Fie on Colman McCarthy for his noisome diatribe {"General Alarm," op-ed, July 11} directed against Gen. Paul X. Kelley, recently retired commandant of the Marine Corps.

In his me'lange of partial quotations taken out of context, Mr. McCarthy, who attacks Gen. Kelley's recent statements concerning working mothers, the deterioration of America's moral fiber and the relationships of Congress and the service chiefs, manages to bring in a completely irrelevant quotation from Smedley Butler, whom Mr. McCarthy describes incorrectly as "a Marine Corps commandant."

That particular quotation, which includes the phrase "I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street," is a programmed response, much used by leftist writers, to expose the U.S. Marines as capitalist imperialist tools.

If Mr. McCarthy had really gone "to the history books," as he asserts he did, he would have found that Maj. Gen. Smedley D. Butler (a k a "Old Gimlet Eye" and "the Fighting Quaker") ricocheted off into noisy retirement in 1931 after failing to be named commandant.

Further, he would have found that Gen. Butler was a continuing beneficiary of Congress' patronage, his father, Rep. Thomas Butler, having been the longtime chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee.

Going beyond the history books, Mr. McCarthy's least justified cut of all was his allegation that Gen. Kelley had "played the coward" in not taking his share of the blame for recent Marine behavior "from the secrets-for-sex crowd in Moscow to Oliver North in Washington."

I don't know Mr. McCarthy's qualifications for measuring cowardice, but I do know, having shared two Vietnam tours with P. X. Kelley, that Gen. Kelley was one of our finest and bravest battalion and regimental commanders. EDWIN H. SIMMONS Brigadier General, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.) Director, Marine Corps History and Museums Alexandria