Midshipmen Take Prank Tradition to New Heights

Leaflet drops have been deployed ahead of the 123rd Army-Navy football game
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2022 10:35 AM CST
Before Big Game, a 'Secret Mission' Over West Point
Navy midshipmen head to the field before the Army-Navy game on Dec. 12, 2020, in West Point, NY.   (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Airborne leaflet drops are a timeworn form of psychological warfare dating back to the World War I era. More recently, Ukrainian forces have spread leaflets via helicopter and artillery shells instructing Russian troops on how to surrender. Per CNN Business, several midshipmen from the US Naval Academy deployed the tactic on Monday, conducting a "secret mission" to air-drop leaflets over the campus of the US Military Academy in West Point, New York. It was yet another in a long line of pregame pranks traditionally carried out prior to the annual Army-Navy football game.

In a news release confirming "Operation Black Knight Falling," the USNA said five midshipmen manning three Piper PA-28 Cherokee Warriors made 12 passes over West Point, dropping an "unknown number" of paper leaflets printed with "Beat Army" and "Fly Navy," along with oodles of colorful pingpong balls, per CNN. "Army cadets could be seen breaking formation and running for cover," the USNA said in its release. Also per CNN, West Point's public affairs office followed with a statement of its own, claiming "not all the drops hit the intended targets." And while the Army said it had no plans to retaliate, a recent Instagram video showed cadets carrying out various nighttime pranks around the USNA campus, such as leaving toy soldiers on desks and hanging a banner outside the superintendent's house.

The two academies also revealed special uniforms for the upcoming game, complete with slickly produced YouTube announcements. The Navy outfits are "out of this world," as CBS News put it, with NASA-themed uniforms dedicated to 54 midshipmen who went on to become astronauts. Army's uniforms are dedicated to the 1st Armored Division and Operation Torch, which marked the start of US military ground operations in Africa and Europe 80 years ago. This Saturday will mark the 123rd Army-Navy game. Per Eye on Annapolis, Navy leads the series 62-53-7, but the midshipmen have dominated the 21st century, winning 18 of the past 23 contests, including last season. (Read more US Naval Academy stories.)

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