date when the Corps began holding a TAPS vigil is not known. It goes back at least
twenty years since we did it when I was a cadet (USMA'80). It is strictly a Corps operation at the
discretion of the First Captain. The Cadet Brigade Staff coordinates any support they may need.
A vigil is normally held for the death of a cadet (have had two in 1998). For anyone other than a
current cadet, the procedure requires the First Captain to request permission from the Commandant
to hold a vigil. The Corps did hold a Taps Vigil in 1995 for two grads who died in a training
accident at Ranger school shortly after their graduation and in 1998 for an Academy hockey coach
who was a grad.
6. PARENTS CLUBS.
1. To provide a means of communication
between the Academy and cadet parents.
2. To offer opportunities for fellowship and mutual
support among parents whose sons and daughters are under going a rugged academic, physical, and
military training program.
3. To inform the local area about the United States Military Academy.
4. To promote interest in attending the Academy.
Although parents clubs are a relatively new
tradition, the oldest one is the WPPC of Michigan. They celebrated 40 years this past year.
Click here to learn more about
parents clubs and the USMA Public Affairs
7. USMA BAND, PARADES AND OTHER MUSIC
States Military Academy Band, is U.S. Army's oldest active band and the oldest unit at West Point.
The Cadets march in parades on what is called "The Plain" at West Point. A parade is a
military tradition with several different purposes to include practice in close order drill, and
to render honor.
Another unique feature is that the USMA Band's Drum Major is the only enlisted
man in the Army who is permitted to wear a sabre and he proudly wears a cadet sabre.
GLEE CLUB AND SONGS
8. CLASS GODSON/GODDAUGHTER GIFT.
"Here's to the man who wins the cup, May
he be kind and true, And may he bring "our godson" up, To don the Army Blue." ~ From the Song
In the above verse, The Cup refers to a tradition back when all cadets had
silver napkin rings for their napkins in the Cadet Mess Hall. The napkin
rings were donated at graduation and later melted and a silver cup was made
and presented to the father of the first son born after
graduation and that son was the class GODSON. Silver napkin rings were
discontinued at some unknown time but reinstated in the fall of 1949 for the
classes of '50 through '52. Cadets were charged for them. Silver napkin
rings continued to be used through the late '60's and were again
discontinued. However, the rings were kept by the individual graduates
but the tradition of a class cup to the first born male has continued even
when napkin rings were not in use. Most classes specified wedlock and eight
months after graduation in order to be eligible as the class GODSON. Some
recent classes have modified the requirement for a son since females are now
eligible for admission to the Corps. How many class GODSONS have attended
the Academy is unknown although there have been some. It is also known that
the GODSON gift presented by one class was given by the father to his son
when the son graduated.
A graduate in the class of 1992 reported that their class did not collect
for a gift for the class GODSON although later tried to determine who it
was. It might appear that this tradition has disappeared or is not practiced
by every class.
The class of 1947 has expanded on this tradition. '47 had a class GODSON who
was recognized at their 5th reunion with a silver bowl. Additionally they
have the tradition of presenting each class son a gift at his graduation -
an officer's saber (sword). In 1998, they started a
tradition of presenting a class grandson (daughter if they ever have one)
with an officer's saber. They have another unusual tradition. They have a
class garter which has been used by umpteen class brides and class daughters
weddings over the years.
The tradition of presenting gifts to class sons was alive and well for the
Class of 1992 as reported by Bill Artigliere who was one of three class sons
for the class of '69. Jim Isenhower, our class scribe, and Paul Robyn were
the others. We received a gift in a small ceremony following graduation at
Michie Stadium from Bob Kimmitt ('69), then the Ambassador to Germany for
President Bush. As a matter of fact, while I was stationed in Berlin, I
received a phone call at work from Mr. Kimmitt. He was checking up on me.
You should have seen the looks on my soldiers' faces.
THE GODCHILDREN SPEAK
OTHER VERSES OF THE SONG "ARMY BLUE"
9. FLIRTATION WALK.
Plebes are not permitted to walk on Flirtation Walk nor are other personnel stationed at West
Point. It is reserved for the three upperclasses.
There is a large rock formation overhanging a
section of Flirtation Walk that has been named Kissing Rock. Tradition has it that the rock will
fall if the cadet's date does not join in a kiss underneath it.
