Retired Marine lieutenant general Clayton C. Jerome, 77, an aviator whose decorations included four Legions of Merit for service in World War II and Korea, died of cancer Monday at the Veterans Administration Hospital here.

Gen. Jerome's World War II service took him from the Solomons, where he was awarded two Legions of Merit by the Marine Corps, to the Philipines, where he was awarded a Legion of Merit by the Army for his direction of air support for Army ground operations.

During the Korean conflict he commanded the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and received a fourth Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Service Medal from the Air Force.

He later commanded Marine Corps air operations in both the Atlantic and Pacific. He retired in 1958.

Gen. Jerome's peacetime assignments included those of commanding officer of the Marine Air Station at Quantico, director of public information, recruiting, and Marine Corps history, and director of aviation and assistant commandant of the Marine Corps for Air.

He was born in Hutchinson, Kan., and was a 1922 graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis. He earned his pilot's wings at Pensacola, Fla., and later earned a master's degree in aeronautical engineering at the California Institute of Technology.

He later served as naval attache for air in Colombia, Venezuela, and several Central American republics. During this time he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for twice landing his amphibious plane on the Cuyuni River to rescue four persons whose plane had crashed in the Venezuelan jungle.

He is survived by his wife, Sally Hunter Jerome, of the home in Arlington; two stepsons, retired Air Force colonel George Reinburg, of Denver, and retired Marine Corps colonel J. Hunter Reinburg, of PalmBeach, Fla.