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Lions Roar : May 2018
N MARCH 3, 1945, James Huston, a twenty- one-year-old U.S. Navy pilot, flew his final flight. He took off from the USS Natoma Bay, an aircraft carrier engaged in the battle of Iwo Jima. Huston was flying with a squadron of eight pilots, including his friend Jack Larsen, to strike a nearby Japa- nese transport vessel. Huston’s plane was shot in the nose and crashed in the ocean. Fifty-three years later, in April of 1998, a couple from Louisiana named Bruce and Andrea Leninger gave birth to a boy. They named him James. When he was twenty-two months old, James and his father visited a flight museum, and James discovered a fascination with planes—especially World War II aircraft, which he would stare at in awe. James got a video about a Navy flight squad, which he watched repeatedly for weeks. Within two months, James started saying the phrase, “Airplane crash on fire,” including when he saw his father off on trips at the airport. He would slam his toy planes nose-first into the coffee table, ruining the surface with dozens of scratches. James started having nightmares, first with screaming, and then with words like, “Airplane crash on fire! Little man can’t get out!”, while thrashing and kicking his legs. Eventually, James talked to his parents about the crash. James said, “Before I was born, I was a pilot and my air- As a toddler, James Leninger was fascinated with airplanes and knew obscure details about WWII aircraft. Do You Only Live Once? What happens after you die? That used to be just a religious question, but science is starting to weigh in. SAM LITTLEFAIR looks at the evidence that you’ve lived before. plane got shot in the engine, and it crashed in the water, and that’s how I died.” James said that he flew off of a boat and his plane was shot by the Japanese. When his parents asked the name of the boat, he said “Natoma.” When his parents asked James who “little man” was, he would say “James” or “me.” When his parents asked if he could remember anyone else, he offered the name “Jack Larsen.” When James was two and a half, he saw a photo of Iwo Jima in a book, and said “My plane got shot down there, Daddy.” LION’S ROAR | MAY 2018 43