It was April 6, 1917, and the United States was going to war. Nine war stories, plus three summary boxes, filled The Washington Post's front page. Headlines then were the length of television sound bites now.

At the top on the left, under the banner headline reprinted above, was this one: Wilson Likely to Sign the Resolution This Afternoon, Bringing Conflict Officially With Germany. And under that, a play-by-play of action by congressional leaders: Exciting Scenes Mark the Session, the Galleries Cheering and Hissing -- Flood Declares Prussianism Must Be Crushed -- La Follette, as Spectator, Smiles -- Kitchin Announces Opposition -- Mann Backs Wilson -- Heflin and Burnett Near to Blows -- "Uncle Joe" Gets Ovation as He Up- holds President.

In the middle were these three: War Finance Plan Calls for Billions . . . American Steamer Is Sunk Unwarned . . . Germans Deal Hard Blows Near Rheims.

And on the right: Youths From 19 to 25 to Be Drafted And Trained in Two Yearly Increments of 500,000 Each.

Those days things still took their time. It wasn't until June 28, 1917, that The Post reported the French cheering "wildly" as American troops finally arrived in Europe. Pershing's Expeditionary Force of Regulars and Marines Lands Without the Loss of a Man. "News of the safe arrival of the troops sent a new thrill through Washington," the story said.

Word of the troops' "first real battle" didn't come until November 5, 1917: Germans Raid Trench, Kill 3, Wound 5, Take 12 U.S. Men Prisoners.

World War I continued until November 11, 1918. Nearly 5 million Americans served, and 116,708 died. They called it the war to end war. Japan Declares War

Against U.S. Hawaii Attacked Without Warning With Heavy Loss

Monday, December 8, 1941: "The United States of America and the Empire of Japan are at war," the day's lead report began. "The conflict that Adolf Hitler started on September 1, 1939, has now truly become a death struggle of world-wide proportions." Other headlines told the story: Joint Session Will Get War Message Today . . . Japan Lied 'Infamously,' Hull Says . . . Jap Attack Under Way For 2 Weeks . . . Partial Blackout

Ordered Here as Precaution.

Tuesday's headlines seemed inevitable: President Signs Declaration of War on Japan . . . Calm Congress Accepts Challenge With but One Dissenting Vote . . . Gigantic Production Effort to Double Arms


"Victory is our one and only objective and everything else is subordinate to it," the Supply Priorities and Allocations Board announced.

Life sped up. Reality set in. Wednesday: Roosevelt Tells Nation of First 'Serious Setback' But Denies Japs Have Won Naval Supremacy. Friday: U.S. at War With Reich and Italy . . . D.C. to Hear Scream of Raid Sirens Today in First

Test. Saturday: New War Tax Hearings Set for Jan. 15.

On Page 3 was this news:

"Ensign Robert Sinclair Booth, jr., first Washington young man to lay down his life in this war, died 'the way he would have wanted to die, in the service of his country.' His father and mother said this about their only son last night, and remembered that 'he always loved the sea,' where in the last year he 'spent the happiest year of his life.' Their son, 26, was an officer in the Naval Reserve on active duty."

The victory didn't come until August 14, 1945. More than 16 million Americans fought in World War II; 407,316 died. South Korea Invaded by Reds From North; War Reported Declared By Communists

Sunday, June 25, 1950: A bulletin announced that the United States had requested an immediate meeting of the United Nations Security Council. By Wednesday the front page was chronicling the council's call for U.N. members "to help South Korea stop the Communist invasion," and this news: "U.S. Planes Attack."

On Friday, June 29, 1950, The Post reported, "With a firm voice and a calm manner, Truman . . . stoutly affirmed that the American action was a move in favor of peace. It was a police action as contemplated under the United Nations. And, the President said, measuring his words: 'We are not

at war.' "

Nearly 6 million fought, and 54,246 died. By the time it was over -- July 27, 1953 -- everyone called it the Korean War. Congress Backs LBJ On SE Asia President Hails Action As Proof of Unity in U.S.

Sunday, August 8, 1964: "Congress yesterday voted overwhelming approval of President Johnson's decision to take all necessary measures, including the use of armed force, to repel any attack on United States forces in Southeast Asia."

The vote was 416 to 0 in the House, 88 to 2 in the Senate. "The . . . response came less than three days after North Vietnamese PT boats made their second attack on U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin, and President Johnson ordered swift retaliation," the paper reported.

There were three stories about Vietnam on the front page that day. But it wasn't the only issue deemed important. In fact, six other stories got front billing, including this one: Second Set of Twins in 16 Months Is Born to Rhesus Monkey Here.

Of course, there had already been scores of headlines about U.S. soldiers in Vietnam by August 1964. There were thousands to come over the next 8 1/2 years. The Vietnam peace pacts were finally signed January 27, 1973, and the last U.S. troops left March 29. By then, 8.7 million Americans had served; 58,151 had died. U.S., Allies Launch Massive Air War Against

Targets in Iraq and Kuwait

Bombing Raids Hit Missile Sites, Nuclear and Chemical Plants . . . Jets Roar Off in Darkness At Start of 'Desert Storm' . . . D.C. Area Stops in Its Tracks . . . Residents Transfixed as Dread Gives

Way to Tears, Patriotism.

It was Thursday, January 17, 1991.