Michael Kinsley writes {op-ed, June 3} that poor eyesight was "ostensibly" the reason Ronald Reagan was barred from active duty overseas in World War II. Noting the former president's ability to read from teleprompters, he says Mr. Reagan may possibly have been more myopic than the millions of Americans who did face the enemy in 1944 -- "but I cherish suspicions."

Disparagement of Mr. Reagan's military record is best answered by the record itself. Documents preserved at the National Archive's Personnel Records Center at St. Louis show that Mr. Reagan applied for a commission in the U.S. Army Enlisted Reserve Corps on Feb. 27, 1935, when he was still a radio announcer in Des Moines. He was accepted for training as a cavalry officer, and after completing nine courses (at an average grade of 90.6 percent) was made a second lieutenant on June 18, 1937.

Reserve-officer status made him an early prospect for draft into the Regular Army in the summer of 1941. By then he was a rising star at Warner Brothers, and the studio pleaded vehemently for deferments. His only personal request, as a married man and father, was to be excused active duty "until war is actually declared, at which time I will be more than glad to serve my country."

On Nov. 13, 1941, Lt. Reagan was subjected to physical examination at Fort MacArthur, Calif., and declared "permanently incapacitated for Active Duty due to compound myopic astigmatism -- bilateral, severe -- distant vision 6/200 both eyes without glasses." This meant that should he pop his scleral contact lenses in battle, a hostile body clearly visible to normal-sighted soldiers at 200 feet would have to approach to 6 feet before Mr. Reagan focused on it. Not surprisingly, he was denied an AD posting, and ordered to "limited service" in San Francisco on April 14, 1942.

I will not detail Mr. Reagan's subsequent rise to the adjutancy of the 18th USAAF Base at Culver City, except to say it was as honorable, and dreary, as that of any other young soldier compelled to stay stateside after Pearl Harbor. They also served who only stood and waited, and typed and cooked and catalogued and filmed without imagining that any of their children would consider such conduct craven half a century later.



The writer is working on a biography of Ronald Reagan.