|The Rose Files
True Scary Stories from Life
| The Boy From Iwo Jima
~ Rose Titus ~
Little James Leininger was always fascinated with airplanes, just like a lot of little kids… But the odd
thing was, he was especially fascinated with World War Two fighter planes, and with World War Two in
general! And even more odd, his parents never told him anything about World War Two – he seemed to
already know a lot about it on his own, as if he had been through it himself!
When James was taken to a flight museum, while just under two years old, he kept on wanting to return
to the display of World War Two fighter planes. And while he played with his toy airplanes, he would often
crash the toy planes into his parents’ coffee table repeating, “Airplane crash!” and “On fire!”
And then the little boy’s nightmares began…!
His mother would find him in bed, thrashing about, yelling, “Airplane crash! On fire,” and “Can’t get
out!” He had these horrible dreams several times a week. His father dismissed these bad dreams and
simple childhood fears, but then the child began to talk about his “airplane crash” while awake.
And so finally his father asked, what happened to the plane?
The boy said, “It crashed on fire.”
Because it “got shot.”
Who shot the plane?
The two year old boy simply answered, “The Japanese!”
He even started to say things like, “Mama, before I was born, I was a pilot, and my airplane got shot in
the engine and it crashed in the water, and that’s how I died.” He also continually drew pictures, the way
little kids often do – but these were pictures of planes on fire, pictures of planes crashing, while at war with
When asked how did he know it was the Japanese that shot down his plane, he said because he saw
“the big red sun” on the enemy fighter craft.
And yes – he loved planes - even though he had constant bad dreams about a plane crash. Once
when his mother bought him a toy fighter plane, she remarked that the toy plane even came with a little toy
bomb. But the kid said, “That’s not a bomb, Mommy. That’s a drop tank.” He was so little he pronounced
it “dwop tank.”
One does wonder, how would a little two year old child have any knowledge, at all, about World War
Two, or the Japanese? Or that their fighter planes had the symbol of a “big red sun” on their wings? How
would a little kid know what a “drop tank” was? Heck, a lot of adults don’t know what a drop tank is! (For
those who do not know, a drop tank is an extra gas tank that extended the fighter plane’s range.) For a
little kid, he had amazing knowledge of World War Two, and the types of aircraft used during that dark
time in history. Even his parents wondered, when he made the statement about the “drop tank” -- How
would he know that?
And once while playing alone, his mother saw him stand at attention and salute, and say, “I salute you
and I’ll never forget.” He even played at having “dog fights” against the Japanese, “Roger… Zero at six o’
clock… !” While at an air show at age three, he stated that when he grew up, he wanted to be “an F-18
Super Hornet pilot…!”
Pretty heavy stuff for a three year old.
The boy said that he had piloted a Corsair (before he died!), which in fact was a type of plane from
that time period. Little James said he flew his plane from “a boat.” And so his dad asked, What was the
name of the boat? “Natoma.” The name sounded Japanese, but then James said the Natoma was an
American ship. His father looked online, and found the name of an American ship that was stationed in
the Pacific during World War Two – The Natoma Bay!
His mom and dad asked if there were other people in his dreams, and James mentioned the name
Jack Larsen, and said he was a friend who was also a pilot… Dad did more online searches: a Jack
Larsen did serve on the Natoma Bay.
And like a lot of little boys, James had GI Joe toys – he had three of them. Instead of calling them
“Joe,” he named his GI Joe toys Billie, Leon, and Walter. These are odd names for a child to give to his
toys, and so his parents asked why he gave them those names. Because Billie, Leon, and Walter were
the names of people that he met when he got to Heaven! Several men who served on the Natoma Bay
were killed in action – and research revealed that three of them were named Billie Peeler, Leon Conner,
and Walter Devlin!
Dad then got a book named The Battle for Iwo Jima 1945, intending to give it to his own father for
Christmas. While flipping through pages with little James looking on, there was a map of Iwo Jima.
“That’s where my plane was shot down.”
This was not normal, average little kid stuff!
His parents were desperately searching for answers…!
They began to do more and more research, searching military records, and looking up the names of
men who served and died while on the ship the Natoma Bay during the battle of Iwo Jima. Dad focused
on searching military records, while Mom read up on reincarnation. Their home filled up with books, and
more books, and charts, and maps, and lists of men killed during the battle in the Pacific.
Another book that was read by his parents, besides the military books and records, was Children’s
Past Lives: How Past Life Memories Affect Your Child, by Carol Bowman, an expert in reincarnation
research (Ms. Bowman claimed her own son had memories from the Civil War). Finally James’ mother
sent Ms. Bowman an email about their experiences. James’ dad did not like the idea of reincarnation: He
was deeply Christian but also rational, and thought of it as crazy New Age mumbo-jumbo, “Not in my
house. There will be no such thing as a past life. Never!” But finally, with the little kid’s constant bad
dreams and obsession with World War Two fighter planes, dad also began to come around to the idea
that maybe, just maybe, it might be possible.
