A Memory Past

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A Memory Past

By: Garland Davis

I awaken each morning and somehow remember less

From the ships’ names to the blue uniform called dress.

The moments of the past just barely linger,

I try to grasp them but the memories evade my clutching fingers.


Small flashbacks from Taipei long ago,

But they fade to Subic or was it Hong Kong as the days go.

A man came today and brought a suitcase with him,

He filled it from my closet, filled it to the brim.


I could see the sadness in his eyes as I asked where we were going,

He wrapped me in his embrace, and said, “Shipmate” as the tears were flowing.

I don’t know this person, I wanted to scream,

“Who is this stranger?” I ask myself as sanity seems to sunder at the seam.


The sad man led me to the car with a suitcase in his hand.

His cheeks were wet, so were mine. The moment hard to understand.

We were at a large building and he led me inside.

People in white and blue came to get me. I wanted to run and hide


They asked questions, pictures and images came in blurs.

A lady stepped up and took my hand gently in hers.

She led me to a chair and placed a blue band on my wrist.

A man stared at me, wet face, eyes transfixed.


They asked my name, but I don’t know you see.

The writing on the band says Chief Petty Officer.

Now I remember, that is me.

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Wynyard Sailor

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Wynyard Sailor

Ray Mathew


Sailor, we all stare at you.

Not because we are laughing;

nor that we envy

the bottle on your hip

(beer as we know, should be cold)

and that girl with her grip

monkey-tight in your pocket

(better the blondes that grow old).


Sailor, we all stare at you.

Not because we are laughing,

although your wide trousers

go flippity-flap

(we have worn clothes as odd)

and if your hat

makes a sailor suit boy of you-

they say it’s the young who are god.


Sailor, we all stare at you,

because you are mystery:

one who has walked

on the dark of the green,

while we were afraid to be drowned;

one who has been

with the seas of great silence,

and now touches ground.


Sailor, we all stare at you,

because death has been under you;

days have been seas;

you have cast off from land,

and now you’ve no home.

While we who have manned

this old coffin earth

have never, will never

face death having known.



Midwatch Lookout


Midwatch Lookout

By: Garland Davis

The moon hangs over the dark sea,

To starboard, dark shadow moves, the carrier.

The wake streams out astern, glittering from the disturbance.

Peering to port and starboard, I note the positions within the Battle Group.

The smell of stack gas and the feel of salt spray.

Solitude as flying fish flee something unseen.

Waiting in the midnight for the watch to end.

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Ocean Creatures or Seafood Terms

Ocean Creatures or Seafood Terms

By: Garland Davis

People often ask me to explain terms to them due to my expertise in things culinary. This should clear up questions about sea creatures

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Crawfish or Crayfish – Water Bug

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Shrimp – Larger Water Bug

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Lobster – Big Fucking Water Bug


Crab – Water Spider


King Crab – Big Fucking Water Spider

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Fish – Big Fish Food


Big Fish – Bigger Fish Food


Oysters – Snot in a Shell


Octopus – Eight-Armed Sea Monster

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Giant Octopus – Big Fucking Eight-Armed Sea Monster

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Squid – Ten-Armed Sea Monster-Sometimes disguises itself as onion rings.

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Giant Squid – Big fucking Ten-Armed Sea Monster


Clam – Comes in two varieties. Bearded and clean shaven. Unfortunately, we are unable to show the difference between the two


Black Ship Festival

Black Ship Festival

By: Garland Davis

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The Black Ships was the name given to Western vessels arriving in Japan in the 16th and 19th centuries.

In 1543 Portuguese initiated the first contacts, establishing a trade route linking Goa to Nagasaki. The large carracks engaged in this trade had the hull painted black with pitch, and the term came to represent all western vessels. In 1639, after suppressing a rebellion blamed on the Christian influence, the ruling Tokugawa Shogunate retreated into an isolationist policy. During this “locked state”, contact with Japan by Westerners was restricted to Dejima island at Nagasaki.


