Two girls were misidentified in a photo caption accompanying a story in yesterday's Metro section on teenagers jarred by the war. They are Nicole Thompson and Etenia Kinard, both 15. (Published 1/23/91)

So this is war. It doesn't seem much like the history books.

Teenagers, like everyone else in the Washington area, have spent the last week transfixed by news reports and pictures from the Persian Gulf War.

But for them, unlike older people, all of this is new. Vietnam is something they read about in history books, and many of them know more about the American Revolution than World War II.

"Up until five, six months ago, I thought this was the chance for a generation to go without war," said David Grimes, 17, of Alexandria. "I now know that any time this could happen."

In 1991, the under-20s really feel like they are living at a time of historic change.

"I think about how the next generation will be looking at our decisions in their history books," said District resident Kevin Hylton, 16.

Scud missile launchers and chemical weapons have replaced boyfriends and football games as the main topics of conversation. And many high school students said that the Middle East finally has become more than a forgotten geography lesson.

"I never heard of Kuwait until now," said Kemba Lewis, 17, of Capitol Heights. Before the crisis, "I did watch the news, but now I'm watching {all the time} to find out what's happening," she said, pointing to the small television in the doughnut shop where she works.

While adults marvel at the pictures, teenagers said the constantly repeated film clips seem more like bad music videos or a football instant replay than a life-and-death conflict.

"On TV, it's not as permanent. You're just cheering for them, not realizing that {Iraqis} are dying," said Lake Ridge resident Michael Gallup, 17, who skipped school on Thursday because he couldn't bear to leave the television set. Gallup said he strongly supports the decision to attack Iraq. "We had to do it," he said.

For some teenagers, raised on visits to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial inscribed with 58,000 names of the dead, and on news of airplane crashes that take hundreds of lives, the airstrikes have been almost anticlimactic.

"It's kind of a letdown," said Wendy Beckman, 17, of Bowie. "It gets old pretty quick."

Said District resident Etenia Kinand, 15, "I thought everyone was going to be running around in the streets. It doesn't seem that bad yet."

High school and college students, like many other groups of Americans, are deeply divided about the war. While some organize peace marches, others see Saddam Hussein as the greatest threat to their world.

"Saddam needs to be killed quick. We can't let this go on and on," said LaDonna Coleman, 15, of Suitland.

Still others opposed attacking Iraq, but said they now feel they have a duty to support the war effort.

"I was against it in the beginning, but now that we're in it, what can we do?" asked American University student Lisa Fleischer, 19, who was having lunch at a restaurant in Friendship Heights.

Even though many of the teenagers interviewed said they support the war, they still see themselves as the people who could pay for it with their lives if there is a draft.

Woodbridge resident William Boozer, 17, said the prospect of a bloody ground war has haunted his sleep. "If we start losing guys, they're going to call me up {and say,} 'Mr. Boozer you have to come on down,' " he said.

Teenagers who have opposed military involvement said they resent that officials they didn't elect are creating problems they will have to cope with.

"The world's falling apart as it is. We don't need to do this," said Kimberly Hamilton, 17, of Dale City, who has opposed going to war from the start. "I don't want to pick up after these adults."

Said District resident Emily Goldwasser, 15: "In Vietnam, they said the communists were going to take over the world, and they didn't, even though we lost. Now they say Saddam will."

Students at several schools, including South Lakes in Fairfax and Potomac in Prince William, have talked about walking out of classes to protest the war, and a group of T.C. Williams students in Alexandria organized a small peace rally earlier this week.

Beth Powell, 16, who helped organize the rally at T.C. Williams, said, "I'm 16 and I have my whole life ahead of me. I don't want the world to be destroyed before I have the chance to enjoy it."

Anti-war teenagers also said they have learned from Vietnam protesters to separate their feelings about U.S. troops from their own reaction to war.

"I'm not anti-troops or anti-Bush. I'm anti-war," said Kate Hayden, 16, also of T.C. Williams.