Retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Lester R. Russ, 64, a decorated combat veteran of World War II and a former civilian contract specialist with the Naval Air Systems Command, died of cancer Saturday at a hospital in San Diego.

Cmdr. Russ, a native of Missouri, enlisted in the Navy in 1936. He received a commission and graduated from the Navy's flight training school at Pensacola, Fla., in the early days of World War II.

He spent most of the war aboard aircraft carriers in the Pacific as a radio operator in scout bombers. His ships included the Lexington and the Saratoga. His decorations included the Distinguished Flying Cross and five Air Medals.

Cmdr. Russ came to Washington in 1953 and was assigned to the old Bureau of Aeronautics until retiring from active duty in 1956. He then worked for 12 years as an engineering representative in Washington for private electronics firms. He rejoined the government as a contract specialist with the Naval Air Systems Command in 1968. He retired in 1974 and moved to Virginia Beach, where he lived until moving to San Diego last February.

His marriage to Ruth Russ ended in divorce. Survivors include his second wife, the former Helen Price of San Diego; a daughter by his first marriage, Karen R. Tubbs of Visalia, Calif.; two brothers, Carl and John, both of Chula Vista, Calif., and a sister, Elizabeth Conrad of San Diego.