Could a Little Boy Be Proof of Reincarnation?

ABC News

April 15, 2004

Nearly six decades ago, a 21-year-old Navy fighter pilot on a mission over the Pacific was shot down by Japanese artillery. His name might have been forgotten, were it not for 6-year-old James Leininger. Quite a few people — including those who knew the fighter pilot — think James is the pilot, reincarnated. James' parents, Andrea and Bruce, a highly educated, modern couple, say they are "probably the people least likely to have a scenario like this pop up in their lives." But over time, they have become convinced their little son has had a former life.

From an early age, James would play with nothing else but planes, his parents say. But when he was 2, they said the planes their son loved began to give him regular nightmares. "I'd wake him up and he'd be screaming," Andrea told ABCNEWS' Chris Cuomo. She said when she asked her son what he was dreaming about, he would say, "Airplane crash on fire, little man can't get out."

Above: James Huston Jr., whose tragic death during World War II is remembered in detail by young James Leininger,
pauses for a picture sometime in 1944, the year before he was shot down.

Reality Check

Andrea says her mom was the first to suggest James was remembering a past life. At first, Andrea says she was doubtful. James was only watching kids' shows, his parents say, and they weren't watching World War II documentaries or conversing about military history. But as time went by, Andrea began to wonder what to believe. In one video of James at age 3, he goes over a plane as if he's doing a preflight check. Another time, Andrea said, she bought him a toy plane, and pointed out what appeared to be a bomb on its underside. She says James corrected her, and told her it was a drop tank. "I'd never heard of a drop tank," she said. "I didn't know what a drop tank was." Then James' violent nightmares got worse, occurring three and four times a week. Andrea's mother suggested she look into the work of counselor and therapist Carol Bowman, who believes that the dead sometimes can be reborn. With guidance from Bowman, they began to encourage James to share his memories — and immediately, Andrea says, the nightmares started become less frequent. James was also becoming more articulate about his apparent past, she said. Bowman said James was at the age when former lives are most easily recalled. "They haven't had the cultural conditioning, the layering over the experience in this life so the memories can percolate up more easily," she said.

F4U Corsair


Trail of Mysteries

Over time, James' parents say he revealed extraordinary details about the life of a former fighter pilot — mostly at bedtime, when he was drowsy. They say James told them his plane had been hit by the Japanese and crashed. Andrea says James told his father he flew a Corsair, and then told her, "They used to get flat tires all the time." In fact, historians and pilots agree that the plane's tires took a lot of punishment on landing. But that's a fact that could easily be found in books or on television. Andrea says James also told his father the name of the boat he took off from — Natoma — and the name of someone he flew with — "Jack Larson." After some research, Bruce discovered both the Natoma and Jack Larson were real. The Natoma Bay was a small aircraft carrier in the Pacific. And Larson is living in Arkansas. "It was like, holy mackerel," Bruce said. "You could have poured my brains out of my ears. I just couldn't believe it.

USS Natoma Bay


James 2 = James M. Huston Jr.?

Bruce became obsessed, searching the Internet, combing through military records and interviewing men who served aboard the Natoma Bay. He said James told him he had been shot down at Iwo Jima. James had also begun signing his crayon drawings "James 3." Bruce soon learned that the only pilot from the squadron killed at Iwo Jima was James M. Huston Jr. Bruce says James also told him his plane had sustained a direct hit on the engine. Ralph Clarbour, a rear gunner on a U.S. airplane that flew off the Natoma Bay, says his plane was right next to one flown by James M. Huston Jr. during a raid near Iwo Jima on March 3, 1945. Clarbour said he saw Huston's plane struck by anti-aircraft fire. "I would say he was hit head on, right in the middle of the engine," he said.

Treasured Mementos

Bruce says he now believes his son had a past life in which he was James M. Huston Jr. "He came back because he wasn't finished with something." The Leiningers wrote a letter to Huston's sister, Anne Barron, about their little boy. And now she believes it as well. "The child was so convincing in coming up with all the things that there is no way on the world he could know," she said. But Professor Paul Kurtz of the State University of New York at Buffalo, who heads an organization that investigates claims of the paranormal, says he thinks the parents are "self-deceived." "They're fascinated by the mysterious and they built up a fairy tale," he said. James' vivid, alleged recollections are starting to fade as he gets older — but among his prized possessions remain two haunting presents sent to him by Barron: a bust of George Washington and a model of a Corsair aircraft. They were among the personal effects of James Huston sent home after the war. "He appears to have experienced something that I don't think is unique, but the way it's been revealed is quite astounding," Bruce said. Asked if the idea that James may have been someone else changes his or his wife's feeling about their son, Bruce said: "It doesn't change how we think. I don't look at him and say, 'That's not my boy.' That's my boy."

The original link at ABC:

This story appeared on ABC's TV show Primetime. Here is the link to their printed version on the website (It's the same as above except I added a few more pictures):

Could a Little Boy Be Proof of Reincarnation?

