|Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot|
From: Humans Are Free
The following case is presented because it is the best documented case originating from America in modern times.
So many people have scrutinized the story of James Leininger that any deception would have been revealed long ago.
James Leininger was not yet 2 years old when he began to have terrible nightmares. His parents knew he would outgrow them, but his screams frightened them. When they would come to his bedside, they often found him on his back, kicking his legs in the air and thrashing his arms - as if he were trying to escape from an imaginary box. He would also yell some garbled words that his parents could not understand.
When he was three, his Mom heard the words more clearly. "Airplane crash. On fire! Little man can't get out!"
James had played with toy airplanes but he had never fantasized about them crashing or burning. He wasn't exposed to war movies on television or in the cinema. His parents were puzzled. The boy's nightmares seem to have started shortly after his father took him to visit a Dallas flight museum, containing some vintage aircraft, when the boy was just 18 months old. But why?
As his fascination with airplanes continued, so did his nightmares. His parents bought him more toy model airplanes to play with, thinking he would soon find other interests. They noticed that when he approached his toy sit-down airplane, he would perform a walk-around inspection before he got in - just like a real pilot. Once his mother gave him a model with what appeared to be a bomb on the underside. When she pointed this out to her son he immediately corrected her, telling her it was a "drop tank."
"I'd never heard of a drop tank ... I didn't know what a drop tank was." - Andrea Leininger
When James was a little more than three years old, his parents decided to take him to a therapist who specialized in treating troubled children. Almost immediately his nightmares started to diminish. James was encouraged to talk about the things he remembered just before bedtime, when he was relaxed and sleepy. It was then that his surprising story started to be revealed.
Among the amazing things little James told his parents was that he was a pilot and flew a Corsair airplane. According to James, "They used to get flat tires all the time." He also recalled being assigned to a ship called "Natoma" and that he had been "shot down" by the Japanese in the battle of Iwo Jima! He further recalled that he had served with a buddy named "Jack Larson."
>All of this was too much for his parents to comprehend so they decided to see if this story had any factual basis. Almost immediately James' father, Bruce, found that a Corsair was indeed a type of airplane used in the Pacific during WWII and that it didhave a reputation for blowing tires when it landed hard! He later found the record of a small aircraft carrier, Natoma Bay, that was in the battle of Iwo Jima! But the most remarkable fact was that there was a pilot named Jack Larson who served on the Natoma Bay. In fact, Larson was still alive and living in nearby Arkansas.
About this time James began to draw pictures of his airplane and of being shot down. The fact that he was both drawing and talking about these memories seemed to eliminate his nightmares.
Bruce quickly contacted Jack Larson and was informed that the only pilot shot down from the crew of the Natoma Bay was named James M. Huston Jr., who had received a direct hit and crashed in a ball of fire. Bruce says it was then that he believed his son had a past life in which he was this same 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. Now she believes it as well. In all there are over 50 distinct memories that have been validated i n this exceptional case of reincrnation.
"The child was so convincing in coming up with all the things that there is no way on the world he could know."
The story of James Leininger is the best American case of a child’s past life memory among the thousands I’ve encountered. It’s extraordinary because little James remembers names and places from his past life that can be traced to real people and actual events—facts that can easily be verified. He was even reunited with people who knew him in his former life as a World War II pilot.
I believe this is the story that finally will open the minds of skeptical Westerners to the reality of children’s past life memories. This book demonstrates how these memories can have profound emotional and spiritual benefits for both the child and family.
In some ways, James’s story is not unusual. Many children all over the world have past life memories. It’s a natural phenomenon. I know this because I began collecting and researching these cases more than twenty years ago after my own two children had their own vivid past life memories. My son remembered dying on a Civil War battlefield; my daughter remembered dying as a child in a house fire. I was astonished when I observed that just by talking about their memories they were both cured of phobias stemming from their past life deaths.
Surely, I concluded, this had happened to other families, too. But when I searched through books to understand the healing effects of children’s past life memories, only books about adults being helped through past life regression therapy. I decided to fill in the gap and wrote Children’s Past Lives as a guidebook for parents who encounter such memories in their own children.
After its publication in 1997 and the launch of my Web site, www.ReincarnationForum.com, I received thousands of e-mails from parents whose young children had had or were having spontaneous past life memories. With so many cases, I began to see recurring patterns in the phenomenon. Some children begin to speak of these memories as soon as they can talk – some still in diapers! They surprise their parents with comments such as “When I was big before,” or “When I died before.” Or they exhibit unusual behaviors: phobias, nightmares, unlearned talents and perplexing abilities, or uncanny insight into adult affairs they couldn’t possibly know about in their only two or three years of life. Some memories manifest as strong emotions, such as profound sadness as they recount lonely deaths on battlefields, fond memories of a particular horse, or longing for their other families, their wives, husbands, their own children.
