Retired Rear Adm. W. Max Harnish, 60, a Navy pilot who later was deputy comptroller of the Navy, died of cancer Wednesday at the Naval hospital at Alameda, Calif.

At his retirement in 1975, he commanded the Pacific Missile Range at Point Magu, Calif. Before that, he had been deputy comptroller here.

Adm. Harnish was born in Illinois. He attended the University of Illinois and graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1942.

He later earned a master's degree in aeronautical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

During World War II, Adm. Harnish commanded a battleship in the South Pacific. He then trained as a naval aviator, and during the Korean conflict, was executive officer of an attack squadron and then commander of a fighter squadron in Korea.

He had several tours of duty in Washington and was assigned here in 1968 as director of the office of program appraisal in the Office of the Secretary of the Navy. He then commanded a carrier division in Norfolk before returning here as deputy comptroller.

He is survived by his wife, the former June Markert, of the home in Lafayette, Calif., and two daughters, Leslie of the home, and Kay Baker of San Francisco.