“Little Man Can’t Get Out!” … the Case of James Leininger

In order to show that the most extraordinary  events can and do happen to typical, perfectly sane people just minding their own business, try and put yourself in the shoes of the couple below who experienced the following:

Bruce and Andrea Leininger are a sensible, down-to-earth, American couple whose son, James Leininger, was born on April 10, 1998 in the San Francisco Bay area. Soon afterwards, they moved to Lafayette, Louisiana where Bruce began at a new, demanding job as a human resources director. Andrea was a former professional ballet dancer who also worked as a ballet teacher and a resume writer (1). At about 2 years of age, James began having screaming nightmares which, understandably, somewhat unsettled his parents. It got worse because he started yelling over and over, “Airplane crash! Plane on fire! Little man can’t get out!” He would often lie on his back, thrusting off the covers as if he was trying to kick his way out of an enclosed box or coffin. Bruce was quite taken aback because he started asking himself how could such specific phrases repeated over and over come out of nowhere? (2).

Soon, Andrea asked James who the little man was when he had his recurring nightmares and he said “Me.”  That answer prompted Bruce to begin the following dialogue with James:
“Son, what happened to your plane?”
James replied, “It crashed on fire.”
“Why did your airplane crash?”
“It got shot.”
“Who shot your plane?”
James then answered with a look of distain, “The Japanese!” (3)

A little later, Andrea’s sister asked the question, “How did you know it was the Japanese who shot your plane down?” James answered, “The big, red sun.” That was the symbol painted on Japanese warplanes during the war. (4)

The little boy became fascinated with airplanes and WW II aircraft.
He stated that he flew a Corsair and that the man in his nightmare was also named James. He also added that his plane took off from a boat named the “Natoma.”

When Andrea began suggesting to Bruce that this might be a case of reincarnation, Bruce flatly denied it because that conflicted with his Christian beliefs. He decided that he would disprove what James was saying so he began doing a little research on some of what James had stated.  When he googled “Natoma,” up popped “Natoma Bay” which turned out to be a United States aircraft carrier that had fought in the Pacific during WW II. Both parents were stunned.

Soon afterwards, when James and his father were looking at a book which contained a picture of Iwo Jima, James pointed to it and said, “Daddy, that’s when my plane was shot down.” Bruce checked to see whether the “Natoma Bay” was at Iwo Jima and, sure enough, it had been. (5)

James would draw incessant pictures of battle scenes which featured planes with propellers and bombs exploding. He would also sign his pictures “James 3.” When he gave his GI Joe dolls the names of Billie, Leon and Walter, Bruce and Andrea wondered why he came up with such unusual designations for the dolls, especially since they never uttered such names nor did they have any friends by those names. When asked about it, James said, “because that’s who met me when I got to heaven.” (6).

By now, Bruce, with a mixture of fear and curiosity, decided to attend something called the “Natoma Bay reunion.” There he learned that a number of aircraft carrier pilots had died while serving in the Pacific. One of their names was James Huston, Jr. Now James signing his name “James 3” made sense i.e. James Sr., James Jr. and little James. Bruce also learned that James Huston was the only pilot killed at Iwo Jima (7). Even more striking, Bruce found out that Billie Peeler, Leon Conner, and Walter Devlin were the names of 3 Natoma Bay pilots who had died before James Huston (8).

James said that he had a friend named Jack Larsen. It turned out that he latter was still alive and when Bruce met him, Larsen did, in fact, indicate that he had a friend named James Huston during the war. From subsequent research, Bruce also found surviving pilots from other units who witnessed James Huston’s plane go down. They confirmed that his plane caught fire and he went down with it. That would explain little James saying, “Airplane Crash! Plane on fire! Little man can’t get out!” Finally, a picture of James Huston was found standing in front of his plane which was a Consair.

There are many other confirming details too numerous to include but one particularly striking one deserves mention. James Huston Jr. had a sister named Anne.  When James and she spoke on the phone, he called her “Annie.” Only her dead brother had called her that.  James also indicated that she had another sister named “Ruth.” That was, indeed, correct. Finally, Anne’s mother was a gifted artist and Anne had sent James a portrait that she had made of James as a child. When he received it, James asked “Where’s the picture of you?” That question took Anne’s breath away because only she and her brother knew that her mother had painted twin portraits of Anne and James with the second portrait of Anne up in her attic. (9).

Leininger, B. and Leininger, A. (2009). Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot. N.Y.: Grand Central Publishing, p. 11.

(1) Tucker, J. Return to Life: Extraordinary Cases of Children Who Remember Past Lives. N.Y: St. Martin’s Press, 2013.
(2) Leininger, B. and Leininger, A. (2009). Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot. N.Y.: Grand Central Publishing, p. 11.
(3) Ibid., p. 56.
(4) Ibid., p. 59.
(5) Ibid., p. 91.
(6) Ibid., p. 157.
(7) Ibid., p. 132.
(8) Ibid., p. 158.
(9) Ibid., p. 236-7.