The cases that came to me were rich in drama, full of amazement and compelling emotions. But one thing was lacking: facts that could be verified, that offered objective proof that the memories were real. My children – and none of the other children whose memories I investigated – could remember their former names, or where they had lived, or any other hard facts that could be validated. That’s why this compelling story of James Leininger is so unusual.
But it is not unique. There is a large body of such verified cases in young children in non-Western cultures. Dr. Ian Stevenson, former head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia Medical School, researched early 1960s. By his death in 2007, he had rigorously investigated and meticulously documented nearly 3,000 cases, mostly in Asia. Some 700 of these young children, usually under five, had such vivid past life recall that they remembered their former names, where they had lived, the names of relatives, and very specific yet mundane details of their former lives, details that Dr. Stevenson proves they couldn’t have known. Dr. Stevenson matched each child’s statements, behaviors, personality quirks, and even physical attributes (he wrote an entire work on birthmarks and birth defects relating to past lives) to the facts of the actual person the child remembered being. The similarities go far beyond mere chance or coincidence.
But the great majority of his cases are from cultures in which reincarnation is a dominant belief: India, Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Lebanon, and West Africa. This makes it easier for skeptics to dismiss his findings, no matter how rigorous his proof, because these cultures already believe in reincarnation. I knew it would take a highly detailed and verifiable case from a Judeo-Christian family to open Western minds to this reality. But neither Dr. Stevenson, his international colleagues, or I had ever found any American or European cases as richly detailed as the Asian cases. This was puzzling, and more than a little frustrating.
Then in 2001, I got an e-mail from Andrea Leininger. At first glance, it was like many others. Her son, James, suffered from severe, recurring nightmares of his plane crashing. The twoyear-old was also obsessed with airplanes and seemed to have an uncanny knowledge of World War II planes. As I read her e-mail, I noticed facts that fit a pattern I had often seen: nightmares of events a child couldn’t possibly have experienced in his two or three short years of life, and an interest or an obsession relating to the content of his nightmare.
We exchanged e-mails, and I was impressed with down-to-earth, educated people who were wrestling to understand what was happening to their precious toddler. They were desperate for a way to help ease the terrifying nightmares that were disrupting all their lives. I was particularly intrigued by James’s extensive knowledge of airplanes, facts that even his parents didn’t know.
I told the Leiningers that James was remembering a past life death, and I reiterated the techniques in my books: acknowledge what James was going through as a literal experience and assure him that he is now safe, that the scary experience is over. Other parents had found these techniques worked to allay their children’s fears and to let go of memories of a traumatic past life death. Andrea understood. She intuitively knew what was happening with James: that he was suffering from actual memories of his plane crashing. I reassured her that she
was capable of helping her son.
I didn’t hear from Andrea after that, and I assumed it meant that my advice had helped and that James was better. Then, about a year later, a producer from ABC contacted me about doing a segment on children’s past lives. I scanned all my e-mails and pulled out a few promising cases, including the Leiningers’. I found myself wondering what had happened with James.
I called Andrea to get an update. She was happy to report that she had followed my method and that James’s nightmares had all but stopped. Great news!
But there was more. Although the nightmares had subsided, and James’s fears about his crashing in a plane had dissipated, he continued to amaze them with new details about his life as a fighter pilot. He remembered the type of plane he flew, the name of his aircraft carrier, and the name of one of his pilot friends. I was excited that this case was still progressing and I strongly hoped that the Leiningers would share their story on TV. Andrea was open to the idea, but she had to me was, “You have to understand, I’m a Christian.” I felt I had hit a wall. I thought I’d have to find another case for TV. But then he surprised me when he added, “But I can’t explain what’s happening with my son.” We talked more and I sensed an opening. Clearly, he was struggling to keep his Christian beliefs intact as he tried to understand what was happening to James, and he desperately needed to explain it in some way other than reincarnation. I understood how shocking this was for him, and I offered my reassurance that this was all “normal.”
The TV show was a great success; the story was presented clearly and fairly. We were all pleased. Over the next few years, we exchanged dozens of e-mails. Andrea sent me photos of James and his many drawings of planes being shot down. We spent hours on the phone talking excitedly about James’s latest revelations and amazing coincidences, one after another, all of which led them farther and farther down the rabbit hole.
