Meanwhile, Harkins was still accumulating information, but he thought he needed more evidence to obtain convictions before an officers' board. He asked Braun and the other informer to go undercover, to pose as members of the ring and turn over the names of more cheaters. Braun was aghast. He says, "I thought I'd done my best for the Honor Code, and now I thought, This isn't fair. What Harkins asked me to do was itself dishonorable."
Yet how could he refuse the commandant, who to a cadet, Braun suggests wryly, "sits somewhere between God and MacArthur"? Desperate, Braun turned to his family. An uncle who was a lawyer drove up from New York City and advised him to cooperate with the commandant. "This is the Army, Neddy," the uncle said with a shrug.
"That was the worst advice I ever received in my life," Braun says. But he accepted it, and he became a stool pigeon for Harkins. Late in May he brought the commandant more names. Harkins had also been assembling other evidence. For example, on one chemistry test a correct answer was "concentration," but that appeared on the poop sheet as "condensation," and a large number of cadets all gave that exact answer.
The commandant took all his evidence to the superintendent, General Irving. "To my mind there is only one solution or final action to be taken in the case of those found guilty, and that is separation from the Academy," Harkins wrote in a memorandum. "I think when the air clears, the whole thing will have a salutary effect on West Point and the country.... It will prove to all of us that though we want to have winning teams and play to win, the teams must be made up of cadets who...respect and live by the ideals and spirit of West Point. There can be no other way."
Lt. Col. Arthur (Ace) Collins Jr. was appointed to head the official inquiry, and on May 29 the Collins Board started calling in the suspects one by one. It began with first classmen, who were supposed to be graduating in a few days. Collins and the other officers on the board believed a number of seniors were guilty, but they didn't think they had sufficient evidence. Besides, we were fighting a war. The Army needed second lieutenants.
Harkins had already been assigned to a new position in Washington and would leave West Point in June. Soon he would have his first star, on his way to commanding all U.S. troops in the next war, in Vietnam.
As the investigation continued, one football player threatened Braun with murder. For his protection, he was put in isolated confinement during June Week, when the members of the class of '51 took their commissions and a lot of them took their drags and married them, under crossed sabers. Braun sat alone, in a room, watching the festivities below. He lives now, as he did then, above a river. He looks out over the water.
"The honor scandal was the worst experience of my life," he says. "I'm neither proud nor ashamed of my role. Fate chose me. I was bitter about that for a long time. But what embittered me the most was that neither Harkins nor my tactical officer—not a single officer at West Point—ever came to me and asked how I was. Not one son of a gun. And I was a kid. I could have been suicidal. I wasn't looking for a pat on the back. But not a single one of them ever said, 'Son, how are you doing?' Not one."
Cadet—, Class of 1953, appeared before the Board, was advised of his rights under the 24th Article of War, was sworn as a witness, and testified.... "I couldn't turn all those people in. They were my best friends, and when you play ball together you just get very close. Besides, when you see all these upperclassmen who you worship doing it, you don't think it is so bad."
—COLLINS BOARD REPORT
On the first day of questioning, some players lied. They were scared, caught off guard. That night one of them telephoned Blaik to ask for a meeting, and as a result the coach and a dozen players gathered in the projection room. One player broke down. "I'm going to be thrown out for passing the poop," he said, sobbing, "and other guys are too."