Having thoroughly enjoyed Henry Mitchell's piece "The Rapture of Summer and Those Who Miss It" {Style, July 24}, I feel inspired to ask a question about his statement "This is why the English have bad teeth and why Americans come home fat."

Now, the English may or may not have bad teeth (I am British and am not really sure myself, so great these days are the wonders of dentistry), but fat Americans? Are all the huge 200-plus pounders actually refugees from the bad yet fattening British viands? If so, then a very large proportion of the population regularly spends a lot of time over there!

And why are the British so skinny if their nosh is so detrimental to a good figure? Could it be that they just eat less? -- Catherine Pugliese Don't Accuse the Academy Lawrence Meyer's "fire hose" treatment of Naval Academy graduates {"Ollie's Marine Oath and Mine," Outlook, July 19} marred what otherwise was a thoughtful description of the dilemma a thinking man can face in dealing with questionably lawful orders when wearing the uniform of our country.

I can assure him and his readers that most Naval Academy graduates did not and do not look for ways to turn unlawful orders into lawful ones. What happened in Irangate was wrong and violated the Annapolis honor code and the high moral ground we live on, and out of uniform.

To paint the entire Naval Academy experience with so broad a tainted brush ( . . . "maybe they don't teach those lessons at Annapolis") goes beyond a responsible writer's license. Even before My Lai we were taught the difference between lawful and unlawful orders.

We understood because we were so taught at Annapolis. Our heroes were real ones, like Jim Stockdale, who were enduring their own private hell in a North Vietnamese prison camp while remaining true to the honor code, the Constitution and a higher moral code.

-- Greg Pallas 'Slime' Colman McCarthy's comparison of Col. Oliver North to Adolf Eichmann {Style, July 26} was a new level of slime even for him. And to equate the victims of the Holocaust with the Castroite communists in Nicaragua is blasphemous. -- Charles T. Hellmuth Smearing Catholics (Cont'd.) Contrary to what Jim Kurtzke says {Free for All, July 18}, I did not "attack" everyone who criticized Pope John Paul II's meeting with Kurt Waldheim in my letter {Free for All, July 11}. I objected only to those who used the occasion to smear the Catholic Church with anti-Semitism.

Kurtzke repeats the widespread myth that the church remained silent during the Holocaust. In point of fact, Pope Pius XII repeatedly denounced the Nazi persecution of the Jews. On Christmas Day 1941, The New York Times reported that "he is about the only ruler left on the Continent of Europe who dares to raise his voice at all." According to Israeli historian Pinchas Lapide, he was also responsible for rescuing 860,000 Jews from the death camps.

As Kurtzke makes clear, it is not sufficient for Catholics to "display honor and respect {for} those who believe in Judaism." Any Christian who hopes and prays that the Jews accept Jesus as the Messiah is open to the charge of anti-Semitism. By that line of reasoning, the same charge must be leveled against the founder of Christianity Himself. -- Kevin G. Long The writer is director of public affairs for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Passive Smoke I do not find very funny the cartoon {Drawing Board, July 25} in which one person standing hip deep in toxic waste cries "EEEK! Passive smoke!" when someone nearby lights a cigarette.

I am a person who is severely allergic to tobacco smoke in any form, so much so that someone smoking outside affects me. All tobacco products should be classified as "toxic waste." The tobacco industry claims that passive smoke does not cause lung cancer and hints very strongly that it's totally harmless to those around the smoker. Although it seems reasonable that respiratory cancer can be caused by long-term passive smoking, we all should be more concerned about the immediate health hazards of passive smoking.

I see a glimmer of hope, however: the House has finally voted to stand up to the tobacco industry and declared that domestic airline flights of less than two hours are to be non-smoking. I look forward to the day when we have a smoke-free society both in the air and on the ground. I just hope that my nose and sinuses can survive until then.

-- J. Mark Harl