There is also a Real Player video link related to this story but you have to subscribe to this ABC feature.

Second Link: Here is another news story on the same subject, from Daily Courier\PittsburghLive, By Judy Kroeger:

About past lives ... Uniontown WW II flyer's memories in Louisiana boy

More at Ian Lawton's site:
The Past Life Memories of James Leininger


Editor's note from Reverse Spins:

Apparently they mentioned on the show that the boy's memory of his past life is fading. This is not surprising and no refutation of reincarnation. For those who say there is no reincarnation because we can't remember past lives, I challenge you to remember your childhood. Most of us can only remember isolated events. If we can't remember most of our childhood how are we supposed to remember past lives? We have enough problems dealing with this life. Imagine trying to cope with the problems and traumas of past lives all at the same time. God in His infinite mercy casts a veil over memories. Some do remember but it is not necessarily the right course of action to seek one's former lives, for once you discover them, you take on more karma all at once for that embodiment. Normally it would be stretched out over time. The boys nightmares are a perfect illustration of this phenomena and demonstration of cosmic law.

Although I do not remember my last embodiment and do not wish to pursue it, this story really resonates with me for two reasons. I absolutely love that plane and have for a long, long time. I also spent a year in Japan in this life. I was born five years after WW II ended, a resonable amount of time between embodiments. Maybe I hated the Japanese too much and had to balance that karma. I now love many aspects of Japanese culture. I don't know if I was ever one of Mr. Huston's wing men, in any event, God bless this former F4U pilot for remembering his past and all those who brought it to our attention.

Update 9/7/09

The story of James Leininger has made its way to England:

Is James Leininger reincarnation of Second World War fighter pilot?-9/1 Telegraph (UK), James Leininger, an 11-year-old American boy, could be the reincarnation of a Second World War fighter pilot, according to a new book.-- He is said to have lived before as Lt James Huston Jnr, who was shot down by the Japanese in 1945. A book about him, Soul Survivor, is a best-seller in the US and tells how he began to have dreams about the war as a two-year-old. His parents Bruce, 59, and Andrea, 47, were initially sceptical about the idea of reincarnation but have now traced the relatives of the dead pilot who were impressed by James’s apparent memories of the war. Mrs Leininger told the Mirror: "In the throes of his nightmares you couldn't work out what he was saying. But two or three months in, I was walking down the hall and I heard him saying, 'Airplane crash, plane on fire, little man can't get out.' "It chilled me to my bone hearing this. "I asked him what happened to his plane and he said, 'It crashed on fire.' I asked how it crashed and he said the Japanese shot his plane.” ...

Reincarnated! Our son is a World War II pilot come back to life-9/2 Daily Mail (UK), By Zoe Brennan-- It sounds totally beyond belief. But read the tantalising evidence from this boy's family and you may start to wonder...The agonised screams pierced the air. 'Plane on fire! Airplane crash.' In the dark, a two-year-old boy was just visible, writhing on his bed in the grip of horror. 'He was lying there on his back, kicking and clawing at the covers like he was trying to kick his way out of a coffin,' remembers the boy's father. 'I thought, this looks like The Exorcist. I half expected his head to spin around like that little girl in the movie. But then I heard what James was saying.' Over and over again, the tiny child screamed: 'Plane on fire! Little man can't get out.' ...

Editor's Review: I could not put this book down. I already knew quite a lot about the story so I was expecting it to be somewhat pedantic. Nothing could be further from the truth. I read it, off and on, in about 24 hours. The authors did a masterful job of unfolding the astonishing things that came out of little James Leininger's mouth. I even enjoyed the reluctant opening of consciouness of the parents, although the dad's strict interpretation of the Bible became somewhat exasperating. He was a trooper though, vowing to get to the bottom of this mystery. This is an important book because to prove reincarnation, the individual has to remember an embodiment that is not in the least bit famous. In other words, there is no way he could know about it. On the other hand, there has to be enough evidence of the past life so it can be tracked down. Enough facts and knowledge of the past life has to be revealed as well to show it's not a coincidence. All these conditions were met in this case. Another book that met these prerequisites is Looking for Carroll Beckwith: The True Story of a Detective's Search for His Past Life which you can find on my Karma, Reincarnation and NDE page. Once one accepts the notion of reincarnation, the next question should be: Why do we reincarnate and how do we graduate? But for now, I recommend this book as a gift to anyone who needs an introduction to reincarnation.



