QUANTICO, Va. — In the face of mounting criticism, the Marine Corps Association has decided to no longer publish its annual Marine Corps Gazette Swimsuit Issue, ending a nearly century-long tradition that dates back to 1924.
The Association made the announcement after Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus publicly said he was cancelling his Gazette subscription and directed exchange stores to confine the publication to their adult materials sections, along with Hustler and the Marine Corps Times.
"We need to redouble our efforts to provide a safe and respectful environment aboard Navy and Marine Corps installations," Mabus said, "and the Gazette's juvenile flesh-peddling has no place in the modern Marine Corps."
Mabus is the latest in a long list of other military officials who have been dragged into the debate over whether a military publication featuring scantily clad women arguing over the latest trends in warfare and tactics is still appropriate. He joins former Marine commandants Gens. Charles Krulak and Al Gray, who also cancelled their subscriptions under pressure, although Gray apparently just switched to the racier Leatherneck.
While current commandant Gen. James Amos has also condemned the Gazette, he admitted keeping his subscription "to read the articles."
According to sources at the Marine Corps Association, editor John Keenan broke the news to distraught staff, that this year's swimsuit issue would be the last, in an emergency meeting held this morning. Keenan, who retired from the Marine Corps in 2003 and has edited the Gazette since 2006, has not commented whether he will stay on as editor and lead bikini waxer.
Under his tenure, the Gazette has sought to reverse its steadily-declining readership as younger readers flocked to Terminal Lance and senior leaders limited themselves to re-reading their own press releases. Recent issues have sought to make the magazine more relevant to today's Marine Corps with controversial articles like "Why Women Do Not Belong in the U.S. Infantry" and "Your Wife vs. Your Daughter: Marines Discuss Their Ratings."
Keenan's decision also means that there will be no successor to this year's cover model, Capt. Jessica Bryson, who says she likes long Warning Orders and PME's after dark. Keenan did not comment on whether the Gazette would also cancel this year's planned "Body Issue," which is scheduled to feature the naked profiles of the staff at Marine Corps Systems Command.
The Marine Corps Gazette was first published in 1916 by John Lejeune, originally as a forum for innovative thinking and debates, but later as a way for Lejeune and fellow officer Smedley Butler to pick up college coeds. Its first swimsuit issue, naturally featuring Opha Mae Johnson, came out as a gimmick when the Gazette was trying to fill a slow point in the years following World War I and became an overnight success.
Many of today's prominent female leaders, like Maj. Gen. Angela Salinas (Ret) and Brig. Gen. Loretta 'Lori' Reynolds caught their first breaks as young Marines in the Gazette, modeling exotic outfits while debating proper fields of fire and command techniques.
Asked to comment, Sgt. Maj. Lanette Wright, the first female sergeant major on a Marine Expeditionary Unit said, "It's sad watching the end of an era, but as Marines we have to pick up and move on. As a young PFC I dreamed of being a Gazette cover girl, but eventually had to settle for just being extremely competent at my job."
Mabus' office later issued an update that his directive would only affect Marine Corps publications, and would not prohibit the U.S. Naval Institute's Proceedings from publishing its extremely popular all-male swimsuit issue Banana Hammocks.