Dr. James J. McHale Jr., 50, who served as a Navy surgeon in Vietnam and at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda before beginning a private practice in Fairfax in 1972, died of a brain tumor Monday at Fairfax Hospital.

Dr. McHale was born in Strong, Pa. He graduated from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania in 1951 and earned a master's degree in chemistry from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa. In 1957, he earned a medical degree from Georgetown University's medical school.

A former Navy captain, he served in the Navy for 16 years before resigning in 1972.

Dr. McHale served as an intern at the Naval Hospital in Philadelphia and was a resident physician in general surgery at the Naval Hospital in Chelsea, Mass. He was a resident physician in thoracic surgery at the University of Michigan, where he also was a clinical instructor in surgery.

Besides serving as a Navy surgeon in Vietnam during the conflict there, he served aboard the USS Kitty Hawk in the Pacific and at naval installations in this country.

His last naval assignment was as a staff member of the National Naval Medical Center's thoracic and cardiovascular surgery department from 1969 to 1972.

Dr. McHale lived in Gaithersburg. He was associated with Fairfax Hospital and was a member of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and the American Medical Association.

Survivors include his wife, Joan F., two sons, James III and Thomas, and three daughters, Mary, Nora Ann and Margaret, all of Gaithersburg; three sisters, Eleanor Shields of Strong, Pa., Margaret Klaus of Mount Carmel, Pa., and Mary Flaherty of Potomac, and two grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Northern Virginia Chapter of the American Heart Association, or to the St. John Neumann Catholic Church Building Fund in Gaithersburg.