The Navy yesterday started seeking "Daisy in Va.," who told columnist Ann Landers that she is the wife of a sailor sent to the Persian Gulf and "simply can't manage the kids," and "night after night I think of ways to kill myself."

Capt. Brent Baker, chief spokesman for the Navy's Atlantic Fleet in Norfolk, said the Navy started acting at 6:30 a.m. after the column was noticed. There are five ships from Norfolk either in the gulf or sailing for it, with a combined crew of about 1,600, Baker said.

The letter, signed "Daisy in Va.," said the woman has been married for 11 years, has three children, and she "simply can't manage the kids."

According to the letter, her husband is "a career Navy man . . . {with} more than 15 years of service" who recently left suddenly for the Persian Gulf.

"I guess that to most civilians, {a deployment of} six months doesn't seem like a long time, but to a person like me, whose husband is lover, best friend and confidant, six months is an eternity," she wrote. "After the children are asleep, I sit with a gun in my lap, wondering if I will ever find the nerve to blow my brains out and end the loneliness and pain."

"If ever I read a letter that sounded like a cry for help, it is yours," the columnist responded, adding the woman should seek medical and psychological help.

After determining from the columnist's office that the letter had no other identifying information and no return address except the reference to Virginia, the Navy decided it had to assume that the woman lived in or near Norfolk, Baker said. The Navy began using a "wives' ombudsman network" for the five ships, seeking help in finding a "Daisy" or a wife with three children described in the letter as ages 5, 7 and 10, Baker said. The network is designed to help Navy families deal with the absence of loved ones.