BAGHDAD, Iraq—The pinup girls of this war would make World War II favorite Betty Grable blush.
The nine of them appear on a poster titled "Baywatch Blowout," wearing inviting expressions and bathing suits that leave little to the imagination.
"It's in every Amtrac," said Lance Cpl. Cole Gibbens of Lafayette, La., referring to the amphibious vehicles that have transported thousands of troops.
The poster features women from the "Baywatch" TV show, with Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra and Yasmine Bleeth leading the lineup. In a nod to local religious traditions, the military restricted the kinds of magazines and videos that could be taken into Kuwait, where the attack on Iraq was largely staged. This poster, with no full nudity, made the cut.
Magazines popular with young men—such as FHM, Maxim, Stuff and Blender—also have been carried by Marines. The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue has been a common sight. Playboy and Hustler were not allowed, although some issues appeared.
"We managed to smuggle some toys in," said one Marine who would not give his name. "God Bless America."
Another favorite pinup has been Brooke Burke, said Lance Cpl. Justin Adams of Destrehan, La. Burke is the former host of E! Channel's "Wild On" and a former Frederick's of Hollywood catalog model.
"She's gorgeous, beautiful eyes," he said. And in an obviously diplomatic statement, he added, "She's second most beautiful to my fiancee."
The magazines, some Marines say, are just a way to cut into the down time.
"I started smoking because of the boredom," Mattox said. "I'll quit before I go home."
Staff Sgt. Scott Ottesen, 38, from Chicago, said the magazines and pinups have no effect on the Marines' performance or discipline. "It's just something to pass the time," Ottesen said.
Some Marines, however, argue that the pinups are important to their mental well-being. Marines have had no contact with Iraqi women, most of whom have watched from doorways as the Marines passed in the streets on patrol.
Except on patrols, Marines have not left their compounds and have not seen any women. The pinups remind them of home.
"It's motivation, even for married guys," said Cpl. Seth Edwards of Redding, Calif., who proudly added that his wife has a figure like one of the "Baywatch" women.
Said Edwards, "It reminds us that there's still hot women at home waiting for us."
Female soldiers have a different take on pinups.
Capt. Evah Pottmeyer, 27, is a Jag officer for 7th Corps Support Group. "Maybe it's this whole dirt thing out here, but you're not really thinking about sex. Maybe posters of Tide or Mr. Clean—that would be good."
Said Capt. Eileen Moritz, 30, of the 864 Engineer Battalion: "Why do we need posters of men? They outnumber us out here. They're all over the place."
(Peterson reports for The Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss.)
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
PHOTO (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): USIRAQ-DISPATCHES-PETERSON