What Is It?
Fighter Planes and Irish Brogues: What Reincarnation Means
"The soul comes from without into the human body, as into a temporary abode, and it goes out of it anew it passes into other habitations, for the soul is immortal." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Curious Case of James Leininger
James Huston was a World War II navy fighter pilot of the Natoma Bay aircraft carrier. On March 3rd, 1945, he fell to his death after the propeller of his plane was blown off during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
James Leininger was born over forty years later on April 10th, 1998. He developed a fascination with airplanes at an early age as many boys do, but his parents, Bruce and Andrea Leininger, noticed that he was far more knowledgable about World War II technology than the average two-year-old. Despite a relative lack of exposure to World War II history, he knew obscure terminology on the subject, as was evident when he corrected his mother’s referral to a drop tank on a toy plane as a bomb, and when he corrected a narrator on the History Channel regarding the names of different Japanese planes. He knew that Corsair planes veered to the left during takeoff, and that Japanese fighter planes were given boys’ names while bomber planes were given girls’ names.
Around the same time, James began having a recurring nightmare in which he was unable to get out of a burning plane. He would wake up several nights a week screaming, “Airplane crash! Plane on fire! Little man can’t get out!” When prompted by his parents, he said that the
￼“little man” was him and that he’d been shot down by the Japanese over Iwo Jima. The boat his plane had taken off from was the called the Natoma.
It was Andrea Leininger’s mother who suggested that the nightmares combined with James’s unnatural knowledge on airplanes suggested a past life. As a Catholic who, if anything, opposed the idea of reincarnation, Bruce Leininger was deeply skeptical. Nevertheless, he began to look further into his son’s claims. He found that Natoma Bay had indeed been an aircraft carrier during the Battle of Iwo Jima and that its crew still held periodic reunions. He attended one of these reunions in 2002 and learned that James Huston was the only pilot killed in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Billie Peeler, Leon Connor, and Walter Devlin were Natoma Bay pilots who died prior to Huston, and their hair colors corresponded eerily to those of James Leininger’s GI Joe action figures, which also happened to be named Billie, Leon, and Walter. James told his father that it was these three who had greeted him when he got to heaven.
Over the several-year period during which James Leininger’s memories of his supposed past life were strongest - apparently, they faded somewhat as he grew older - he had a number of encounters with acquaintances of James Huston. At a Natoma Bay memorial inauguration, he was able to recognize and name Bob Greenwald, a fellow pilot, by his voice. Additionally, during a phone call with Anne Huston -...