LONDON (AP) _ An appeal for donations was launched Wednesday to buy a painting of an English country house known to hundreds of U.S. soldiers in World War II.

The painting, made about 1710 by an unknown artist, depicts Littlecote House, a Tudor mansion in Wiltshire, southwest England, where glider pilots and parachutists of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division were based for the invasion of Normandy and the Rhine River crossing. They flew from two nearby airfields, Ramsbury and Membury.

''Men from the division still come back to England to see the house and the countryside around it,'' said Lady Gillian Wills, a former occupier of Littlecote and supporter of the appeal.

''The painting always hung in the great hall of the house and there is a photo of American troops beside it and the British and American flags crossed above it,'' Lady Wills said. The painting is 7 1/2 feet wide.

The painting is known as ''A Prospect of Littlecote House.'' It was sold to a dealer in 1985 for the equivalent then of $215,600, along with other contents of Littlecote by the house's new owner, Peter de Savary, the 1983 America's Cup challenger.

De Savary gave $30,800 to the appeal and others donated $46,000. Wiltshire county council, which launched the appeal, will own the painting and keep it at Littlecote if the $292,600 balance of the painting's current price is raised by March 31.

If not, London art dealers Colnaghi's, which now owns the painting, says a private English buyer who the firm won't identify is waiting to buy it.

Jack Ainslie, chairman of Wiltshire county council, said appeal donors would ''save this rare and historical work for the nation, and it will never thereafter be removed from Littlecote House unless public access to the house comes to an end.''