Willard Sweetser, 105, a retired Navy rear admiral who commanded destroyers in combat in World War II, has died.

Mr. Sweetser died Friday at the Maine Veterans' Home in Paris, Maine. He was the Naval Academy's oldest living alumnus. Willard Sweetser Jr. confirmed his father's death.

The elder Sweetser served aboard the gunboat Panay, which in 1937 was attacked by the Japanese while at anchor in the Yangtze River in China. He went on to command the destroyers Lardner and Hickox in the Pacific. His awards included the Silver Star and two Bronze Stars.

Mr. Sweetser enrolled in the Naval Academy in 1922, his interest in life at sea mirroring that of ancestors, who had been shipmasters.

After World War II, he served as naval attache at U.S. embassies in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, which involved gathering intelligence on the communist governments then in power.

After retiring in 1956, Mr. Sweetser earned a master's degree from Purdue University and went on to teach mathematics and statistics at La Salle University.- AP