Retired Army Gen. Barksdale Hamlett, 70, who commanded American forces in Berlin from 1958 to 1959 and later served two years as Army vice Chief of staff before retiring in 1964, died of cardiac arrest Sunday at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

As the top American official in Berlin, Gen. Hamlett had about 4,000 troops under his command at a time when there were about 400,000 Soviet troops in East Germany.

However, tensions between the major powers over Berlin were not as high as they were before and after his tour. Gen. Hamlett described sessions with his Soviet opposite number as "friendly and somewhat informal."

Following his return to the United States, Gen. Hamlett was assistant deputy then deputy chief of staff for operations before being named vice chief of staff in 1962. He retired from active duty two years later for reasons of health.

He was president of Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., for seven years before retiring a second time in 1972.

Gen. Hamlett was a native of Hopkinsville, Ky., a 1930 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

During World War II, he served in North Africa and Europe and for a time was artillery commander of the 16th Armored Division in Gen. George S. Patton Jr.'s 3rd Army. He also served in the Korean conflict.

His decorations include the Silver Star and the Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters.

Gen. Hamlett has been president of the Retired Officers Association and a member of the Chevy Chase Club.

He is survived by his wife, Frances, of the home in Charleston, S.C.; a daughter, Otila Stanley, of Saudi Arabia, and three grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Retired Officers Association in Alexandria.