Retired Navy Rear Adm. George E. Pierce, 71, who won two Navy Crosses as a submarine commander in World War II and two Legions of Merit during the Korean conflict, died of cancer Monday at the Bethesda Naval Hospital.
At the outbreak of World War II, Adm. Pierce was a destroyer skipper in the Atlantic. After shore duty in Georgia and at the Naval War College at Newport, R.I., from which he graduated, he was ordered to Pearl Harbor in May 1944.
For the rest of the war, he commanded submarines. His first boat was the Steelhead, in which he took part in actions near the Mariana Islands and patrols east of Formosa. In late 1944, he took command of the Tunny.
He received his first Navy Cross, the highest award for bravery in the naval service with the exception of the Medal of Honor, in April 1945 for his actions during the Tunny's eight war patrol.
The citation said, "Despite great danger of being detected by shore-based radar and hostile aircraft and the hazard of treacherous waters, Commander Pierce courageously maneuvered his submarine close into enemy-held positions to successfully complete a very hazardous mission, and effect the rescue of three downed aviators.Skillfully evading all hostile countermeasures, he carried on a well-coordinated gun engagement and sank a 200-ton lugger."
On the Tunny's ninth war patrol, from May 11 to July 4, 1945, Adm. Pierce, then a captain, took her into Japanese home waters, and there he won his second Navy Cross. The citation said he "skillfully directed his vessel in the first patrol of the heavily protected Japan Sea to launch torpedo attacks."
After the war, Adm. Pierce served in the Navy's public relations office in Washington, graduated from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and commanded a destroyer division in the Atlantic.
During the Korean conflict, he was a Navy liaison officer with the 8th Army in Korea. He was awarded Legions of Merit by both the Army and Navy for his work with intelligence and planning sections of the Army and for his coordination of Navy air and gunfire support of Army operations.
Between 1953 and 1957, Adm. Pierce was a member of the strategic plans group of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations for a year.
After retiring from active duty in October 1959, Adm. Pierce, who lived in Bethesda, became a businessman. He was administrative vice president and program director for the National Small Business Association in the early 1960s. In 1963, he was named president of a Washington subsidiary of the H. O. Boehme Corp., a New York electronics company. He later was vice president of the Computer Control Corp. in Rockville. He was a member of the board of Systems Technology Laboratory in Arlington.
Adm. Pierce, who was born in Colon, Panama, was a graduate of old Central High School in Washington. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1932, he served aboard cruisers, submarines and dirigibles.
He was a member of the Army-Navy Country Club, the City Tavern Club and the New York Yacht Club.
Survivors include his wife, Mary, of Bethesda; a son, Scott, also of Bethesda; two daughters, Judith P. Black of Dallas, and Janet L. Pierce of Denver; a brother, Claude C., of Greensboro, N.C., and three grandchildren.