In 1844, William II of the Netherlands urged Japan to open, but was rejected. On July 8, 1853, the U.S. Navy steamed four warships into the bay at Edo and threatened to attack if Japan did not begin trade with the West. Their arrival marked the reopening of the country to political dialogue after more than two hundred years of self-imposed isolation. Trade with Western nations would not come until the Treaty of Amity and Commerce more than five years later.

In particular, Black Ships refers to Mississippi, Plymouth, Saratoga, and Susquehanna of the Perry Expedition for the opening of Japan, 1852-1854, that arrived on July 14, 1853 at Uraga Harbor in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan under the command of Commodore Matthew Perry. Black refers to the black color of the older sailing vessels, and the black smoke from the coal-fired steam engines of the American ships. In this sense, the kurofune became a symbol of the ending of isolation.

Commodore Perry’s superior military force was the principal factor in negotiating a treaty allowing American trade with Japan, thus effectively ending the isolation period of more than 200 years in which trading with Japan had been permitted to the Dutch and Chinese exclusively.

The sight of the four ships entering Edo Bay (Tokyo Bay), roaring black smoke into the air and capable of moving under their own power, deeply frightened the Japanese.Perry ignored the requests arriving from the shore that he should move to Nagasaki—the official port for trade with the outside—and threatened in turn to take his ships directly to Edo, and burn the city to the ground if he was not allowed to land. It was eventually agreed upon that he should land nearby at Kurihama, whereupon he delivered his letter and left.

The following year, at the Convention of Kanagawa, Perry returned with a fleet of eight of the fearsome Black Ships, to demonstrate the power of the United States navy, and to lend weight to his announcement that he would not leave again, until he had a treaty. In the interim following his previous visit, the Tokugawa shogunate had learned about the staggering destruction of the Chinese fleet by a handful of British warships in 1841 during the First Opium War, and about China’s subsequent loss of Hong Kong to British sovereignty. The shogunate realized that—if they wished for their country to avoid a similar fate—they would need to make peace with the west.

After a roughly a month of negotiations, the Shogun’s officials presented Perry with the Treaty of Peace and Amity. Perry refused certain conditions of the treaty but agreed to defer their resolution to a later time, and finally establishing formal diplomatic relations between Japan and the United States. The eight ships departed, leaving behind a consul at Shimoda to negotiate a more permanent agreement. The Harris Treaty was signed with the United States on July 29, 1858, and within five years of the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Amity, Japan had moved to sign treaties with other western countries.


The most famous festival of Shimoda celebrates in honor of the arrival on the Blackship and Commodore Perry landing in Japan to the world. The three-day festival commemorates the arrival of US Commodore Mathew Perry 152 years ago. It was US Commodore Mathew Perry and a squadron of nine so-called black ships that forced the opening of Shimoda port in 1854. His statue stands in Shimoda City where he disembarked his black ship. There’s also a street named after him. The Black Ships Festival celebrates the signing of the treaty, which brought the two countries together as trading partners. Lively parades and events commemorate the arrival of Commodore Perry.

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A shipmate’s story of one Black Ship festival.

By: Brion Boyles

SO, not really a “sea” story, but a river story…The Japanese port-city of Shimoda hosts an annual “Black Ship Festival”, in honor of Admiral Perry’s 1854 visit to Japan and the US Navy sends a ship there every year as an emissary of good will.

My visit there was while aboard the USS WHITE PLAINS (AFS-4). On our Black Ship visit, the town invited a crew of us to come to the river thru town, where it was reported the townsfolk had prepared a raft for the WHITE PLAINS to participate in the Black Ship river race. I don’t remember who I went with, but four of us got down to the river and were floored by the wonderful range of very ornate and creative rafts already in the river…There was a replica of Perry’s ship, a space shuttle, a VW, several neat “junks” …just a great show. Then they took us to our “vessel”…a “plank” deck of about a half-dozen bamboo poles secured on top of 3 inner tubes, with a couple of bamboo “flag poles’ drooping to port and starboard. Well, we weren’t going to let our meager vessel dim our enthusiasm….although the fact that all the other crews were covered head-to-toe in wetsuits and hypothermia gear and we were in cut-off dungarees and t-shirts. THAT gave us some pause. Nonetheless, we climbed into the frigid, scrotum-shrivelling water, and when the starter gun fired, we paddled for all our worth—-bamboo deck a rattlin’, flagpoles flailing madly like samurai swords cutting the air…and while everyone else’s magnificent rafts puttered about or started to come apart under the strain, we managed to keep our cluster of sticks and tubes moving rapidly downriver and finished 3rd out of a field of about 50.

