Karl Ruhe, 59, a retired official of the Treasury Department and a veteran of the Flying Tigers fighter squadron of World War II fame, died of a heart ailment Feb. 13 at Suburban Hospital.

Mr. Ruhe, who lived in Rockville, was born in New York City where he graduated from Columbia University.

In World War II, he was in the Army Air Forces in the China-Burma-India theater and served with the Flying Tigers. The squadron originally was raised by Gen. Claire L. Chennault for service with China against the Japanese. Its official name was the American Volunteer Group. When the United States went to war, the unit was made part of the Army Air Forces.

After the war, Mr. Ruhe worked for the old Atomic Energy Commission in Grand Junction, Colo. He later joined the IRS and worked in Chicago and Kansas before being transferred to Washington about 1959. At the time he retired from the Treasury in 1980, he was director of the office of industrial economics in the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy.

Mr. Ruhe was a member of the Washington chapter of the Stillwell Basha of CBI Veterans, the Flying Tigers of the 14th Air Force Association and the Hump Pilots Association. He also was a member of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers.

Survivors include his wife, Elizabeth, of Rockville; four daughters, Karla Roskos of Bowie, Marlene Williams of Walkersville, Md., Lee Cardwell of Gaithersburg, and Lorelei Lindsey of Poway, Calif.; a sister, Caroline Ruhe of West Nyack, N.Y., and two grandchildren.