Six decades ago, a 21-year-old Navy fighter pilot on a mission over the Pacific was shot down by Japanese artillery. His name might have been forgotten, were it not for 6-year-old James Leininger.
Quite a few people — including those who knew the fighter pilot — think James is the pilot, reincarnated.
James' parents, Andrea and Bruce, a highly educated, modern couple, say they are "probably the people least likely to have a scenario like this pop up in their lives."
But over time, they have become convinced their little son has had a former life.
From an early age, James would play with nothing else but planes, his parents say. But when he was 2, they said the planes their son loved began to give him regular nightmares.
"I'd wake him up and he'd be screaming," Andrea told "Primetime Live" co-anchor Chris Cuomo. She said when she asked her son what he was dreaming about, he would say, "Airplane crash on fire, little man can't get out."
Andrea says her mom was the first to suggest James was remembering a past life.
At first, Andrea says she was doubtful. James was only watching kids' shows, his parents say, and they weren't watching World War II documentaries or conversing about military history.
But as time went by, Andrea began to wonder what to believe. In one video of James at age 3, he goes over a plane as if he's doing a preflight check.
Another time, Andrea said, she bought him a toy plane, and pointed out what appeared to be a bomb on its underside. She says James corrected her, and told her it was a drop tank. "I'd never heard of a drop tank," she said. "I didn't know what a drop tank was."
Then James' violent nightmares got worse, occurring three and four times a week. Andrea's mother suggested she look into the work of counselor and therapist Carol Bowman, who believes that the dead sometimes can be reborn.
With guidance from Bowman, they began to encourage James to share his memories — and immediately, Andrea says, the nightmares started to become less frequent. James was also becoming more articulate about his apparent past, she said.
Bowman said James was at the age when former lives are most easily recalled. "They haven't had the cultural conditioning, the layering over the experience in this life so the memories can percolate up more easily," she said.
Over time, James' parents say he revealed extraordinary details about the life of a former fighter pilot — mostly at bedtime, when he was drowsy.
They say James told them his plane had been hit by the Japanese and crashed. Andrea says James told his father he flew a Corsair, and then told her, "They used to get flat tires all the time."
In fact, historians and pilots agree that the plane's tires took a lot of punishment on landing. But that's a fact that could easily be found in books or on television.
Andrea says James also told his father the name of the boat he took off from — Natoma — and the name of someone he flew with — Jack Larson.
After some research, Bruce discovered both the Natoma and Jack Larson were real. The Natoma Bay was a small aircraft carrier in the Pacific. And Larson is living in Arkansas.
"It was like, holy mackerel," Bruce said. "You could have poured my brains out of my ears. I just couldn't believe it.
Bruce became obsessed, searching the Internet, combing through military records and interviewing men who served aboard the Natoma Bay.