Revised and updated on 3 February 2018 | Polk City and Auburndale, Florida, USA. Native Americans gather annually at the “Spirit of the Buffalo Pow Wow” in Auburndale, Fla. Although “she” does not attend the periodic festivities, Apache Princess will never be far away because the North American B-25J “Mitchell” medium bomber has settled in the land of Florida tribes. Fantasy of Flight in Polk City is now her home.
Apache Princess’ surroundings contain an underlying legacy of the Seminole peoples who once populated the area. In fact, she is celebrating the 70 years of her existence not far from the site of legendary Chief Cufcowellax’s battle with a predatory alligator that was menacing his tribe. Also, a few miles distant is where, in 1840, Chief “Wild Cat” peaceably surrendered to the U.S. Army and agreed to relocate his Seminoles to the Indian Territory out West. Furthermore, Florida-born singer-songwriter John Anderson’s haunting 1992 hit song Seminole Wind is often on the local Country radio station’s playlist.
Having been “born” at a North American Aviation factory in 1943, Apache Princess has aged well. The aeroplane is as resplendent in advanced age as in her youth. Elyse Umemoto, Miss Washington 2007 and a member of the Yakama tribe, was the first woman of Native American heritage to hold the title. Yet, in the eyes of aviation aficionados the elder Apache Princess remains a beauty queen of a different sort. Specifically, the iconic plane represents such memorable missions as the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Japan.
The nose art “Apache Princess” is not only reportedly a tribute to the owner’s wife, but she also seems to fittingly serve as an appropriate symbol for one Native American Second World War Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) by the name of Ola Mildred Rexroat. Ola was one of a number of Native American military pilots, and more than 30 were awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross.
The late Ola (referred to as “Sexy Rexy” by peers and admirers) was an Oglala Sioux from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. After completing high school, Ola pursued a bachelor’s degree in art at the University of New Mexico and graduated in 1939. During WWII she joined the WASPs and towed targets for aerial gunnery practice, a duty that notably entailed a degree of danger. Ola was the only Native American WASP. Fellow WASP’s ferried bombers, including Mitchells, and many other types during the Second World War. Ms. Rexroat joined the U.S. Air Force after the conflict and served as an air traffic controller.
Although Apache Princess will never attend the cultural celebrations in Auburndale, she will not be alone at Fantasy of Flight. In addition to the always present Great Spirit (supreme being), an immaculate Bell 47G helicopter in military H-13 “Sioux” livery and a Curtiss TP-40N “Warhawk” fighter trainer keep her company.
Fantasy of Flight is at 1400 Broadway Boulevard Southeast in Polk City, Fla. The attraction’s telephone number is (863) 984-3500.
Notably, the “Spirit of the Buffalo Pow Wow” takes place over the course of one or two weekends each January. The International Market World Auburndale Flea Market‘s display and ceremonial grounds are at 1052 U.S. Highway 92 West in Auburndale, Fla.
For more information about the Pow Wow, one may telephone (863) 665-0062.
The author (John T. Stemple) dedicates this article to his Native American and Canadian First Nations ancestors.
Sources and Suggested Readings
Native Americans and World War II
Native Women’s Group Honors WWII Lakota Pilot
Ola Mildred Rexroat
Women Airforce Service Pilots
WWII WASP with Pine Ridge roots: “A Long the Way”