From a parent:
We were taking our second son to the United States Coast Guard Academy
this past July for their "R" day
and we heard a story about a young boy and his money making achievements
while living at West Point. He'd hide near the kissing rock on flirtation
walk. When a cadet would tell his girl the tale about the rock coming apart
if she didn't kiss him and she'd refuse, the youngster would begin to toss
pebbles down the hill past the couple. A kiss from the frightened girl
would quickly follow. Later the youngster would receive a quarter from the
cadet for payment (delivery of the pebbles)! The youngster is now the
chaplain at the USCGA!
10. STATUES AND SUPERSTITIONS.
There are many statues scattered around West Point.
Each is dedicated to a Person or People that West Point honors. Over the years, cadets have
developed superstitions/traditions dealing with some of these statues, primarily their belief
concerning performance in academic subjects and tests.
MORE ON WEST POINT STATUES
11.LEGENDS AND MYSTERIES
A REAL LEGEND - THE MOLE.
The attached true story is extracted from an article titled "THE MOLE STORY" written by then
MAJ John R. Lovett, Class of Jan 1943, which was published in a May 4, 1951 issue of The Pointer
Magazine, a cadet publication. Under the title and the author's name is the following: "The POINTER
recommends that no member of the present Corps attempt to emulate this one and only character."
The Mole Lives
For many years, there has been a suspicion that the ghost of the Father of
the Military Academy, Sylvanus Thayer, resides in the basement of the Superintendent's quarters.
The following is but one example of cadets whohave tried to prove this suspicion:
In E-4, after
staring at the building for three years, two of my company-mates (females, of course) requested to
spend the night in the basement of the Supe's quarters in search of Thayer's ghost. Our efforts
were in vain. I don't think he liked the Coke and Girl Scout cookies - but we WERE studying.
I'm not sure how this tradition started, I only remember that it was not an unusual request.
We went over at approximately 9pm,Saturday, and remained there the entire night. Mrs. Goodpaster
even gave us a nice waffle breakfast for our efforts.
12. FIRSTIE UNIFORMS/CLOTHING.
Graduating cadets passed useful clothing to the underclasses.
Because cadets are not permitted to be married while a cadet, once graduated they are free to marry.
Romances that have sprung up in the four years have had to wait. The new 2nd Lieutenants
be sent to their various assignments. Here the young couple gets their first taste of what being a
is all about. Move, and move fast!
On the day of Graduation and for a few days following, weddings happened in large numbers,
and at an unbelievable rate. In the past, cadets desiring to get married in one of the chapels
after graduation signed up and then met and drew numbers. Marriages were performed every
half hour starting at 1 PM. The couples drawing number 1 were really rushed to get changed into
wedding attire, etc. Couples desiring to hold a reception in Cullum hall were also limited to
half-hours for their receptions.
As can be seen in the following message from Chaplain Dick Camp, the procedures have
changed somewhat. While the number of weddings on and right after graduation day may have
decreased, many still marry at West Point as will be seen in the stories we received.
The process of a lottery for chapel time for weddings after graduation ceased in 1973.
There is an interesting correlation with the cessation of mandatory chapel and the number
of cadets wanting to get married at the chapel immediately following graduation. I think many
cadets no longer considered a chapel at USMA "their chapel" if they did not regularly worship there.
There was still an identity - "that is our chapel" - but not so much "my chapel" if they did not worship
In the mid-70's there was also a trend to delay marriage until one got a bit more settled in career.
The average age for marriage has risen significantly since the mid 1970's.
Today cadets can sign up for an hour in the chapel for their wedding.
Graduation day has only a few weddings at either the Cadet or Catholic
Chapels. Most cadets can get the day they want, although that is not
guaranteed. They can sign up for a wedding slot any time after January 1
in the year before the wedding.
Ch. Dick Camp, '73-'96
YOU ARE CORDIALLY
14. CAMP BUCKNER.
Camp Buckner, located at Lake
Popolopen, is the site of summer training for the new Third Class. While the training is hard
and heavy, cadets still find time for recreational pranks, a few of which are at the link below .
