Retired Army Major Newton S. Courtney, 78, a veteran of both world wars, a news photographer and a retired government employe, died of a heart ailment Friday while vacationing in Key West, Fla.

From 1956 to about 1966, he was photographic editor with the U.S. Information Agency here. He then spent three years in the publications branch of the Army Map Service before retiring. He lived in West Springfield. Va.

Born in Lynn, Mass., Maj. Courtney enlisted in the Army in 1917 and served two years in France with an infantry regiment in World War I. He was one of several men f the 26th (Yankee) Division to be used as voluntary subjects on the British front to determine the cause of trench fever. He was presented with a Meritorious Citation by Gen. John J. Pershing.

During that war, he was wounded in the Meuse-Argonne offensive and received the Purple Heart. He had participated in five major campaigns.

After the war, Maj. Courtney was a photographer for the Boston Post and Lynn Telegram-News. He later was commissioned in the Army Reserve.

Called to active duty in 1942, he was assigned to intelligence at Army Ground Forces in Washington. He was sent to headquarters of the 7th Army in Europe, participated in a number of battles and was wounded, receiving an Oak Leaf Cluster to his Purple Heart.

Maj. Courtney spent the last years of his military service at Walter Reed Hospital, where he was retired in 1949 because of disabilities. He then was director of Veterans Services in Swampscott, Mass, until joining USIA here.

He was a member of Springfield Post 176 of the American Legion, the Disabled Officers Association, the Retired Officers Association, the National Association for the Uniformed Services and the American Association of Retired Persons.

He is survived by two sons, Newton Charles, of the home, and Arthur Colburn, of Lynn; a sister, Mabel E., and a brother, George A., both of Gloucester, Mass., and three grandchildren.