- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2002

Uncle Sam's sailors come with standard-issue red blood, lots of it, with a sturdy cut of the jib, always spoiling for a fight, ready to sink the enemy's ships or break up a saloon. We all know that. Donald Rumsfeld and George W. can be pleased, and so should we all.

Every hooker comes with a broken heart of gold. We all know that, too. And every newspaper editor comes with two hard fists and a determination to report the news. "Without fear or favor," as the cliche goes. He's scared of no one.

Well, maybe not always. A sailor's mom can be a fearsome creature.

When three U.S. warships, the carrier John C. Stennis, the guided missile cruiser Port Royal and the combat support ship Bridge, sailed into Perth the other day the guys 5,500 of them were weary of the stresses and deprivations of war, thirsty and eager to see if everything they had heard about kangaroos, koala bears and Aussie hospitality was true. The young women at Langtrees, Australia's most famous seminary for young ladies, were eager to do their bit for the allied war effort.

But enough, as our commander in chief might say, was soon enough. Only hours later, Mary-Anne Kennedy, the madam of Langtrees, pushed out the last of the sailors and locked the doors for the first time in years. Her young ladies were exhausted.

"We're the biggest and best," she said. "I'd rather take nothing than offer poor service. The girls were starting to refuse to have sex but still wanted money just to take their clothes off. That's not right."

Mzz Kennedy was not complaining, exactly, but she had some advice for the Navy. "I just wish they could dribble-feed the Yanks in, fly a thousand off at a time. We usually find the Yanks hard work but lots of fun. This time they needed the company, too."

Soon the grief some might call it opportunity began to spread. Hookers in Hobart, in the southern Australia state of Tasmania, are braced for a hectic week. The state Family Planning Agency is on alert, promoting a message of "safe sex" and has laid in a supply of condoms.

"The Americans are known as big spenders who have a good time," says the director of the family planning agency. There is no evidence that "local women" are turning free-lance tricks but he expects what he delicately calls "interstate sex workers" to hurry to Hobart to take advantage of "excellent business opportunities."

"It's unrealistic to tell people not to have sex but they should be aware of sexually transmitted diseases and, without wishing to scare-monger, AIDS."

Unrealistic or not, when the Associated Press ran a dispatch about the glut of business in Perth, there was trouble at home. The daily newspaper in Bremerton, Wash., the home port of the USS John C. Stennis, ran the item and the roof fell in on the Sun, and its editor, Scott Ware. The most obtuse reader had only to read between the lines of the kind of apology known in the trade as "the full grovel" to reckon the outrage of the moms of Bremerton, who are absolutely certain their sons, who they know spent their time in Perth at the library and in the bookstores, have been cruelly libeled.

"We at the Sun used poor judgment in deciding to run the Associated Press story about Navy sailors and exhausted prostitutes in Australia," wrote Mr. Ware for his newspaper. "Let us not give any further life to the story by going into the details.

"It is often a newspaper's duty to hold itself up as a mirror to unpleasant realities that may be disturbing to its readers. When we do, it should be because a greater good can come of it. Considering the hurt it has caused among the Navy families that are our readers, we can't satisfactorily answer the question: What purpose did it serve?

Sex or "gender," in the new and more sensitive nomenclature continues to give the New Navy grief. Only a decade ago, as it went to war with Saddam Hussein, the USS Acadia, a supply ship, went to sea and soon had an abundant supply of pregnant sailors. Exactly 10 percent of its crew of 360 not-so-able-bodied seapersons were sent home when they were discovered to be expecting more than combat.

The trouble in Perth, which was actually trouble only for the ladies at Langtrees and the editors at the Bremerton Sun, was a throwback, welcome or not, to the days of the old Navy, when sailors were expected to be randy, rowdy and ready for action. The life of an able-bodied seaman was an adventure, but he knew better than to write home with the details.


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