Harry S. Etter, 83, a Navy rear admiral who retired from active military duty in 1974 as deputy chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, died of complications from cancer July 26 at Bethesda Naval Hospital.

Dr. Etter, who once was commanding officer of Bethesda Naval Hospital, was the second senior officer in the Navy Medical Department, and at the time of his retirement was head of the Bureau's planning division.

A Chevy Chase resident since 1974, he was born in Shippensburg, Pa. He received a medical degree from Duke University, where he also played saxophone in a school band and served as sports editor and assistant editor of the campus newspaper.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1941 and received a commission as assistant surgeon. He graduated from the Naval War College, interned at Portsmouth Naval Hospital and served as a medical officer of a destroyer division in the North Atlantic during World War II. He also served with the Pacific Fleet staff during the war.

Subsequent assignments included Naval hospital inspector in Vietnam, assistant director of biomedical research at the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory in Washington and head of the atomic defense at the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

He enjoyed fishing, hunting and gardening.

Survivors include his wife of 63 years, Frances Barbara Goodhart of Chevy Chase; five daughters, Barbara Berkowitz of of Sterling, Rachel Anderton of Gresham, Ore., Betty Speicher of Philadelphia, Patricia Raymond of Chevy Chase and Nancy Rand of Far Hills, N.J.; two sons, Dr. Harry Etter Jr. of Kalispell, Mont., and Dr. Robert Etter of Severna Park; 17 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.