In the countless written and spoken words concerning the Persian Gulf crisis, little mention has been made of the Korean War, which began 40 years ago, and cost 54,246 American lives -- almost as many as died in Vietnam -- and thousands of wounded and captured before it ended three years later.

This is somewhat puzzling as the Korean War was a prototype of the "police action" President Bush is undertaking in the Gulf under a United Nations umbrella. The lessons learned from the police action -- Harry Truman's term, and one that still rankles most Korean War vets -- are relevant to decisions made -- or yet to be made -- on military action against Saddam Hussein.

Korean War veterans, whose ranks are dwindling daily, contend the Korean War is forgotten and with some bitterness complain that 40 years later, we still do not have a national memorial. Two groups are striving to provide one: The Chosen Few, an organization of survivors of the epic Chosin Reservoir battle in North Korea in November and December of 1950, who have secured a site in Los Angeles and are trying to raise $3.5 million for a monument; and the Korean War Veterans Advisory Group, which is raising $15 million for a congressionally approved memorial in the District {Style, Dec. 19}.

As a Korean War vet, I laud the efforts of both organizations to prod the American conscience. Regretfully, however, memorial designs of both groups consist of bronze figures in heroic poses that are, in my opinion, passe' -- the inspirational Vietnam memorial considered. More troubling for me are the proposed sites. The major costs and sacrifices aside, we served in Korea under a U.N. banner, just as we propose to do in the Gulf. It follows that the most appropriate site for police action memorials should be at the U.N. headquarters in New York, with names of all casualties inscribed in marble for all the world to honor. And funds for these memorials should come in equal portion from all U.N. members. It's only fitting. M. C. CAPRARO Palmyra, Va.