Monsignor William Henry McDougall, 79, journalist, author, war hero and a leading figure in the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese, died Dec. 8, 1988, after a chronic illness at St. Joseph's Villa in Salt Lake City.

A former reporter for the Salt Lake Telegram, a correspondent for United Press International and a writer for the Japan Times, Monsignor McDougall spent three years in Japanese prison camps after he was captured during World War II near Sumatra.He was born June 3, 1909, in Salt Lake City to William H. and Frances Tormey McDougall. He was graduated from Judge Memorial High School and the University of Portland, then joined the Telegram, where as a young reporter he instituted the use of carrier pigeons to return film and news copy from reporters in the field.

His pigeon-delivered stories on the 1936 crash of an airliner bound for Salt Lake City made front pages across the United States. Three years later he traveled to Tokyo, where he was employed by the Japan Times. He later moved to Shanghai to work for United Press, and was first captured Dec. 8, 1941, by the Japanese and held under house arrest in that city.

With assistance from the Chinese, he escaped and made his way to Java, where he continued to file stories until that area also fell to the Japanese in 1942. He had planned to catch a plane for Australia, but instead hitched a ride on an ill-fated Dutch freighter, which was torpedoed and sunk at "six bells off Java," an expression that became the title of his first book.

Monsignor McDougall made it to shore on a lifeboat and spent several days surviving off the land before being recaptured by the Japanese. He spent the next three years in prison camps in Sumatra and Java. His second book, "By Eastern Windows," recounts his experiences in the camps.

Still 30 pounds underweight, the prelate returned in November 1945 to his native Utah and to his work at United Press. In 1946 he received a Neiman Journalism Fellowship to Harvard University, and two years later entered Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1952 and became an assistant pastor in 1954. For more than 20 years he was a priest and rector at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, where he was known for the caring way he provided services to the homeless and other disadvantaged people. He also taught at Judge Memorial High School, was editor of the Intermountain Catholic Register and was a founder of the Utah Right to Life League and Birthright, an organization that provides alternatives to abortion and other services to unwed mothers.

In 1963 he was made a domestic prelate with the title of right reverend monsignor by Pope John XXIII.

At the time of his death Monsignor McDougall was working on his third and nearly completed book of vignettes about his past.

Joseph Lennox Federal, retired bishop of the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese, was a close acquaintance of Monsignor McDougall for 37 years.

In recalling his war experiences, Monsignor McDougall wrote: "Its (the war experiences) lessons had shaped a conviction that success is not measured how high a man has climbed or whether the whole world knows his byline; but by whether he has loved God and his neighbor, not only with words but with deeds."

Bishop Federal said, "By that criterion Monsignor McDougall had a very successful life. He was not only a great churchman but also a great citizen and interested himself in many different projects for the betterment of all mankind and especially the poor. We lived together in the same house for over 30 years, and I grew to admire him very much."

A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Cathedral of the Madeleine, 331 E. South Temple. A wake service will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and friends may call at 6:30 p.m. Burial will be at Mount Calvary Cemetery.