Retired Navy Rear Adm. William E. Mullan, 81, a combat veteran of World War II and a long time resident of Chevy Chase, died Thursday at Bethesda Naval Hospital. He had a heart ailment.

He participated in 11 major sea engagements during World War II, including the battles of Midway and Iwo Jima. He was executive officer of the heavy cruiser Vincennes when it was sunk during the battle of Savo Bay on Aug. 9, 1942.

Adm. Mullan was commanding officer of the light cruiser San Diego, serving with Adm. William Halsey's fleet at the end of the war.

He served at the Naval Gun Factory here for three years before retiring from active duty in 1949.

His medals included two Silver Stars, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

Adm. Mullan was a native of Baltimore and a 1920 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. He earned a master's degree in electrical engineering at Columbia University and was a graduate of the Naval War College.

Following his retirement from active duty, he taught shop for several years at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

Survivors include a son, William E. Jr., of Washington; three daughters, Betty Wynne of McLean, Joanne Tansey of Frederick, and Sister Mary of St. Christopher of the Good Shepherd Order in Phoenix, Ariz.; a sister, Ruth White of Honolulu; a brother, Read, of Phoenix; 16 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.