Retired Army Lt. Col. Herman Paul Reisch, 65, who left the service in 1961 after 20 years active duty and who was a writer with the Navy Department for eight years before retiring for reasons of health earlier this year, died of cancer Friday at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

In addition to his careers as a soldier and civil servant, Col. Reisch was active in the Catholic church throughout his life. A native of St. Louis, he attended St. Joseph's Seminary in Hinsdale, Ill., for six years before World War II.

He was commissioned shortly after joining the Army in 1941. During World War II, he served in North Africa with the Quartermaster Corps. After the war, he was stationed in Germany and Japan as well as at posts in this country. He earned a bachelor's degree at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan, in 1956.

During his military service, Col. Reisch assisted chaplains and sang in and directed choirs. He was a member of Serra International, a Catholic organization. Last May, he completed three years of study in the deaconate program. He was awaiting ordination as a deacon at the time of his death. He attended the Fort Myer Chapel.

After retiring from the Army, Col. Reisch spent several years teaching English, French, and German at Harker Preparatory School in Potomac. He then worked for the Smithsonian Institution while attending graduate school at the University of Maryland, where he earned a master's degree in American history in 1968.

In the late 1960s he was a civilian instructor at the officer candidate school at Fort Belvoir. From 1970 to 1972, he was a civilian Air Force education officer at Cam Ranh Bay in South Vietnam.

After returning to this country, Col. Reisch, a resident of Arlington, wrote training manuals and directed education projects for the Naval Sea Systems Command until his retirement last August.

Col. Reisch's survivors include his wife, Sue, of Arlington; a daughter, Michele, of New York City; a son, Mark, of Arlington; three brothers, Vincent J., of St. Louis, Mark A., of Fort Walton, Fla., and Martin C., of Fort Worth, Tex., and a sister, Colette M. Jones of Portland, Ore., and one grandchild.