Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot

Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter PilotBy Bruce and Andrea Leininger, with Ken Gross.
Grand Central Publishing, New York, 2009 Click to Buy this book!

During the Second World War, unprecedented, incomprehensible numbers of victims died tragically and violently, with untold deaths occurring among children and youth. In the 2000 book Crimes Against Humanity, the British barrister and author Geoffrey Robinson gave the estimated number of deaths in the twentieth century as 160 million, the result of wrong or outdated forms of government and the subsequent wars, famines, imprisonments, diseases, genocides, and slayings. In light of the spiritual teachings regarding the laws of karma and reincarnation that were included in the evolutionary advance of Christianity at the beginning of the twentieth century, through countless individuals and avenues, and most notably within Anthroposophy or Spiritual Science, great numbers of souls who died between 1933 and 1945 might be expected to quickly re-appear in our time, many expressing unusual abilities and talents in the first seven years of life, the years of the rapid development of the physical body. Unusual children who seem to have healing capacities have become evident to the public due to the mediums of television, the internet, book and magazine publishing, etc. Even in this regard, the story of James Leininger is outstanding. Were it not for advances in computer science and the rapid expansion of the internet, this story probably could not have been written and published as early as 2009, for James’s parents, Bruce and Andrea Leininger, utilized twenty-first century resources to locate and contact individuals and organizations who were eventually able to confirm as fact the past-life memories of their son. Soul Survivor is not only about their son, it is also the story of their long, difficult sojourn toward higher truths, particularly Bruce Leininger’s gradual acceptance of belief in reincarnation, while still mingled with some skepticism, as compatible with his Evangelical Christian beliefs.

Soul Survivor was written and published as a commercial enterprise with the assistance of Ken Gross, a professional novelist and nonfiction writer from Brooklyn, New York. The decision to take James’s story along a commercial path, including appearances on television talk-shows, has made this important case for the reality of reincarnation well-known. This path also seems to have involved factors of destiny, as Bruce Leininger had worked both as a human resources executive for various corporations and as a consultant, and Andrea had been a professional ballet dancer. At first, prior to the taping for an ABC Primetime presentation in 2003, the couple wanted no reference to the family name or to the town where they lived. However, they were persuaded to change their minds, and as Ken Gross writes: “That is how it works in television, the salesmanship is sophisticated and builds on small steps of trust.” Unfortunately, most contemporary American nonfiction writing of this nature tends to be highly personal, almost to the point of being offensive. (Bruce wrote on a 2009 blog, “… this book has moved our lives into a fishbowl.”) But overall Soul Survivor is very well-written, holds the reader’s attention, and may become a classic in the literature of reincarnation, especially if the enormous number of reviews, articles and blogs online about it are any indication, from Buddhists, Edgar Cayce devotees, down-home folks, and, unfortunately, careless writers (one had a very important fact wrong — for the record, James Huston was killed while flying a Wildcat, not a Corsair), as well as the epitome of bad taste: a person claiming to know the past lives of Bruce, Andrea and James — Scottish royalty — “according to the akashic records.”   

James’s nightmares and “bloodcurdling” screams began three weeks past his second birthday, at midnight on Monday, May 1, 2000. During these nightmares that began to recur four or five times a week, he would fling his head back and forth and scream: “Airplane crash! Plane on fire! Little man can’t get out!” James was born on April 10, 1998 (Good Friday). By the age of three, the age of the emergence of the ego (“I am”), James began to give his parents detailed information about his past life, but only when he was especially receptive to such thoughts and memories, otherwise they wisely avoided broaching the emotionally difficult subject. After many difficult and unexpected twists and turns on the long research road, James was discovered to be the reincarnation of James M. Huston, Jr., lieutenant junior grade, a fighter pilot who was killed in Japan on March 3, 1945, during a battle at Chichi-Jima, in the harbor of Futami Ko. He was 24 or 25 years old at the time of his death (his age at death was determined by the age of his sister, Anne Barron, who was 86 years old in 2004; she stated that her brother had been four years younger than she was). James Leininger had actually named the ship to which Huston’s squadron had been attached, the Natoma. His parents at first thought that Natoma was a Japanese name, but it turned out to be an actual American escort carrier that had served in the Pacific War: the U.S.S. Natoma Bay, CVE-62. Bruce, who eventually befriended many of the WWII veterans, began to attend the yearly Natoma Bay reunions, held around September 11th, feeling a bit guilty for telling the veterans that he was planning to write a history book instead of seeking to verify his two-year-old son’s past-life memories. As it turns out, when Bruce revealed the truth, the veterans accepted five-year-old James as the reincarnation of their long-lost friend, Jim, as had Jim’s sister, Anne Barron. And James began to find closure for his shell shock, anguish and grief.

It would seem that James Leininger’s great challenge as he gets older will be to overcome the spectacular events of the first seven years of his life, to lead a normal life, yet with hopes of advancing  his soul and spirit in a way that may not have been possible for James Huston, had Huston survived the war. One good sign for his future was revealed in July, 2006, when the family appeared on Good Morning America: “James had unequivocally laid out his opposition to public discussion of his dreams.” As the late Ian Stevenson, and Carol Bowman (author of Children’s Past Lives) discovered, it is most frequently children who remember past lives. This is because, from the spiritual scientific perspective, these memories are held within what is referred to as the “akasha body,” a spiritual body that is located, while still generally unrealized, throughout the entire physical body. And, as noted above, the physical body develops rapidly, even miraculously, in the first seven years of life.

It seems fitting to conclude this review with the poem that Bruce Leininger wrote (on page 192), reflecting the healing relationships that developed between him and the Natoma Bay CVE-62 veterans, as well as with many of the war dead now familiar to Bruce and Andrea from details they acquired about them, and from their military photographs — pictures of healthy, vibrant, young men:

Knights of the Air and Water

Knights who never saw the last sunrise.
Who await you in the last call to GQ or TWO BLOCK FOX.
It is truly all for one and one for all.
God, give this day to the bread of fellowship of
these men as a crew.
To each loved one left behind, may Your Spirit
of eternal love embrace them.

Review by Martha Keltz

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Recommended, after obtaining some familiarity with the “Basic Books” of Rudolf Steiner: Life Between Death and Rebirth: The Active Connection Between the Living and the Dead, especially Lecture XII, March 10, 1913.


  1. May 16th, 2012 at 08:27
    Quote | #1

    The continuity of conscience will be gradually the part of human content, when the equipment is capable to analyse, handle the progress of the past lives and when the astral plane is just a reflector of the mental visions and is controlled.
    At the moment we have too many harmful options in our astral content, to work creatively with our Karma.
    But the release of subjective into the management of the objective mind and will is the way to future liberation.
    To be part of conscience of our planetary Logos, as a member of spiritual group, means that the astral plane life will be creatively used.

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