Retired Army Brig. Gen. Frank Dorn, 80, a soldier, a linguist, an author, a painter and a noted cook, died of cancer Sunday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Gen. Dorn was born in San Francisco and studied at the San Francisco Institute of Art. He then went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1923 and was commissioned in the field artillery. For the next 30 years, his profession was soldiering. In the course of it, he saw some of the most difficult campaigning in World War II and came into contact with some of the most formidable personalities of his time.

In 1937, he was an assistant military attache in Peking when the Sino-Japanese war broke out. The senior attache at the time was Joseph W. (Vinegar Joe) Stilwell, then a colonel. Gen. Dorn, who was fluent in Chinese, observed the war between China and Japan from both sides, on one occasion walking across the "no-man's land" dividing opposing forces.

Among the persons he met during this period was Chou En-lai, later the premier of the Peoples Republic of China. By his own account, Gen. Dorn admired Chou.

His relationship with the brilliant and acerbic Stilwell continued after the United States became engaged in World War II. Stilwell was sent to China as the chief of the allied staff attached to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the Nationalist Chinese leader. Gen. Dorn went along as Stilwell's aide.

The two officers became involved in the defense of Burma against the Japanese. Following the collapse of British resistance, Stilwell and Gen. Dorn led about 100 men in a harrowing retreat over the lower reaches of the Himalayas into India.

Later, both officers returned to Chungking, where Chiang Kai-shek had established his wartime capital. Their mission was to train Chinese troops and then lead them against the Japanese.Gen. Dorn was appointed an honorary general in the Chinese army.

Stilwell had continual difficulties with Chiang, whom he referred to as "Peanut." The American general castigated the Chinese leader for his reluctance to fight or to use the supplies that had been delivered to him at such expense and peril against the Japanese. Because of the deterioration of his relations with Chiang, Stilwell was recalled by President Roosevelt, but not before the "Stilwell Road" was opened, linking China and India by land.

Although Gen. Dorn shared Stilwell's problems with the Nationalists, he decided to stay in China after Stilwell's departure. Soon, however, he was removed from his command and returned to Washington. He ended the was in Okinawa and was among the first troops to take part in the occupation of Japan.

yin 1946, Gen. Dorn returned to the United States and was assigned to the Army Information School at Carlisle Barracks, Pa. His last assignment before he retired in 1953 was as deputy chief of information in the Department of the Army.

All the while he was soldiering, Gen. Dorn was pursuing his interests in languages, scholarship, writing and painting.

Before his years in China, he was stationed in the Philippines as a lieutenant. He completed a study of the Negrito language, which is spoken by a group of aborigines in the islands, and a monograph on the life and customs of the people. Both were presented to the Department of Anthropology of the University of the Philippines, which offered him a professorship if he wished to pursue this work. Gen. Dorn later published a novel about these mountain folk.

In China in the 1930s, he undertook a study of the Forbidden City in Peking. Years after he had retired from the Army, he published "The Forbidden City, The Biography of a Palace." Other books he wrote in retirement include "The Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1941." He lived in Washington and spent his summers in Carmel and Pebble Beach, Calif.

He also continued to paint and had one-man shows in Paris, Madrid, Mexico City, Washington and elsewhere.

Gen. Dorn was widely noted among his friends as a cook. He published a cookbook shortly before he left the Army and another, on the use of herbs, some years later.

Gen. Dorn's military decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit and the Army Commendation Medal, and several decorations from China.

His wife, Phyllis Moore Gallagher, a writer, whom he married in 1964, died in 1978.

Survivors include four sisters, Mrs. yphilip S. Mathews of San Mateo, Calif., Mrs. M. E. Lortz of Ben Lomond, Calif., Mrs. George Estcourt of Los Altos, Calif., and Mrs. W. B. Langston of Austin, Tex.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Cancer Society, District of Columbia Division, 1825 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 20009.