Well, 1st place prize was a couple bottles of sake and Suntory whiskey, 2nd place was a case of Budweiser and 3rd was a case of frozen fish. We accepted our frozen fish with grace, but the 2nd place team could sense our disappointment and bewilderment…What the FUCK were we sailors going to do with a giant box of frozen fish?–and they swapped us the case of beer…which we sat down with them on the rivershore and drank. Captain Kerr had given us a handful of WHITE PLAINS Zippo’s to give out…I got too drunk and forgot to give out my last two…We ended the night in a big pile of snoring sailors on the tatami mats of some local’s living room. I gave him one of the remaining waterlogged Zippo’s as we left the next morning. By the proud look on his face, I could have spent the next night with his daughter… SHIMODA BLACK SHIP FESTIVAL, 1983.

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The Great White Fleet

The Great White Fleet

By: Garland Davis


In the twilight of his administration, United States President Theodore Roosevelt dispatched 16 U.S. Navy battleships of the Atlantic Fleet on a worldwide voyage of circumnavigation from 16 December 1907 to 22 February 1909. The hulls were painted white, the Navy’s peacetime color scheme, decorated with gilded scrollwork with a red, white, and blue banner on their bows. These ships would later come to be known as the Great White Fleet.

The purpose of the fleet deployment was multifaceted. Ostensibly, it served as a showpiece of American goodwill, as the fleet visited numerous countries and harbors. In this, the voyage was not unprecedented. Naval courtesy calls, many times in conjunction with the birthdays of various monarchs and other foreign celebrations, had become common in the 19th century. They became increasingly important with the rise of nationalism. In 1891, a large French fleet visited Kronstadt, Russia, in conjunction with negotiations between the two nations. Although France and Russia had been hostile to each other for at least three decades prior, the significance of the call was not lost on Russia, and Tsar Nicholas II signed a treaty of alliance with France in 1894. As navies grew larger, naval pageants grew longer, more elaborate, and more frequent. The United States began participating in these events in 1902 when Roosevelt invited Kaiser Wilhelm II of ermany to send a squadron for a courtesy call to New York City. Invitations for U.S. Navy ships to participate in fleet celebrations in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany followed.

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Additionally, the voyage of the Great White Fleet demonstrated both at home and on the world stage that the U.S. had become a major sea power in the years after its triumph in the Spanish-American War, with possessions that included Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. It was not the first flexing of U.S. naval muscle since that war, however; during the Algeciras Conference in 1906, which was convened to settle a diplomatic crisis between France and Germany over the fate of Morocco, Roosevelt had ordered eight battleships to maintain a presence in the Mediterranean Sea. Since Japan had arisen as a major sea power with the 1905 annihilation of the Russian fleet at Tsushima, the deployment of the Great White Fleet was therefore intended, at least in part, to send a message to Tokyo that the American fleet could be deployed anywhere, even from its Atlantic ports, and would be able to defend American interests in the Philippines and the Pacific.

That gesture capitalized on a war scare that had resulted from anti-Japanese riots in San Francisco. Roosevelt saw the deployment of the fleet as one that would take the American public’s mind off an economic depression that had begun in 1907, encourage patriotism, and give the impression that he would teach Japan “a lesson in polite behavior”, as historian Robert A. Hart phrased it, Roosevelt did so on the assurance from financial experts that Japan had been drained from the Russo-Japanese War and would not be ready for another conflict for at least a decade.[9] After the fleet had crossed the Pacific, Japanese statesmen realized that the balance of power in the East had changed since the Root-Takahira Agreement that defined relevant spheres of interest of the United States and Japan.

