Reincarnated World War II American fighter pilot

Short link to this post:

James Leininger picture

A typical drawing by James Leininger as a young boy

The story of a boy in Louisiana who had memories of being a US Navy fighter pilot in the Second World War is possibly the best documented case of reincarnation in the West.

James Leininger

From the age of 18 months little James Leininger was obsessed with airplanes, especially World War II airplanes. After a while he also began to have nightmares about being shot down and unable to escape his burning cockpit.

Every now and then the boy James would give his confused parents more details. He said that he used to fly a “Corsair” from the deck of a boat called “Natoma”, that he had known a guy on the boat named “Jack Larson”, and that his own name had been, as now, James. He also said that he had been shot down “by the Japanese” over the sea.

The Leininger family: Andrea, Bruce & James

The Leininger family: Andrea, Bruce & James

His down-to-Earth Christian parents, Bruce and Andrea, were absolute non-believers in reincarnation. In fact, James’ father began to do some research into the Second World War just to prove to himself that none of this could be true. However, Bruce was bemused to find that there had been a US Navy carrier called the Natoma Bay which was involved in the battle for Iwo Jima.

USS Natoma Bay (CVE-62)

USS Natoma Bay (CVE-62)


Lt. James M. Huston

Moreover, Bruce found that one of the carrier’s pilots had indeed been called James. And this Lt. James M. Huston had been shot down by the Japanese on the 3rd of March, 1945, his flaming fighter plane hurtling into the Pacific. There is a reference to his grave here at

There was one apparent anomaly. Little James always insisted he had flown a Corsair, the Navy’s premier fighter, but Lt. Huston had been shot down in an FM-2 Wildcat plane. Bruce ordered Huston’s military service records and found out that before joining the VC-81 squadron aboard the Natoma Bay, Huston had been part of VF-301, an elite squadron of pilots put together to figure out how to fly the Corsair from aircraft carriers. Once he completed his service with that squadron, Lt. Huston was moved to VC-81 on Natoma Bay. This was only about 4 months before he was killed.

Lt. James M. Huston

Lt. James M. Huston

Take-off from the Natoma's deck

Take-off from the Natoma's deck

And remember that young James L. spoke of a crew member named “Jack Larson”? Well there was indeed a crew member of that name. And this Jack Larson is still alive today. He remembers the moment when his buddy James died: he had been in formation next to Huston when the latter was shot down.

Both Larson and Huston’s elderly sister have met little James Leininger and both are convinced that he is indeed Lt. Huston reborn.


Friends reunited: James with Jack Larson

Spot the similarity

To me as a believer in reincarnation, it seems entirely plausible, even likely, that young James was indeed the pilot James Huston in his former life.

There is, in fact, a clear resemblance between the two. …Though I am struck by the fact that this hasn’t been explicitly picked up in the various programmes and articles I’ve seen. So here, perhaps for the first time, are some direct facial comparisons—and I think you will agree the results are pretty startling:

Young James Huston (left) and young James Leininger (right)

Young James Huston (left) and young James Leininger (right)

James Leininger (L) and James Huston (R)

James Leininger (L) and James Huston (R)

James Leininger (L) and James Huston (R)

James Leininger (L) and James Huston (R)

James Huston and James Leininger

James Huston and James Leininger

James Huston and James Leininger

James Huston and James Leininger


Another thing I am struck by is the attempt by some to make sense of all this by assuming that James the pilot must have returned for a special reason. Perhaps, for example, to make sure that the Natoma Bay and its crew’s sacrifices are not forgotten. As often happens with Western cases of reincarnation, people imagine that this is a special case and struggle to fathom its purpose, not knowing that reincarnation is simply the norm. I suppose if it’s a leap for most Westerners to accept a single case of reincarnation, it’s an even greater leap to accept that we are all reincarnating the whole time.

Further Information

Soul Survivor

The incredible story of the Leininger family has been written up in the book Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot. The book was co-written by a professional writer, Ken Gross. Interestingly, Ken Gross is a dyed-in-the-wool non-believer, but he admits that the story he has told remains inexplicable to him. He has written of his experience on this project in the article Confessions of a Skeptic

As I say, I don’t believe in reincarnation. I hardly believe in carnation. I am a secular, rationalist skeptic. But I have no reasonable explanation for James Leininger/Huston.

- Ken Gross

See also The Soul Survivor Blog:


The Leiningers briefly tell their own story in this video:

This video from Fox 8 News is even more informative, convincing and moving. It includes film of James Leininger (now eleven) visiting the scene of Huston’s traumatic death, an event which proves to be a cathartic experience.

There are also some earlier TV features to be found on YouTube. Here is one (in 4 parts):

See also

For those with an interest in the lnks between astology and reincarnation, this analysis of the charts of the two Jameses by Walden Welch is pretty mind-boggling. To quote:

Shivers ran up my spine. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. The child was born with his Sun in Aries and his Moon fell in Libra; exactly opposite positions of Huston’s. Even more startling was the fact that both individuals’ Sun and Moon positions were in each other’s exact mathematical degrees.

20 Responses to “Reincarnated World War II American fighter pilot”

  1. 1 Lisa 21 Jun 2014 at 3:55 am

    My Dad, Frank Woolard was on the Natoma Bay. He was a great man, I miss him . I wish he had had a chance to Speak with James … God Bless !

  2. 2 Lena 22 Jul 2014 at 8:51 pm

    I have seen it on YouTube its a amazing story!

  1. 1 Michael Jackson – the Reincarnation of Mozart? « Personality & Spirituality Trackback on 15 Aug 2009 at 3:49 pm

Leave a question or comment - I will respond ... eventually ...

Enlightenment Intensives

If you have ever wanted to experience for yourself a moment of genuine spiritual awakening, or if you simply want to know who you truly are, then an Enlightenment Intensive could be for you. Highly recommended.

In the USA, see:

In the UK:

Or to find out more, see my articles here:

Recommended book

Spiritual Turning Points

A Metaphysical Perspective of the Seven Life Transitions

Amazon link


Victoria Marina-Tompkins


Xlibris, Corp. (January 25, 2011)

A groundbreaking look at the Seven Life Transitions --

  • Birth
  • the Terrible Twos
  • Adolescence
  • Mid-life Crisis
  • Life Review
  • Dying
  • Death

-- through the lens of the Michael Teachings, Shamanism and Astrology.

Order from Amazon:

Spiritual Turning Points



You can email me here.