Dorothy Ada Whipple, 78, a retired Far East and South Asia specialist with the old U.S. Information Agency, died Tuesday of cardiac arrest of George Washington University Hospital.

From 1963 until her retirement in 1969, she had worked at the agency's headquarters here. USIA is now the International Communication Agency. Miss Whipple joined the federal government in 1942, when she started work with the Chemical Warfare Board here.

After World War II, she was sent to China by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA).

Miss Whipple joined the State Department's Foreign Service in 1949 and became assistant cultural affairs officer in Seoul, Korea. She was evacuated to Japan after the outbreak of the Korean conflict and resigned from the Foreign Service as cultural officer in Tokyo.

In 1953, she transferred to USIA and became cultural attache at the U.S. Embassy in Taipei, then cultural attache in Saigon, Vietnam, from 1959 to 1963. She received a Meritorious Service Award from USIA.

Miss Whipple was born in Ovid, Mich. A graduate of the University of Michigan, she earned a master's degree at Wayne State University in Detroit. She was a public school guidance counselor in Northfield and Detroit before coming to Washington.

A resident of Washington since 1963, she was active in the Foreign Service Association, the Asia Society and the Woman's National Democratic Club. She had been a volunteer with Common Cause.

There are no immediate survivors.

It is suggested that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the NAACP or the American Civil Liberties Union. CAPTION: Picture, DOROTHY A. WHIPPLE