Retired Navy Vice Adm. Paul H. Ramsey, 77, a highly decorated veteran of World War II and the Korean conflict who became deputy chief of naval operations for air, died of cancer Feb. 15 at a hospital in Coronado, Calif.

Adm. Ramsey received the Navy Cross for his "extraordinary heroism" as commander of a fighter squadron aboard the carrier Lexington during the Battle of the Coral Sea. The Navy Cross ranks just below the Medal of Honor as the service's highest award for valor.

Following that battle, he returned to Washington where he became director of the flight test division at the Anacostia Naval Air Station. In April 1943, he became the first military jet fighter pilot in the United States when he flew the experimental Bell YP59.

Later in the war, he commanded the escort carrier Attu against the Japanese at Okinawa and in strikes against the Japanese home islands.

During the Korean conflict he was awarded the Legion of Merit with combat "V" while commanding the carrier Philippine Sea in Korean waters. Subsequent assignments included command of Task Force 77, the fast carrier arm of the Pacific fleet. He was deputy chief of naval operations for air from 1965 until his retirement in 1966. He then moved to Coronado.

Adm. Ramsey was a native of Springfield, Ohio, and a 1927 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Survivors include his wife, the former Isabelle Turton, of Coronado; two sons, Navy Rear Adm. William E., of McLean, and retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. James B., of Columbus, Ohio, and six grandchildren.