Of the three aircraft carriers in the Red Sea force, the USS Saratoga has the heaviest toll.

Two of the carrier's pilots are missing after their planes went down on the war's first day, and a third plane, an F-14 Tomcat fighter jet, did not return from its Sunday night mission. Another plane, an A-6E intruder, has been badly damaged. No other carrier has lost any of its aircraft. The streak of bad luck started before the war began, when 21 sailors from the Saratoga drowned Dec. 21 after their ferry overturned while on a port visit to Haifa, Israel.

The mood aboard the Saratoga is much more somber, reporters found, than on the other two carriers in the Red Sea, the USS John F. Kennedy and the USS America.

"War is tragic," said Rear Adm. George N. Gee, head of the Saratoga battle group. "Obviously, when there is success, there is a sense of accomplishment it was done right. It's great to see our pilots come back home in their aircraft . . . and know that they got the MiGs and the MiGs didn't get them." Preparing for POWs

While Iraq parades captured allied pilots on television, U.S. military officials are making sure to contrast the way they will treat Iraqi prisoners, up to 20,000 of whom are expected, according to U.S. officials.

Iraqi prisoners initially will be kept in large, open areas fenced with barbed wire before more permanent structures can be built.

Maj. Gary Kosinuk of the Army's 14th Military Police Brigade said the plan is to move any large number of prisoners away from the front lines so they will not get in the way of the allied drive into Iraq.

"The tempo of the battle is going to be swift," Kosinuk said. "If you have a large number of prisoners in the way, it slows down combat power."

Taking care of prisoners will be expensive and require manpower. Half of the military police sent to Saudi Arabia as part of the Army's VII Corps will transport and guard war prisoners.

Gas masks will even be distributed to prisoners, if needed, officials said.

"Nothing will be done to degrade prisoners," Kosinuk said. "We certainly would try to treat them as close as possible to our own soldiers." Encore in the Gulf

One war is enough for most fighter pilots, but Air Force Col. Ervin C. "Sandy" Sharp is coming back for more.

When he was 28, he was the kind of kid who hung around the counter at the squadron operations office in Southeast Asia, trying to wangle every mission he could.

When the war ended, Sharp had flown 256 missions over North Vietnamese territory, "I was kind of a hog, I guess," said Sharp.

At 49, Sharp, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is one of only a handful of American fighter pilots in Saudi Arabia who have seen action in Vietnam.

Now he is commander of the "Warthogs," those stubby A-10 Thunderbolt II fighters that chug in and out of Iraq, hunting for everything from mobile Scud missile launchers to tanks.

He flew his first combat sortie since Vietnam a week ago, and he is getting ready for his next mission over Iraq or Kuwait any day. The Recruiter Is In

Lance Cpl. Aaron Johnston, 20, of Randolph, Ohio, joined the Marine Corps to learn computer programming. Now he spends much of his time at a machine-gun post at night near the Kuwaiti border and filling sandbags by day.

So far, the only war Johnston has seen is "some bombs going off."

The only regret he acknowledged was signing on for six years to get computer training. "I like the Marine Corps but now I wish I had enlisted for four years instead of six."

There is a sign in front of a tent here that advertises "career counseling."

"It's just to get people to reenlist," said Lance Cpl. Todd Plesco, of East Detroit, Mich. He indicated few grunts would be so inclined. "We even get these Marine Corps commercials on Armed Forces Radio," he added. This Supermarket Delivers

It's known as the Navy's Supermarket: USNS Spica, now in the Persian Gulf to serve the U.S. Navy ships and carriers taking part in Operation Desert Storm, supplies everything these war vessels need, from sauerkraut to gasoline.

The ship, formerly a British navy supplier now under the U.S. Military Sealift Command, carries 1,200 tons of food and supplies, apart from the enormous stores of drink, sodas, milk and even some beer.

"They order, we do front-door delivery," says ship captain Robert Wiley of Napa, Calif. At 33, he is the Navy's youngest ship captain serving in the gulf.

"The Navy simply cannot do without us. Take a nuclear powered ship. It can be at sea for years without calling into a port for refueling. But these guys have to eat. That's where we come in. "

Fresh vegetable deliveries are a major capability of USNS Spica, but the huge stores in the belly of the civilian-run ship with its home port in Subic Bay, Philippines, carry more than 2,000 different foodstuffs out of a total of 25,000 items that are on the list of the Defense Logistics Agency -- the organization that shops for all the U.S. Department of Defense. There are potatoes, cooking oil, cheese, biscuits and sauerkraut. The ship has 76,000 dozen eggs on board, frozen meat, hamburgers, chicken and fish, fruits from Indian mangoes to Israeli oranges, chemical warfare suits, snacks and toiletries of all kinds. It even acts as a floating gas station, although this is not its principal role.

Also in its stores are thousands of spare parts for all the basic machinery necessary to keep a war vessel going, from the tiniest light bulb to an entire helicopter engine. It's all available for instant delivery: "All you have to do is call."

Compiled by Washington Post Staff Writer Stephen C. Fehr in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, from military pool reports.