MORE ON CAMP
15. SIZING CADETS BY COMPANIES
Up until the admission of the Class of 1961 in 1957,
the 24 Cadet Companies were sized by height; i.e., the tallest cadets were in Companies A-1 and M-2
which, when the Corps was lined up for a Brigade Parade or Review on the Plain, Company A-1 was on
the right flank and Company M-2 was on the left flank. Hence the term "Flankers" for the tallest
cadets. Companies M-1 and A-2 were in the middle of the formation and were made up of the smallest
cadets in the Corps, hence the term "Runts" for the shortest members of the Corps. However, when
lined up on the Plain in massed Cadet Battalion formation, the Corps appeared as all being of the
same height to someone observing it from the other side of the Plain. This change was quite a shock
to the Cadets, no matter what company they were in. Flankers shocked to see 'shorter' people amid
their ranks, Runts shocked to see'taller' people in their ranks, and those non-flankers and
non-runts shocked to see both taller and shorter folks in their ranks.
If this tradition were
still in place today, probably not many women cadets would be in the Flanker companies.
addition to being sized, all cadets remained in the same company for their four years. Today
however, at the end of their yearling year, the yearlings are 'scrambled' and assigned to new
companies for their Cow and Senior years.
GOAT/ENGINEER FOOTBALL GAME
Each year the lowest five percent,
academically, (the Goats), would play the highest five percent academically,(the Engineers),
in a Thanksgiving morning football game. Tradition states:"that as go the Goats, so goes Army
**Note:Used to be that most of the top guys in classes chose the Engineer
branch of service, hence the nickname Engineers.
FEMALE CADETS FLAG FOOTBALL GAME.
A new tradition appears to have begun in November 1998. Female Middies challenged female
Cadets to a Flag Football Game prior to the annual game. The game's groundwork was laid in
November when U.S. Naval Academy Commandant of Midshipmen Rear Adm. Gary Roughead contacted U.S.
Corps of Cadets Commandant Brig. Gen. John Abizaid.Roughead's challenge was very similar to the
first Army-Navy football game, noting that in 1890 Navy challenged the Corps of Cadets. Records
show the first game was held on or near the vicinity of Daly Field, with Navy blanking Army 24-0.
"The Army win avenges the first Army-Navy game ever played," Abizaid said. "I think this is going
to be the beginning of a great rivalry." LTG Christman, current Supe said " I know you will agree
with me, this is a great start to another wonderful Army-Navy tradition." The female Army team
won this initial meeting 13-12.Can we now start to say " that as go the Girls, so goes Army against
In addition to the week-long spirit week before the
Army - Navy football game, more moderate rallies used to be held in the Cadet Mess Hall the night
before home games or the night before the team left for an away game. Usually the Cadet Rabble
Rousers (Cheer Leading Squad) led these and the team captain or other players would speak a few
words. Cheers would be said and a song or two would be sung and all would return to their rooms
for study time. However, in October 1963 before the away game with Penn State,the Rabble Rouser
Squad felt more was needed. Click on the link below to see the report from the Head Rabble Rouser
on what came to be known as the October 1963 Mess Hall Rally/Riot followed by a report from the
then Cadet First Captain and comments from the OC (Officer-in-Charge; Commissioned Officer-of-the
Day from the Tactical Department) on duty that night.
RABBLE ROUSERS REMEMBERED
ARMY-NAVY SPIRIT WEEK
JOE COLLEGE NIGHT
FOOTBALL GAMES TO REMEMBER
Due to World War II travel restrictions, the 1942 and 1943 games were played at West Point and Annapolis but neither the Corps of Cadets nor the Brigade of Midshipmen were permitted to attend the away game. However, in 1944, secret arrangements were made to hold the game in Baltimore, MD rather than at Annapolis. What follows are extracts of the book, "WEST POINT REVISITED,
Reminiscences of the Class of 1946 50 Years Later" authored by John C. McWhorter, MG, U. S. Army Retired, Class of 1946.
TRAVEL WITH US TO THE GAME
17. JIM "MOOSE" MOZDEN '64
Jim Mozden died in 1973 of cancer. As a result of his actions
under fire in Viet Nam, Jim was decorated twice for heroism. A military honor guard was to
perform final full military honors at his funeral. To the grief of his family, especially his mother,
a major blizzard, denied Capt. Mozden his military honors.
This story is but another example of the bonding within a class and now with a parents club to see
that he received the honors due him, and which his mother fought so hard to attain.
THE JIM MOZDEN STORY
Traditions in this topic really do not fit into any of
the above 17 topics but we believe they are interesting and some are still valid today.
UNCLASSIFIED TRADITIONS AND SUPERSTITIONS
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All work on these pages copyright 12/98 Dian Welle and Dick Breakiron