Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Douglas C. Busath: Finding “Home” in New Guinea

Douglas C. Busath: Finding “Home” in New Guinea

By: Ardis E. Parshall - October 30, 2008

Douglas C. Busath, age 21, from Salt Lake City, enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942. Following training at Santa Ana, California and in Hawaii, Douglas was assigned first to a bombardment squadron and later to a headquarters squadron, both in the Pacific. He attended LDS church services while in Hawaii, but once out on duty, he was limited to whatever generic services he could occasionally find.

After more than a year in the Pacific, by then stationed in New Guinea, Douglas wrote to his parents about an experience at a location he could not name due to wartime censorship rules:

Had an amazing thing happen last Sunday. I had an assignment to visit two different advance bases and come back here and give a report. I got to the first base all right, but bad weather set in and we were grounded for the rest of the day. After finding a place to sleep for the night, I did the next most important thing – located a chow line.

It being Sunday I thought I’d go to a chapel I found nearby, but a sign on the door said the services were held there only in the morning. (It wasn’t a chapel really, just the intelligence department of some bombardment squadron, but someone had painted a cross on a little sign, and that is enough to make any building a chapel in New Guinea.)

So I started to hunt for a show and got a lead on one, about five miles away. Hitch-hiking is always easy here. As I started down the road I passed the chapel again and heard an organ, so I went in. A group was singing as I entered and there was an enlisted man leading, so I assumed the chaplain was the man playing the portable organ.

The conductor then asked one of the men in the congregation to offer the opening prayer and I began to feel at home.

As the prayer progressed I thought more and more: that’s a Mormon prayer. but then maybe all lay people pray that way. My hopes were realized, though, when they announced the second song, “How Firm a Foundation.” I had come home!

I’m afraid I was guilty of beaming like a little ray of sunshine. They could have turned out the lights and no one would have known the difference. It was a wonderful meeting. They had both a sermon and a discussion topic and the two hours passed all too quickly.

No one can convince me that this was a coincidence. I know of no other incident in my life which has so strengthened my testimony as this – after all these months with no contact with the Church, then to be guided to this fine group of Mormon boys, so far (if I could only tell you!) from what we call civilization – a group of Mormon boys who need no chaplain to conduct the services they love.

Douglas made it back from the war. As a member of the Army Reserves, he was called up again during the Korean War, serving for 19 months as a legal officer at Randolph Field, Texas. He established himself as an attorney in Sacramento, California. My searches turn up a two-year-old interview in a California newspaper; since I have not found a death date, it is possible that at age 87, Douglas Busath is a living link to our past.



  1. Thanks, Ardis.

    I am fully convinced that the Lord can lead our LDS soldiers. Being a soldier in war is no easy thing and involves great sacrifice. But, as I study the lives of LDS soldiers, I find themes over and over much like the one you reported by Douglas C. Busath. The Lord is available to us even in the most horrible battlefield.

    Comment by S.Faux — October 30, 2008 @ 9:20 am

  2. Thanks, Ardis. I really appreciate your efforts to bring these stories to light. I thiink they are important to our culture as members of the Church.

    Comment by Martin Willey — October 30, 2008 @ 9:56 am

  3. On the subject of finding LDS meetings through remarkable “coincidences,” my father told me last weekend of his finding the church in immediate post-war Vienna.

    The Vienna branch met in a building on Seidengasse, a street only three or four blocks long that was well to the west of central Vienna. The Catholic chaplain at headquarters gave my dad instructions for finding the place, including at least one transfer on the Stadtbahn and several blocks walk.

    He had managed to get to the right neighborhood and was looking at the street signs trying to find Seidengasse, when a very attractive young woman approached him and asked, in perfect English: “Are you a Mormon?”

    She was, too, and led Dad the few blocks to the building where the branch met.

    [As Paul Harvey would say, the “rest of the story”: the young woman married one of the other LDS servicemen who was then in Vienna. He was a Clyde from the Springville, Utah, W.W. Clyde & Co. family.]

