Celebrating 500th Night at West Point
Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command and guest speaker for the 500th Night Banquet, talks with Cow Joshua Miller and Gillian Rankin during the Commandant's Reception Jan. 22.

WEST POINT, N.Y. (Jan. 26, 2011) -- West Point has many traditions. Some date back to the 19th century, some are more recent, some traditions yet to come and others expanded upon.

Two celebrations close to a cadet's heart are 100th Night and 500th Night. The first began in 1871 for Firsties counting the 100 days before graduation. In 1871, cadets performed skits at the Mess Hall. Today cadets write, direct and produce a full-scale musical that is open to the public.
The second is 500th Night; the countdown to graduation celebrated by junior cadets and a tradition which began with the Class of 1965.

Classmates Roger Frydrychowski and Medal of Honor recipient, Paul "Buddy" Bucha, started the ball rolling having no idea they were starting a Corps tradition.

"The plan we submitted was, from our cadet perspective, a 'dream sheet' proposal. As we envisioned the concept, we decided to request authorization for details that back then were well beyond the norm. Specifically, our request for an off-post event in civilian clothes was unprecedented-as the Superintendent (Lt. Gen. James Benjamin Lampert) affirmed," Frydrychowski said.

Frydrychowski said although the superintendent gave his blessing for this inaugural event, he stressed the event was a precedent and advised the Class of 1965 to set a good example, both in conduct and performance. He recalls the cadet dance band playing current tunes, some of which were not within the standards of the Corps of Cadets, like "The Twist."

"All went exceptionally well and I received notes from officers and their wives who attended as guests praising the class and the event," he added.

Frydrychowski had the opportunity to observe first hand what he began when he attended the 500th Night celebration for the Class of 2009 as a guest.

"Having responsibilities back (in 1965), I had to wait until a couple of years ago to enjoy a 500th Night celebration on a visit to the academy. Many years passed before I became aware that our Class of 1965 created a new tradition for the Corps," he said.

Today, 500th Night is a full weekend event. Cadets often take short trips, such as to New York City or sight-seeing around the Hudson Valley before and after the official post activities.

"I didn't go anywhere before (the event)," Cadet Sulev "Grant" Sepp, class president, said. "I did damage control, so I stayed on post, but I'm going camping at a lake later with the guys ... roughing it."

The 46th celebration of 500th Night opened Jan. 22 with the Class of 2012 cadets and their dates attending the Commandant's Reception at Cullum Hall. A banquet followed at the Cadet Mess Hall with Class of 1976 graduate Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, as guest speaker. The evening concluded with a formal dance at Eisenhower Hall.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16