Pierre Boulat

West Point “Beasts Barracks”


West point plebes get stern barracks discipline to toughen them up as future leaders in battle

Embeded in the consciousness of every West Pointer is one two-month period which he can neither forget nor exactly remember. He cannot recall it in detail because he was largely in a daze when it took place. He cannot forget it because it was the most humiliating time of his life – the start of his plebe year at West Point when he was a lowly «Beast» and suffered the ordeal of « Beast Barracks “

The purpose of Beast Barracks is to plunge each plebe into this system at the start. As a Beast he comes under such tremendous mental and physical pressure all at once that he must shed much of his personal individuality in order to cope with them. In doing this he learns to obey all military orders with the same unquestioning obedience that he would require of his own men as an officer in combat.

To whip the new Beasts into shapen a picked group of senior cadets, headed by a « king of the Beasts » rides 730 men from 5.50 each morning, when they get up, until after 9 each night when they have the last of three daily showers. Here each Beast must wait at attention until an upperclassman gives him permission to shower. The upperclassmen, who were Beasts once themselves and are eager to give as much as they once had to taken are forbiddent to haze the new men. But they harass them unmercifully if they do not know their traditional « plebe knowledge ». (A typical question for a Beast : « How many days to the Navy game, Mister ? » ) If a Beast starts to shake from fear or fatigue, he is ordered to « Stop vibrating, Mister ! » By 9. 30 the Beasts must be in bed, to rest up for another grueling day. Even the most mature newcomers, who thought they knew all about West Point before they arrived, find Beast Battacks a severe and unexpected test of their manhood. And none of Beasts knows, as each day begins, wether he will survive the test.