The voyage also provided an opportunity to improve the sea- and battle-worthiness of the fleet. While earlier capital ship classes such as the Kearsarge, Illinois and Maine were designed primarily for coastal defense, later classes such as the Virginia and Connecticut incorporated lessons learned from the Spanish–American War and were conceived as ships with “the highest practicable speed and the greatest radius of action”, in the words of the appropriation bills approved by the United States Congress for their construction. They were intended as modern warships capable of long-range operations. Nevertheless, the experience gained in the recent war with Spain had been limited.

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Concerns and preparations

Roosevelt’s stated intent was to give the navy practice in navigation, communication, coal consumption and fleet maneuvering; navy professionals maintained, however, that such matters could be served better in home waters. Considering what had happened to the Russian Baltic Fleet, they were concerned about sending their own fleet on a long deployment, especially since part of the intent was to impress a modern, battle-tested navy that had not known defeat. The fleet was untested in making such a voyage, and Tsushima had proven that extended deployments had no place in practical strategy.[11] The Japanese navy was close to coaling and repair facilities; while American ships could coal in the Philippines, docking facilities were far from optimal. An extended stop on the West Coast of the United States during the voyage for overhaul and refurbishment in dry dock would be a necessity. Planning for the voyage, however, showed a dearth of adequate facilities there, as well. The main sea channel of the Mare Island Navy Yard near San Francisco was too shallow for battleships, which left only the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Bremerton, Washington for refit and repair. The Hunter’s Point civilian yard in San Francisco could accommodate capital ships, but had been closed due to lack of use and was slated for demolition. President Roosevelt ordered that Hunter’s Point be reopened, facilities be brought up to date, and the fleet to report there.]

Also, the question of adequate resources for coaling existed. This was not an issue when the Atlantic fleet cruised the Atlantic or Caribbean, as fuel supplies were readily available. However, the United States did not enjoy a worldwide network of coaling stations like that of Great Britain, nor did it have an adequate supply of auxiliary vessels for resupply. During the Spanish–American War, this lack had forced Admiral George Dewey to buy a collier-load of British coal in Hong Kong before the Battle of Manilla Bay to ensure his squadron would not be stranded at sea. The need had been even more pressing for the Russian Baltic Fleet during its long deployment during the Russo-Japanese War, not just for the distance it was to sail, but also because, as a belligerent nation in wartime, most neutral ports were closed to it due to international law. While the lack of support vessels was pointed out and a vigorous program of building such ships suggested by Rear Admiral George W. Melville, who had served as chief of the Bureau of Equipment, his words were not heeded adequately until World War II.

Federal regulations that restricted resupply vessels for Navy ships to those flying the United States flag, complicated by the lack of an adequate American merchant marine, proved another obstacle. Roosevelt initially offered to award Navy supply contracts to American skippers whose bids exceeded those of foreign captains by less than 50%. Many carriers declined this offer because they could not obtain enough cargo to cover the cost of the return trip. Two months before the fleet sailed, Roosevelt ordered the Navy Department to contract 38 ships to supply the fleet with the 125,000 tons of coal it would need to steam from Hampton Roads, Virginia, to San Francisco. Only eight of these were American-registered; most of the other 30 were of British registry. This development was potentially awkward, since part of the mission was to impress Japan with the perception of overwhelming American naval power. Britain had become a military ally of Japan in 1905, which obligated it to aid Japan should a foreign power declare war against it. Technically, the list of potential combatants included the United States. The British government decided to play both sides of the political fence with the intent of moderating any Japanese-American friction that might arise.[15]

Effects on fleet operations

Experience gained by the cruise led to improvements in formation steaming, coal economy and morale. Gunnery exercises doubled the fleet’s accuracy. However, the mission also underlined the fleet’s dependence on foreign colliers and the need for coaling stations and auxiliary ships for coaling and resupply.


