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In June 1911, the corps of cadets numbered 650 men divided into four classes; most in the fourth(plebe) year, least in the first, attrition taking a heavy toll.

Question: What that means the last part; most in the fourth(plebe) year, least in the first, attrition taking a heavy toll?

This is a story about Eisenhower's West Point enterance.

Comments  

The writer seems to have his terminology wrong. A plebe is not in his fourth year—he is in his first year and is fourth-class. The final year is not the first year—a cadet in his fourth year is known as a Firstie because he is first-class.

Some cadets leave West Point before they finish for one reason or another. The writer meant to say that each succeeding year has fewer cadets in it because of that attrition. That is a sloppy use of the word "attrition", by the way.

More strength in fourth class, least strength in the first class and men are started leaving the corps