The United States has begun moving warships from the eastern Mediterranean into the Red Sea, after failing to win permission from Turkey for overflights by cruise missiles and aircraft.

Military officials say several U.S. warships have begun the short transit from the eastern Mediterranean through the Suez Canal into the northern Red Sea.

For the moment, the vessels being repositioned are cruise-missile-firing ships and submarines and not the aircraft carriers they normally escort.

Those carriers: the Roosevelt and the Truman - are still in the Mediterranean. Some Pentagon officials say they could remain there and launch aircraft against Iraq by flying through Israel and Jordan, bypassing Turkey.

But other officials say the carriers could also eventually be moved to the Red Sea.

From there, cruise missiles and aircraft would fly over Saudi Arabia to targets in Iraq.

Ironically, word of the repositioning coincides with the appearance on the walls of the Pentagon, of reproductions of a classic World War II poster with the inscription "Loose Lips Might Sink Ships."

The warning against inadvertent disclosures that might betray military secrets and endanger the lives of American sailors and soldiers reflects a constant Pentagon concern.

But it has taken on even greater importance as the prospect of war with Iraq moves closer and closer to becoming a reality.

Reporters prowling the corridors of the Pentagon are finding military sources increasingly circumspect about the movement of troops, ships and planes in the Gulf region.

Still, confirmation of the repositioning of ships came easily. As one Pentagon spokesman put it, "it's tough to hide something as big as a ship, especially when that ship is moving through something like the Suez Canal."