    Comment by Mark B. — October 30, 2008 @ 10:15 am

  4. Aw, Mark, a bit of drama and a romance, too!

    Thanks, Martin, that’s exactly what motivates me to do history. I have very little interest in “proving” that the gospel is true. It *is* true, without needing my endorsement, and one very important way I know that is by watching it play out in the lives of members throughout history.

    S., perhaps paradoxically, as my views against the waste of war have been increasingly hardening in the past couple of years, my recognition has increased that the men and women sent to war can find the Comforter, especially as they try to lead clean lives despite their surroundings. God bless them.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 30, 2008 @ 10:48 am

  5. Thanks for the lovely story, Ardis. It is a blessing to feel the strengthening spirit of worship in times of stress and hardship.

    Comment by Amy (Researcher) — October 30, 2008 @ 11:09 am

  6. Ardis:

    Thanks for your reaction, and just to be clear: I am PRO military and ANTI war. Like you, the more I witness war, the more I hate it, and paradoxically the more I love our soldiers who are willing to fight it.

    Comment by S.Faux — October 30, 2008 @ 4:17 pm

  7. Ardis and S.Faux, AMEN

    Comment by Maurine — October 30, 2008 @ 10:15 pm

  8. Douglas Busath ws one of my Young Men leaders in the early 1960’s. As of March 9, 2009, he is still alive and living in Sacramento. He is a great man.

    Comment by Keith Taylor — March 9, 2009 @ 4:39 pm

  9. Thank you, Keith. If you are in touch with him, please tell him how much we appreciated his letter. I hope he is being rewarded in his age for all he did through his life.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 9, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

  10. Thanks, Keith, for bringing this post to my attention. I missed it somehow when it posted.

    a group of Mormon boys who need no chaplain to conduct the services they love

    truly one of the glories of Mormonism as a practical faith

    Comment by Ray — March 9, 2009 @ 7:44 pm

  11. I happen to know Doug Busaeth (corrected spelling of his last name) as I am his current home teacher in Sacramento, CA. He’s a wonderful fellow and one of my favorite story tellers. He’s currently a High Priest in the Cottage Park Ward, Sacramento East Stake. I’ll print this page and give it to him this evening. (I live just a few blocks from his home.)

    Comment by Lenny Taylor — March 11, 2009 @ 11:34 am

  12. Correction – Busath is the correct spelling! I had it wrong in my phone list –

    Comment by Lenny Taylor — March 11, 2009 @ 11:38 am

  13. Either way, I’m very glad to know that he’ll hear what his experiences mean to us so many years later. If he has a reaction, I hope you’ll come back to tell us about it.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 11, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

  14. Doug Passed away 4-16-2010
    at the age of 89.In Sacramento CA.

    Comment by Chuck Reade — April 18, 2010 @ 10:41 am

  15. Thank you for your note, Chuck. I was so pleased to have found his youthful letter and hope that the spirit he displayed so long ago was with him to the end. Keepa’s condolences to his family.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 18, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

  16. BUSATH, Douglas C.

    Jan. 21, 1921 – April 16, 2010

    Survived and dearly loved by his wife of 64 years, Marinell P. Busath and daughters Ann Griffin (Bob), Chris Duran (Eddie), Julia Atkinson (John), Cecilie King (Leon) and grandchildren Eloy and Evan Duran, and Emily, Douglas, Meredith, Julia and Frances King. Born in Salt Lake City, moved to Sacramento in 1928. Attended David Lubin, Kit Carson, Sacramento High, Sacramento City College, UC Berkeley, and Hastings School of Law. Served as a navigator in the 5th Army Air Corps in WWII. Married Marinell Pinnell in 1945. Practiced law in Sacramento for 50 years. Spent the last 11 years doing volunteer work for Shriners Children’s Hospital. Served faithfully in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Shriners Hospital for Children. Memorial services to be held Thursday, April 21st, at 1:00 pm, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2745 Eastern Ave., Sacramento.

    Published in The Sacramento Bee on April 18, 2010

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 18, 2010 @ 12:30 pm

  17. We made a slight error in the obituary. The memorial services will be on Thursday, April 22nd.

    Comment by Leon King - Son-in-law — April 19, 2010 @ 11:16 am

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