God or Chief Petty Officer

God or Chief Petty Officer

By: Garland Davis

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I am told that I have a God complex. It isn’t complex. I am God.

In this form, I was born in 1944. However, I have always existed in one form or another.

Once I was a star far out in an invisible galaxy. It was hot and boring. I couldn’t sleep in all that heat.

Then for a short time I was a cockroach on a U.S. Navy Frigate. But I was crushed when a foretopman hit me with the bitter end of a line. I tried once more as a cockroach in a more modern Navy, but an HM1 with a can of liquid sprayed me into oblivion. After that I lost interest in insects.

For a time I was an aircraft carrier. But it was always turning into the wind to launch aircraft and turning into the wind to recover aircraft. All this turning made me dizzy. Then I was hit by a Kamikaze and burned. It was like being back as a sun. The heat was too much.

I tried being an alligator but ended up on some cowboys feet as a pair of boots. Part of me became a belt for his girlfriend. For a short while, I was a green chile pepper but a guy named Jerry chopped me into a bowl of chili. From that point I eventually ended up as a cloud of smelly gas. Now I am finally a human.

I was a mess cook on a Fletcher class can. There is an old adage that, “Stuff rolls downhill.” You couldn’t get no further downhill than mess cooking. Then I became a Second Class Petty Officer. Senior enough to avoid the dirty work but junior enough to lack a lot of responsibility. But that became boring.

I became an Ensign. A gold bar and all the enlisted men salute. That’s where I learned that there is a step lower than mess cook which catches a lot more “Stuff.” Looking around, I thought I found the perfect place. I would be Captain. Everyone said the Captain is God. Since I am God, this would be perfect.

I discovered that Admirals really control Captains. Captains want to be Admirals and will put up with a ton of “Stuff’ for the chance to be an Admiral. So, I decided I would be an Admiral.

That didn’t work out either. The politicians dream up so much “Stuff” to encumber the Admirals with. I briefly considered becoming a politician, but realized I had more character and dignity when I was a cockroach.

Finally my search is ended. I have found the perfect place for God. Now I am all knowing and all powerful. “Stuff” from topside rolls around me. I have the power to send “Stuff” back uphill.

I am God. I am Chief Petty Officer!

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Part 5 – The Bullsh** Log

Plausibly Live

Once you’re qualified, going to sea on a Ballistic Missile Submarine during the Cold War is a combination of boredom, stress, and trying to figure out what to do next. You’ll stand your watches, qualify your next watch stations, and do a lot of maintenance and cleaning. In fact, so much cleaning that there will be a four page memo that describes the difference between “Clean Up Ship” and “Field Day.”

Because even XO’s get bored and once they start writing…. well…

Shoved in between all of that, is eating, sleeping, showering, working out, watching movies, reading books, listening to music and trying to figure out the best prank to pull. Most of which you will never ever hear about because, frankly, they’re only funny to submariners.

There are drills galore. Division and Departmental Training. Throw in some General Military Training just for good measure.

Once in a while there’s…

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Operation Song Than

Operation Song Than

By: Captain Jim Barton


On May 13, 1972 the first South Vietnamese counteroffensive Operation Song Than 5-72 just south of the DMZ began in order to retake the areas lost in the NVA Easter Offensive 6 weeks before. An earlier attempt by 5000 ARVN soldiers airlifted in to retake the areas lost had been largely decimated. It was give and take over the next couple of weeks.

Early the morning of the 24th, it seems every cruiser and destroyer in the 7th Fleet lined up to provide Naval Gunfire Support and to prepare the beach for the renewed South Vietnamese helicopter and amphibious assault in Operation Song Than 6-72.

My ship USS George K. Mackenzie (DD-836) was positioned 2000-3000 yards from the beach between the 8 inch heavy gun cruiser Newport News (CA-148) and the 6 inch light cruiser USS Oklahoma City (CG-5).