When Ms. Bowman replied to the email, she informed James’s mother that the little boy’s nightmares
may be due to things he experienced in a previous life, and to tell him that it was over, and that he was
safe now. She said that she had used that technique before with other children she claimed had been
traumatized by disturbing events that occurred during past lives, and that it would be helpful. The
nightmares became less and less when his mother told James that he was home, in his own bed, and that
he was not in an airplane that was on fire and about to crash into the ocean in the Pacific.
His father became more curious about his son’s possible past life, and began to do more research,
including contacting some veterans that served on the Natoma Bay. He found a Natoma Bay Association
online and began to reach out to people who had survived the war. His father one day attended a reunion
of Natoma Bay veterans, but certainly did not tell them that his little boy believed himself to be a deceased
World War Two fighter pilot! He went under the pretense that he was “writing a book” (which he and
James’ mom eventually did!). It was at that time that he discovered that Jack Larsen, a name mentioned
by his son while describing his bad dreams, survived the war, but never attended the reunions: “Some
guys don’t like to remember,” one old veteran said.
James’ dad also learned about a brave fighter pilot who crashed during the Iwo Jima battle after being
shot down by the Japanese – a pilot named James M. Huston, Jr. (James Leininger always signed his
drawings as done by “James 3” – as if, perhaps the third James). Huston was only twenty-one years old at
the time that he died. (Military records revealed that Billie Peeler, Leon Conner, and Walter Devlin were
all killed in action before James Huston.)
Ken Wavell, a Natoma Bay veteran who knew James Huston, said that, “He was a real good
man…Jim never missed his call. He was the first to volunteer for the mission that day…Anti-aircraft
covered every inch of Futami-ko Harbor that led into Chichi-Jima. But Jim volunteered to go.” Ironically,
this was to be fighter pilot James M. Huston, Jr.’s last mission.
Another old fighter pilot, Bob Greenwalt, recalled, “Jim was a great pilot. And a great friend.”
On March 3rd, 1945, Huston’s plane was hit in the engine and crashed into the ocean and no
wreckage was found. The crash actually occurred at Chichi-Jima, an island near Iwo Jima.
James’ dad began to ask the men at the reunions a multitude of questions about this specific pilot
James Huston who crashed into the ocean after being shot down by the Japanese. Finally, the veterans of
the Natoma Bay asked Mr. Leininger, why all the questions about this one man, James M. Huston, Jr.? So
he finally admitted what all the research was really all about, “Three years ago, my son began to have
He thought he’d get yelled at, or they would think he was crazy, etc. But the old war heroes all began
to reveal some of their own strange “paranormal” experiences that they had in life. One of the men’s wives
said, “We know these things happen.”
Finally, little James (James 3 – the third James!) was brought by his parents to a Natoma Bay
reunion. People saw the child and began to whisper things like, “He looks just like Jimmy!” and “I don’t
know what to think!” Little James saw a man he had never met before (well, maybe not in this lifetime!)
and he said, “You’re Bob Greenwalt!” And finally Jack Larsen made it to a reunion, and James got to
meet his “old friend” from the war.
Later on his mother noticed that James looked sad, and she asked him what was wrong? He said, “I’
m sad that everyone is so old.”
But the old warriors were not the only people who remembered James Huston.
James Leininger’s mom was able to find a sister of James Huston – still alive! Anne Barron was at
this time eighty six years old, and James’ mother had been communicating with her, saying they were
doing “research” about the men of the Natoma Bay. As there was going to be a feature about James
being a possibly “reincarnated World War Two fighter pilot” on ABC Primetime, Mrs. Leininger needed to
finally confess to Mrs. Barron what the research was really all about so that the elderly lady would not turn
on the television and suddenly have a stroke. James’ father got Anne on the telephone and explained,
“…When James was two years old, he started having these nightmares about being a pilot …”
Eventually James spoke to his “sister” on the phone, he called her “Annie,” and she said that only “her
dead brother” had called her Annie. While on the telephone, James recalled to his sister (James Huston’s
sister!) how “their father” (James’ and Anne’s father!) drank so much that he landed in a “sanitarium” (what
we today politely call a “rehab”) – this, and other details, indeed turned out to be accurate…!
Finally one day James and his parents decided it was time to let go of the past. The family travelled
far out to the Pacific and went to the area where James M. Huston, Jr.’s fighter plane went down into the
James Leininger took a bouquet of flowers and tossed the flowers into the ocean, his eyes wet with
tears, “Good-bye, James M. Huston. I’ll never forget you.”
He saluted. And then he cried. And the past life of the World War Two fighter pilot James M. Huston
was finally at rest.
If you want to know more, check out these resources:
1. Tucker, Jim, MD, Return to Life, St. Martin’s Press, 2013.
2. Video: ABC Primetime – “Reincarnation – Amazing Past Life Evidence – The James
Leininger Case” (on YouTube).
3. Leininger, Bruce and Andrea, with Ken Gross, Foreword by Carol Bowman, Soul Survivor,
Grand Central, New York, 2009.
4. Numerous other articles and videos about this subject are found online, but were not used for
this article – however they are available to read or watch online.
The book by Mr. and Mrs. Leininger is dedicated to the men who died while serving on the Natoma
Bay. We salute you. And we will never forget.