Retired Air Force Col. Donald Davis Klein, 52, a 30-year veteran who flew 279 bombing missions over North Vietnam and Laos and was U.S. chief of staff for NATO in Denmark before retiring earlier this year, died Aug. 29 at Lackland Air Force Base hospital in Texas. He had cancer.

While flying a night bombing mission over North Vietnam in 1968, his plane was hit and he was rescued in the Tonkin Gulf by the cruiser U.S.S. St. Paul.

His military decorations included the Purple Heart, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Air Force Medal with 13 Oak Leaf Clusters.

Col. Klein, who was born in New Orleans, lived in Washington and Arlington as a youth. He attended Swanson Junior High School and Washington-Lee High School in Arlington. He then served in the Marine Corps for a year before entering the Military Academy at West Point in 1945, from which he graduated.

Survivors include his wife, Mary Jane, of the home in Universal City, Tex.; three daughters, Carol A., of Athens, Ohio; Cynthia G. of Houston, and Deborah A. K. Norausky, of Chula Vista, Calif.; his mother, Astrid J. Klein, and a sister, Linnea D. Dittmar, both of Snow Hill, Md.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions in Col. Klein's name to the American Cancer Society.