Retired Navy Rear Adm. David Lee Whelchel, 76, who won the Silver Star and other decorations as a submarine commander in the Pacific in World War II, died of cancer May 29 at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center.

Adm. Whelchel was born in Washington and graduated from the Western High School. He attended the University of Maryland and then went to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, where he graduated in 1930. He completed the submarine school at New London, Conn., in 1933.

During the war, he commanded the submarine Steelhead and Submarine Divisions 42 and 12. His assignments after the war included the Naval War College at Newport, R.I., where he graduated in 1954, and command of the cruiser Newport News, flagship of the U.S. 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. At the time of his retirement in 1959, he was stationed in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in the Pentagon.

In addition to the Silver Star, Adm. Whelchel's decorations include the Bronze Star and three Navy Commendation Medals.

After leaving the service, Adm. Whelchel, who lived in Bethesda, joined the McLaughlin Research Corp. in Alexandria and worked on logistics engineering. He remained with the firm until his death. In 1970, he earned a master's degree in education at American University.

He was a vestryman at St. David's Episcopal Church in Washington and a member of the Aztec Club of 1847.

Survivors include his wife, Margaret, of Bethesda; a son, David Lee Jr., of Coon Rapids, Minn.; two daughters, Louise Whelchel Wagner, of Wilmington, Del., and Leslie Whelchel Mathews, of Damascus, Md., and one brother, two sisters, and five grandchildren.