Patrick J. Sloyan's attitude, as expressed in his Jan. 13 Outlook article "The War You Won't See," showed exactly why the Pentagon imposes press rules on the battlefield. These rules are not aimed at responsible correspondents, but rather at the likes of Sloyan, that irritating minority who stalk the battlefield not to report the war effort but to embarrass the administration by parading the horrors of war in an attempt to sap the national resolve. The great correspondents of World War II, including Ernie Pyle and Edward R. Murrow, who worked under strict censorship, would have been aghast at such an attitude.

As far as public support is concerned, Sloyan should look up the results of the opinion poll conducted after the press screamed foul when barred during the initial stages of the Grenada operation. He will find that the public sided overwhelmingly with the military. I suspect the military has similar public backing for its new rules. While he is at it, Sloyan should also look up the latest poll tabulating the most and least trusted public institutions and note the relative positions of the military and the press. -- Juson J. Conner

In his piece "The Pentagon's Censors" {op-ed, Jan. 12} Ron Nessen raged at the Pentagon for its restrictions on press coverage of war in the Persian Gulf. What are these outrageous restrictions?

One requires journalists to undergo physical-fitness tests. Gee, do you think a brutal desert war might put some soft, out-of-shape reporters at risk of heat stroke? Nothing like the distraction of a civilian casualty to take a platoon commander's mind off the business at hand -- like keeping his men alive and defeating the enemy.

Another restriction: Reporters and photographers must remain with a military escort at all times. Can't imagine what the military was thinking there. I'm certain battlefield commanders would enjoy reporters running amok while their units are in firefights, interviewing the wounded and hoping to get a scoop on the incompetence of the military.

The biggest outrage? The Pentagon's decision that "in the event of hostilities, pool products will be subject to security review prior to release."

Nessen howled, "Censorship." It would behoove him to study history. During the Civil War, reporters detailed Union troop movements, attack plans, unit strength and other information that the Confederates put to good use. If Pentagon "censorship" prevents the enemy from receiving valuable information, in turn saving American lives, I don't see the basis for outrage.

Nessen's arrogance climbed to its acme by offering Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and Gen. Colin Powell a deal: "You fight the war, we'll cover the war, and never the twain should meet." After reading this, I turned to Page A8, where a photo showed soldiers standing in front of ground-mounted TOW antitank missile systems. The caption read: "Guardsmen training in the Mohave desert board mortars and other equipment into armored personnel carrier."

I hate to break it to you guys, but TOWs and mortars don't bear the slightest resemblance to one another. With such glaring errors in the most basic identification of military hardware, how can the media expect to gain the military's trust?

I have a "deal" for Nessen -- let soldiers fight the war, and let him cover it with the realization that war is a brutal undertaking, during which even the best soldiers make mistakes. Let him cover the war fairly, without an agenda, and with the best interests of the men and women fighting for their country in mind, and hope that the twain will meet.

-- Keith A. Seiwell

In the Jan. 17 Style section, Tom Shales devoted a considerable amount of print to which newscaster broke the story of war in the Persian Gulf first. Shales and the rest of the media should understand that the American public does not care who reports the story first but, first and foremost, demands accuracy in reporting.

For example, one hour after Israel was first attacked by Iraq, CBS news anchor Dan Rather reported that Israel was retaliating. This report was supposedly based on radar that detected movement of Israeli war planes. Later in the broadcast, Rather reported that Israel denied retaliation, indicating that a retaliation might still be taking place.

But when we awoke Friday, Israel had not retaliated. How would Rather feel if a country in the Middle East had, based on his misinformation, responded in kind?

It is clear that in their zeal to be the first to report the major developments in the Persian Gulf, CBS and Dan Rather jumped the gun. Yet in the Jan. 18 edition of Style, Shales seemed to shrug off the importance of accuracy, stating merely that "misinformation was given out" during Thursday night's broadcasts.

We recognize how fortunate we are as Americans to have freedom of the press. We certainly would not want to rely on just one source, controlled by the government, to report our news. However along with the freedoms our Constitution provides should also come a commitment from our media to report the news -- not predict it. -- Debra R. Berlyn -- Stuart Binstock