Walter Dowling, former American ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Korea, died yesterday in Savannah, Ga., of a pulmonary infection after a brief illness. He was 71.

Mr. Dowling was born in Bryan County, Ga., and graduated from Mercer University in Macon, Ga., in 1925.

After working for the Citizens' and Southern Bank in Savannah and the Sea Island real estate company in Sea Island, Ga., Mr. Dowling entered the Foreign Service in 1932.

Mr. Dowling then served in Oslo. Lisbon, and Rome. In 1941, he was named second secretary and vice consul in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He served there until 1944, when he was posted to the office of the U.S. representative on the advisory council for Italy. Later he became U.S. consul in Rome.

Mr. Dowling served in other diplomatic positions in Vienna, and in 1953 was named deputy high commissioner for Germany. He served as minister of the U.S. Embassy in Bonn from 1955 to 1956.

In 1956, he was confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea, and served there until 1959, after which he returned to Washington as assistant secretary of State for European affairs. Later that year he was appointed ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany and served in that position until 1962, when he was given the rank of career ambassador. He retired from the Foreign Service in 1963.

In 1963, he became director general of the Atlantic Institute for International Affairs, a nongovernmental agency in Paris, and held that position unitl he returned to Savannah in 1969.He then became visiting professor of political science at Mercer University.

Mr. Dowling is survived by his wife, Alice; a daughter, Patricia Winterer, and a son, Michael.