ANNAPOLIS, Md., May 26 -- Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger told members of the largest graduating class in U.S. Naval Academy history today that a nuclear freeze would not reduce the possibility of war but it would lock the U.S. into strategic nuclear inferiority to the Soviet Union.
"Every one of us wants nuclear weapons reduced," Weinberger said in his commencement address to 1,030 graduates. "Not one of us wants a nuclear war, but the paradox is that if we are to lessen the likelihood of nuclear war we must maintain the equation of deterrence."
Weinberger was interrupted by applause only when he quoted George Washington: "To be prepared for war is the most effectual way to preserve the peace."
Jeffrey W. Campbell of Eatontown, N.J., graduated first in the class. Sixth-ranked Sarah Beth Kovel of Alexandria was the first among 60 women in the academy's third coeducational class. Among the graudates were identical twins French and Langhorne Reese of Washington and a woman who came to the U.S. at 14 as a refugee from Vietnam.
Of the graduates, 884 were commissioned as ensigns in the Navy, 127 as Marine Corps second lieutenants and 19 as second lieutenants in the Air Force.
The major reason for the record number of graduates was an unusually low dropout rate. Only about 22 percent of the plebes who entered four years ago did not graduate. That compares with a dropout rate of 43.3 percent at the Air Force Academy and 36.5 percent at West Point.