John M. O'Brien, 60, a manager in the sales administration department of the Caterpillar Tractor Co. here and a combat veteran of World War II, died of cancer Monday at George Washington University Hospital. He lived in McLean.

Mr. O'Brien began his career with Caterpillar Tractor in 1954. He worked for the company in South America, Canada, Scotland, Switzerland and New York City before transferring to this area in 1974 as Washington manager of international liaison in the sales administration department.

He worked for the Elmhurst Construction Co. in the Dominican Republic before joining Caterpillar Tractor.

Mr. O'Brien served with the Army's 10th Mountain Division in the Aleutian Islands and in Italy during World War II.

He was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He attended Pace Institute, now Pace University, in New York City and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Vermont.

A member of the Washington Export Council, he served as its president in 1976 and 1977.

Survivors include his wife of 32 years, the former Mary Frances Wilkerson, and a son, Scott P., both of McLean; three daughters, Susan F. Zeynel of Danbury, Conn., Sara A. O'Brien of Falls Church, and Navy Ensign Mary K. O'Brien of Keflavik, Iceland; a brother, William, of Millbrook, N.Y.; a sister, Mary Jane Stanley of Norwalk, Conn., and two grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Cancer Society.