Retired Army Col. Robert E. Bitner, 83, a physician who served 24 years in the medical corps, died of cancer Sunday at the Woodbine Nursing Home in Alexandria where he had been a resident for three weeks. He lived in Falls Church.

At the time of his retirement in 1954, he was head of the general dispensary at the Pentagon. He then became secretary of the Association of Military Surgeons and edited its journal, Military Medicine, until 1963. He served another nine years as staff physican for the regional blood program of the D.C. American Red Cross before a second retirement.

Col. Bitner was born in Fort Wayne, Ind. He was a graduate of Indiana University and received a degree from its medical school in 1926. He practiced in Kendallville, Ind., before receiving his commission in the Army in about 1930. His tours of duty included Panama in the 1930s, the Aleutian Islands in World War II and Japan after the war.

During World War I, Col. Bitner had served as an enlisted man in the Army medical corps.

He is survived by his wife, Ann of Falls Church; a daughter, Carol, of Falls Church; two sons, Robert E. Jr., of San Mateo, Calif., and George, of Oakton; a sister, Esther Enochs of Dallas, and two grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to Recording Service for the Visually Handicapped in Falls Church.