Norman C. Gillette Jr., 70, a retired Navy rear admiral who was a heavily decorated aviator and staff officer, died of cancer April 18 at his home in Long Beach, Calif. He had lived in the Washington area for about 10 years before moving to California in 1980.

Adm. Gillette was born in Newport, R.I., and reared in Washington. He attended the old Central High School and graduated from the old Devitt Preparatory School here. He was a 1936 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.

During the early days of World War II, he served aboard the battleship Texas in the Atlantic. He became an aviator in 1943. The following year he took command of a patrol bombing squadron of Catalina Flying Boats and served in the Southwest Pacific theater for the remainder of the war.

After the war, he graduated from the Naval War College. In the late 1950s, he commanded the U.S. base at Rota, Spain, and commanded the Thetis Bay, the Navy's first assault helicopter carrier. In the early 1960s, he commanded the Norfolk Naval Air Station and the air wings of the Atlantic Fleet.

From 1964 to 1966, he was aviation plans division director in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations. His later assignments included serving as chief of the Joint Military Assistance Advisory Group in Spain and as head of the office of Naval Disability Evaluation. He retired from active duty in 1973.

Adm. Gillette's decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal, two awards of the Legion of Merit, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star with Combat "V" and three Air Medals.

He was a member of the Army Navy Country Club and the Freedom Foundation.

His marriage to the former Dixie Friedrichs ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife, Bella, of Long Beach; six children by his first marriage, Marine Corps Maj. Norman C. III, of Quantico, Marine Corps Capt. Christopher C., of Camp Pendleton, Calif., Therese Escudero of Bilbao, Spain, and Army Capt. George R., Virginia, and Kathleen Gillette, all of Washington; two sisters, Kay Manley of Shawnee Mission, Kan., and Mary Schumann of Chevy Chase; a brother, retired Navy Capt. Robert C., of Washington, and three grandchildren.