Wendell E. Johnson, 71, a retired civilian official of the Army Corps of Engineers who lived here since 1961, died Feb. 26 at Arlington Hospital after a stroke. He lived in McLean.

From 1961 until retiring from the Corps in 1970, he was chief of the Corps' engineering division in its civil works office. Since that time he had worked as a consultant to the State Department and the President's Scientific Advisor.

He was awarded the 1980 American Society of Civil Engineers' Rickey Medal for his work on hydroelectric projects around the world. He also was the recipient of the National Civil Service Award and the Army Exceptional Civilian Service Award.

Mr. Johnson was a native of Minneapolis and a 1931 graduate of the University of Minnesota where he earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. He became a civilian engineer with the Corps in 1933. He served on active duty with the Army in Europe during World War II. He was engineering division chief of the Corps' Missouri River Division from 1949 to 1961.

He was a member of the Cosmos Club.

Survivors include his wife, Margaret of McLean; two sons, David Wendell of Winston-Salem, N.C., and Tucker Eugene of Raleigh, N.C., and one grandchild.