Just prior to amphibious landings by the Republic of Viet Nam’s 369th Marine Corps Brigade, B-52s from Anderson AFB in Guam laid down a line of 500 pound bombs along the beachhead.

The concussion from the bombs and the gunfire from the ships was unreal and prompted us to say, “I love the smell of cordite in the morning.”

Support for the troops ashore continued over the next several weeks but I had never before or after seen such an array of ships shooting at the beach on this particular D-Day/H-Hour.



Heroes and Role Models

Heroes and Role Models

By: Garland Davis



Between some old movies seen on the TV and at the theater, I commanded a PT Boat with John Wayne, bombed Tokyo with Van Johnson and Spencer Tracy, drove a bulldozer with John Wayne and the SeaBees, stormed the beaches at Guadalcanal with numerous other movie actors. These movie actors and later television actors portrayed positive role models for boys and young men. Actresses like Judy Garland, Doris Day, and Katherine Hepburn set the example for young girls and women.

These actors and actresses weren’t angels, but their private lives weren’t open to the 24/7 scrutiny that plagues today’s celebrities.

Sports stars presented themselves as clean shaven, properly barbered, and well dressed men. The worst one would see watching a baseball game was the constant spitting and an occasional argument with an umpire.

As boys growing up in the late forties, the fifties and into the sixties, we were surrounded by heroes and role models. Every family and every neighborhood had someone who had served in WWII. We only knew it because someone told us. These men didn’t talk about it or brag about their exploits during their war.

I remember a number of these men. There was Mister Jim. Jim lived with his three younger sisters and his nephew. He farmed tobacco. Jim was up in the morning to milk the cows and feed the animals and was still working when the sun set. He owned no tractors, trucks or other modern farm machinery. He plowed his land with a team of mules, hauled what he needed in a wagon or in a sled. He walked the mile to and from church on Sunday mornings, regardless of the weather, while his nephew and sisters rode. His younger sister told me that Jim spent a year in the trenches in France during WWI. When I once asked him about it his only reply was, “You don’t need to know that stuff boy, now let’s git this ‘baccer laid down.”

I was in the Boy Scouts for awhile when I was twelve and was struggling to learn Morse Code. A friend’s dad helped me with it. He told me he learned it in the Army. He also taught me the chords on a guitar, but I was tone deaf and couldn’t tell one from the other. I learned at his funeral that he had been a radio operator in B-17 bombers and had flown eighteen missions over Germany during WWII.

I had a cousin whom we all looked up to as a hero. He had flown the P-38 Lightning during the invasion of Italy and later escorting the bombers into Europe. He started a crop dusting company after the war. He was recalled for the Korean conflict and was killed during a training flight in Texas.

Another cousin came home from Korea a mental basket case. He was a corpsman and was caught behind Chinese lines with seven wounded soldiers. When American forces regained the ground they found him with his patients and the four Chinese soldiers he killed protecting them. The Army hung a bunch of medals on him and sent him home. He was in and out of mental facilities until he took his own life while I was in boot camp.

The gentleman who cut my hair walked with a limp. He was with the Marines and had invaded Guadalcanal with an artillery unit. They were setting up the artillery and an accident crushed his foot. When I asked him about it all he ever said was, “It was hot and miserable.”

A very gentle and religious gentleman taught sixth grade at my school. He had been an artillery officer manning a gun position on the Outer Banks of North Carolina during the war. He said they spent their time looking for Nazi Submarines trying to land saboteurs on the beach.

A cousin was married to a sailor who was a BT. He had served during the war in a DE escorting convoys to and from Europe. After the war he stayed in the Navy Reserve. I was in North Carolina after I made CPO and attended BTC Raymond Mallory’s retirement from the Reserves.

We were surrounded by positive role models and we idolized our movie heroes and walked in awe of the ordinary men we knew who were heroes.

What role models do boys have today? Charlie Sheen, Snoop Dogg, Colin Kaepernick, Bill Clinton?

Who do the girls have Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus? And Monica taught them that giving blow jobs was okay.