For Andrea and me, each new revelation was a confirmation of what we already knew: that James was remembering an actual past life. But Bruce continued to struggle. Each revelation added to his conflict. So this book is about Bruce as much as about James. He was torn between his deep Christian belief “that we live only once, we die, and then go to heaven,” and what he was witnessing in his own son. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t explain away what he was seeing.
Bruce’s drive to disprove James’s past life memories adds great weight to this fascinating story. We see how hard he works to find a “rational” explanation. We watch as he tracks down leads with the dogged perseverance of a detective, not satisfied with anything less than hard facts. And the body of evidence that he and Andrea amass, through their diligent research, is the main reason their story is so extraordinary.
Soul Survivor is special in other ways as well. We are witness to something miraculous in the way young James touched the hearts of so many. His present family, the family of his previous life, and the surviving veterans who fought beside him in his former life were all deeply affected by James. What came so naturally to this little boy shook the deep-seated beliefs of those around him. His story reveals a new perspective on life and death for anyone who sees that this was not just a child’s imaginings, but something achingly real.
Carol Bowman Author of Children’s Past Lives and Return from Heaven
The Reincarnation of a WWII Fighter Pilot...or is it?
"I was prepared to admit that my son, James, was living a past life. Whatever the hell that meant." – Bruce Leininger
The story of young James Leininger, as set forth in the 2009 book Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot, offers a very convincing case for the survival of consciousness at death. Whether it is strong evidence for reincarnation is another issue.
The story begins with James, only two years old, having nightmares in which he kicks and claws at the covers and yells "Airplane crash! Plane on Fire! Little man can't get out." During the day, James became fascinated with toy airplanes and often crashed them into the coffee table.
According to Bruce and Andrea Leininger, the parents, James was just learning to speak in complex sentences, but when screaming and thrashing around during the frequent nightmares, his words were much more "rich in detail, so plausibly offered, so unchildlike in their desperation." When his parents questioned him about the identity of the "little man," he replied that it was "me." When asked for a name, he replied "James," but was unable to give a surname. He told them that his plane was shot down by the Japanese and crashed. Since James was his name, the parents assumed he was confused. However, as the nightmares kept on several times a week, the parents continued the questioning.
James continued to stymie his parents with detailed information, including the name of the aircraft carrier he was assigned to (Natoma Bay), the type of plane he flew (Corsair), the first names of three fellow pilots (Billy, Leon, and Walter) who, he said, welcomed him to "heaven" after he was shot down, and the full name of Jack Larsen, another fellow pilot. He also identified the Japanese fighter planes by the red sun on the fuselage and told his parents that Japanese planes were called either Zekes (fighter planes) or Bettys (bombers). When settling into his car seat, James often mimicked the motions of settling into a cockpit and pulling down his headset.
At age 3, James would draw pictures of planes with flak all around them and would sign the drawings "James 3."
While relatives suggested that perhaps James was seeing into a past life, Bruce Leininger, a vice-president for an oil company, resisted the explanation as it threatened his Christian beliefs. Andrea, though a life-long Christian, was more open-minded and accepted the reincarnation hypothesis. Beginning with the history of the Natoma Bay, Bruce began a 2-3 year investigation that involved attending reunions of the old sailors who served on the carrier as well as digging into records of the pilots who were killed while serving on the Natoma Bay. He narrowed his search down to James Huston, Jr., who was shot down near the island of Chichi-Jima on March 3, 1945, and also discovered that Leon Conner, Walter Devlin, and Billie Peeler were pilots on the Natoma Bay and were all killed a few months before James Huston. He further found that Jack Larsen was still alive and part of Huston's flight squadron.
James also referred to "slot pilot" and "drop tank" and said that a five-inch cannon was located on the fantail of the Natoma Bay, verified as fact.
After Bruce tracked down James Huston's sister, Anne Barron, James, then age 5, spoke to her on the phone and called her "Annie." Annie later informed the Leiningers that only her dead brother had called her by that name. James also said that he had another sister, Ruth, which he pronounced "Roof," which was confirmed by Anne Barron as fact. In talking with his "sister," James also brought up their father's alcoholism and discussed other "family secrets." The fact that James Huston was a "Jr." was seen as an explanation for the "James 3" signature on the drawings.
One day, while they were outside their home, James told Bruce that he picked him because he knew he would be a "good daddy." When Bruce requested clarification, James said that he found his mother and father in Hawaii at the "big pink hotel." In fact, Bruce and Andrea had celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in 1997 at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, which was painted pink. That was five weeks before Andrea got pregnant with James.
Around the same time, while watching a History Channel program about Corsairs, James corrected the narrator by pointing out that the Japanese plane seen being shot down was a Tony, not a Zero. When the parents asked for an explanation, James explained that the Tony was a Japanese fighter that was smaller than a Zero. something also confirmed by Bruce as fact.
