The Persian Gulf crisis came home yesterday to the little town of Bowling Green, Va.

The Caroline County town's 665 residents had heard and read of Tuesday's steam pipe rupture aboard the USS Iwo Jima, but it took longer to learn that one of their own, Michael N. "Chip" Manns Jr., 23, was among the 10 dead sailors.

"I saw {reports on the accident} on the news . . . and I knew he was in the engine room . . . all day long we didn't know," said Mark Dunnington, 24, Manns's best friend from childhood. "All those people have died in accidents {in the Gulf} . . . but you don't think of it until it comes home."

A machinist's mate third class, Manns was the son of Michael Manns Sr., of Bowling Green, about 70 miles south of Washington, and the grandson of Paul W. Manns, who represented Caroline in the state legislature from 1952 until his death in 1978. Manns's mother, Margo Ray, lives in Lynchburg, Tenn.

"He took his citizenship very seriously. He wanted to be in the Persian Gulf," his father said.

The Iwo Jima left Norfolk for the Persian Gulf on Aug. 20, and Manns's father, stepmother and two younger half brothers last heard from him on Sunday when he called from dockside in Manama, Bahrain.

"He said it was difficult . . . . They were all poised for war and there was a lot of tension," his father said.

The amphibious assault ship with 685 crew members and 1,100 Marines aboard had just completed a routine maintenance stop when steam that is normally as hot as 850 degrees spurted from a pipe and killed Manns and five other sailors instantly. Four more Navy men died after being transferred to a hospital ship.

Rear Adm. J.B. Laplante is heading an investigation of the accident, the worst suffered by the Navy since Operation Desert Shield began.

Teachers at Caroline High School remembered Chip Manns as a determined honors student who belonged to several academic clubs and was an active member of the Boy Scouts. He maintained a B-minus average and worked 30 hours a week as a grocery stock clerk, said guidance counselor Dale Brittle.

The 1985 graduate "was a very original, creative person," said Nancy Coffield, a humanities teacher who had Manns as a student for two years. "He would do things like dress up as a Greek in a toga or a Japanese samurai."

"He was very much his own person . . . . He had his goals defined. He wanted to go into foreign service," said Joanne T. Blanton, a government teacher who also noted that Manns defied high school convention by not marching in the graduation ceremony because he was leaving on a trip.

"He wanted to get on with his life," Blanton said.

Dunnington said Manns loved outdoor sports and had been fascinated by the military for most of his childhood, "not in a violent way, but when we made models, he always picked military ones."

After graduating from Caroline High, Manns spent a year in Israel. He entered Virginia Tech's ROTC program in 1986, but left after one year to join the Navy in September 1987.

"We were in his corner about {joining up}. We felt he had made a good decision," Manns's father said.

Chip Manns completed recruit training in Florida, and was assigned to the Iwo Jima, which is based in Norfolk. He was due to be discharged next August, and already had begun the application process to reenter Virginia Tech next fall, his father said.

"We wonder sometimes why it's all necessary," said Michael Manns Sr., who was notified of his son's death Tuesday afternoon. "But we committed {our son} to the Lord a long time ago . . . . He may have been saved from something worse."