John S. Szymkowicz, 88, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who as a chemical engineer participated in the military's early research and development of missile technology, died of cardiac arrest June 3 at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington. He lived in Hillcrest Heights.

Col. Szymkowicz, who was born in Anthony, R.I., graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 1938 with a degree in chemical engineering.

He was commissioned in the Army Air Corps, and during World War II, he was assigned to the 308th Bombardment Group in China as part of the famed 14th Air Force.

Col. Szymkowicz was one of seven siblings in his family to serve in the military during the war.

Making a career in the newly formed Air Force after the war, he headed the Air Force ROTC at Boston University and later served as an aeronautical engineering adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In the 1950s, he was stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, where he worked with captured German scientists on missile technology.

He evaluated the chemical compounds of fuel used in missiles and helped develop safety procedures for missile launches.

He was assigned to the Research and Development Command at Andrews Air Force Base after he retired from active military duty in 1961.

His military decorations included the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal.

He spent 19 years working in the Flight Standards Division of the Federal Aviation Administration, retiring in 1980.

He was past president of the Hillcrest Heights Citizens Association and a member of the Holy Family Catholic Church in Hillcrest Heights, the American Legion and the 14th Air Force Veterans Association.

His interests included golf, tennis and woodworking.

Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Lona Szymkowicz of Hillcrest Heights; four sons, John Szymkowicz of Washington, Michael Szymkowicz of Hillcrest Heights, Paul Szymkowicz of San Francisco and James Szymkowicz of Chantilly; three daughters, Ann Marie Szymkowicz of Coventry, R.I., Carol Allwine of Sebastopol, Calif., and Susan Werner of Oxnard, Calif.; and nine grandchildren.