When the Leininger family appeared on the Larry King Live TV show on December 22, Michael Shermer, a professional "skeptic," dismissed the story by saying that many boys are interested in planes and so there was nothing unusual in young James' interest. Shermer didn't say much more, but had he been allowed the time he would undoubtedly have said that James subconscious probably absorbed a TV program about World War II and information from that program was surfacing in his dreams and waking consciousness.
In the absence of any TV program about the Natoma Bay with the actual names of pilots named Leon, Walter, Billie, and Jack Larsen, the debunker would likely then question the accuracy and credibility of the reporting, suggesting that a few coincidental "hits" were exaggerated and embellished by the parents once they realized that there was a book to be written. The debunker or closed-minded skeptic will simply laugh it off as anecdotal and not scientific.
Assuming that Bruce and Andrea Leininger are honest and credible observers and reporters, the open-minded person cannot help be impressed by the evidence they have gathered and presented in this book. What are the odds of a young boy, from ages 2 through 5, coming up with so many factual "hits"?
But is it really reincarnation?
"There is reincarnation, but not in the sense in which it is generally expounded," said the eloquent spirit entity calling himself Silver Birch, who communicated through the trance medium Maurice Barbanell during the middle decades of the last century. Silver Birch went on to explain that the individual personality on earth is a small part of the individuality to which he or she belongs. He likened it to a diamond with its many facets, pointing out that the personality on earth is but one facet of the diamond.
"... there are what you call ‘group souls,' a single unity with facets which have spiritual relationships that incarnate at different times, at different places, for the purpose of equipping the larger soul for its work," Silver Birch further explained.
The group-soul concept had earlier been advanced by the discarnate Frederic Myers through the mediumship of Geraldine Cummins. Myers, one of the pioneers of psychical research, purportedly communicated through several credible mediums following his death in 1901. Much of what he had to say through the hand of Cummins is set forth in The Road to Immortality, first published in 1932.
"While I was on earth, I belonged to a group-soul, but its branches and the spirit – which might be compared to the roots – were in the invisible," Myers wrote. "Now, if you would understand psychic evolution, this group-soul must be studied and understood. For instance, it explains many of the difficulties that people will assure you can be removed only by the doctrine of reincarnation. You may think my statement frivolous, but the fact that we do appear on earth to be paying for the sins of another life is, in a certain sense, true. It is our life and yet not our life."
Myers went on to explain that a soul belonging to the group of which he was part lived a previous life and built for him a framework for his own earthly life. The spirit – the bond of the group soul – manifests, he said, many times on earth.
"We are all of us distinct," he continued, "though we are influenced by others of our community on the various planes of being." He further explained that a group soul might contain twenty souls, a hundred souls, or a thousand souls.
"When your Buddhist speaks of the cycle of birth, of man's continual return to earth, he utters but a half-truth," Myers went on. "And often a half-truth is more inaccurate than an entire misstatement. I shall not live again on earth, but a new soul, one who will join our group, will shortly enter into the pattern of karma I have woven for him on earth."
Myers likened the soul to a spectator caught within the spell of some drama outside of its actual life, perceiving all the consequences of acts, moods, and thoughts of a kindred soul. He further pointed out that there are an infinite variety of conditions in the invisible world and that he made no claim to being infallible. He called it a "general rule" based on what he had learned and experienced on the Other Side.
Silver Birch also likened the soul to an iceberg in which one small portion is manifesting and the greater portion not manifesting. He apparently was referring to what others have called the "Higher Self," the "Greater Self," or the "Oversoul."
Trying to explain reincarnation to humans, Silver Birch added, is like trying to explain the color of the sky to someone who has been blind from birth. "You have no standard of comparison," he said. However, he stressed that the individuality of the "facets" within the Group Soul is maintained.
In his 1939 book, Reincarnation for Everyman, writer Shaw Desmond stated that there are two approaches to reincarnation – the "terrestrial" and the "celestial." The former view has the individual returning again and again as the same man, while the latter view has man "solely as spirit and his temporary inhabitancy of the physical body as but a tiny projection of the Greater Self, which is the real man."
When Frederick Bligh Bond, a psychical researcher of the early 1900s, asked a communicating spirit about reincarnation, the spirit replied: "You understand not reincarnation, nor can we explain. What in you reincarnates, do you think? How can you find words? Blind gropers after immutable facts, which are not of your sphere of experience."
Whether or not James Leininger is the reincarnation of James Huston, Jr. may be a matter of semantics and how one defines "reincarnation." One way or the other, the survival of consciousness at death is indicated.