Tom Oxendine was the first American Indian Navy pilot. As a navy pilot, Oxendine took part in 33 battles during WW II. On July 26, 1944, he defied radio communications and landed his seaplane under Japanese gunfire and in adverse weather to rescue a downed airman. For this, Oxendine received the Distinguished Flying Cross. He served in the jet age as a fighter pilot and flight instructor in the Korean and Vietnamese wars.