YouTube Videos

Past Life of James - Part 1

Past Life of James - Part 2

Past Life of James - Part 3

Follow-up story: 11 year old boy reincarnated FOX 8 News

The boy proved that he was a pilot 80 years ago. Nobody believed him, but the story was confirmed

Child's Nightmares and Memories Prove Reincarnation-6/1 Fox8 TV, It is being called the most documented case of reincarnation ever. A little boy is able to recall over 50 memories from someone else's life. A World War II Pilot's family believes it is their reincarnated brother based on the child's memories. The boy's story is so compelling, it has been published in a new book called "Soul Survivor." Fox 8's Suzanne Stratford spoke exclusively to the child and his family. .. A very nice follow up video on this story. Editor

Another follow-up story:

Boy to tell of pilot's experiences-7/25
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, By Patti Dobranski and Bob Stiles

James Leininger's parents want their 8-year-old son to have a great life -- his own life. But for the past 5 1/2 years, the Louisiana boy has been reliving pieces of the life of another James -- Lt. James McCready Huston, a World War II fighter pilot from Uniontown who was killed near Iwo Jima more than 50 years before James was born.

At 2 1/2 years old, James began expressing aviation knowledge that surpassed not just a typical toddler's ability, but that of his parents. The child began reciting a collection of information and had recurring nightmares about being shot down by a Japanese plane with a red sun on it. James' parents, Bruce and Andrea, eventually realized their son's assertions were accurate and that something beyond the tangible was occurring.

Their lives have not been the same. Beginning in 2004, James made a couple of TV appearances for ABC News and on the Montel Williams Show. Tuesday morning, James will tell his story live on ABC's "Good Morning, America," during a segment set to air between 8 and 8:30 a.m. Bruce Leininger said although there are no new, earth-shattering revelations from James, he's glad to see his son's experiences help keep the memories and sacrifices of soldiers like Huston alive. "I am writing a book about these men as a tribute to the men of the Natoma Bay -- the ship Lieutenant Huston was stationed on. That's the way I've eternalized it. We shouldn't forget. We need to remember and realize all of our spirits are on a journey. That's what this is all about," he said in a telephone interview from his Lafayette home.

Huston's sister, Anne Barron, 87, of Los Gatos, Calif., said she believes the boy's accounts. "It's very hard to describe, but I just can't help but say it has to be true," she said. "He knows too many things. For some reason, he knows these things." Huston's cousin, Bob Huston, 74, of Franklin Township, Fayette County, agrees. "To me, it's amazing," he said. "The way the boy explained how (Huston) got shot down, that's what the people told my mother and his father." Barron said her brother wanted to fly since he was a child, and he enlisted in the U.S. Navy after one year in college.

Huston was shot down March 3, 1945, while on his 50th mission. The mission was to be his last before coming home in April, Barron said. James' nightmares, which began shortly after his father took him to visit a Dallas flight museum when the boy was 18 months old, center on a plane crash. "They were terrible, terrible," Andrea Leininger told the Tribune-Review News Service in 2004. "He would scream, 'airplane crash, on fire, little man can't get out!' He'd be kicking, with his hands pointing up at the ceiling." Andrea Leininger believes her son is the reincarnation of Huston. Neither Bob Huston nor Barron know exactly what to think. "I don't think when we die we just stop," Barron said. "I don't think I'll know until I go there myself."

Bruce Leininger said James' recollections have been fewer as he's gotten older. And that's a good thing. "He feels kind of special that he attracts this type of attention, but we don't try to dwell on it," he said. "We want him to be who he is and have his own life. He used to be interested in airplanes, but now he's into Star Wars, so that's a development."

Still, in some ways, James remains an old soul. "He uses some dated expressions that we have never used. He has interests in seeing historical things, rather than just wanting to go to Disney World," his father said. In September 2004, when James was 6, his father took him to a reunion of veterans who served on the Natoma. James was able to recognize one of Huston's former shipmates after 60 years. "His comment was, 'They're all so old,'" he said. Foods sometimes spark memories. "I hadn't made meatloaf in 10 years, so James had never had it," Andrea Leininger told the Tribune-Review News Service in 2004. "When he sat down, he said, 'Meatloaf! I haven't had that since I was on the Natoma.' When we were getting ice cream one day, he told me that they could have ice cream every day on the Natoma." Bruce Leininger said he is considering penning a book about their experiences with their son. "I know I'm doing what I'm supposed to do," he said. Bob Huston and Barron plan to be tuned in when James appears on television. "I just have to see it," Barron said. "I've met the Leiningers and they're such nice people. And they're honest people. I'm going to watch it." end.


This story is generating a lot of interest. I'm getting many hits from searches.

I emailed the story to some friends, with some interesting results.

One friend's Dad is an agnostic. He emailed him the story. Turns out he had seen the show and was interested in the subject maybe even open to the possibility of reincarnation. He had been a flyer in WW II as well, flying suppplies from India to China over the Himalayas. You never know what keys will touch the soul.

Another good friend and I use to talk about the Corsair. I emailed him the story. He revealed some things he hadn't told me before. He remembers flying the plane in WW II. He was shot down and tortured by the Japanese. The first time he visited Japan he felt a wave of hatred pass through him but it soon passed.



Here's another great story about a boy in England who remembered a detailed past life:

The Boy Who Lived Before

Also at Reverse Spins::

General Patton remembered his past lives

Famous Quotes on Reincarnation

Much more on Karma and Reincarnation and NDE