Jacob L. Crane III, 58, who retired in August as an economist for the Agency for International Development and a Navy veteran of World War II, died of cancer Saturday at George Washington University Hospital.

A government economist for more than 28 years, Mr. Crane helped direct U.S. foreign aid programs in developing countries in the Far East, the Middle East and Africa for AID and its predecessor agencies.

During World War II, he served as a Navy officer aboard the light cruiser USS Savannah, until she was damaged in action off Salerno, Italy, in the Mediterranean in 1943, and later aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga in the Pacific Theater.

Born in Lake Forest, Ill., Mr. Crane moved with his family to Annapolis in his late teens. He earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard University and a master's degree in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He lived in Alexandria.

A lifelong sailor, in the early 1950s he sailed his 42-foot yacht, the "Ly Kou" from Saigon to Annapolis, a trip of 2 1/2 years. Two years ago, he and his family sailed from the Mediterranean Sea to the Virgin Islands on their 38-foot ketch.

Survivors include his wife, Patricia, and two daugters. Lisa and Nicole, all of Alexandria; his father, J. L. Crane II of Miami; a brother, James, of Belgium, and three sisters, Mrs. Hollis W. Peter of Brisbane, Australia, Mrs. Ed Manaukian of Warrenton, Va., and June Crane of Washington.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Jacob Crane Memorial Fund at the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington.