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HISTORIES & MYSTERIES
Jerrie Mock: When history landed in Bowling Green

The seating in a 1953 Cessna 180 airplane is already cramped, with four seats squeezed into a cabin just 36 inches wide.

The Cessna known as “Three-Eight Charlie,” which garnered international headlines in 1964, had an even tighter cabin because three of the four seats had been removed to make room for extra fuel tanks and the cabin was filled to the brim with survival gear, tools and spare parts.

It was a good thing that the pilot was just 5 feet tall and 100 or so pounds.

And while she may have been diminutive in stature, Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock was an aviation giant.

Mock was flying “Three-Eight Charlie” (the nickname was derived from the plane’s last three identification numbers) in April 1964 east from El Paso, Texas, toward her hometown and final destination, Columbus, Ohio.

Mock knew there would be a large crowd and lots of reporters awaiting her – after all, she was about to accomplish something that had eluded famed aviator Amelia Earhart and others. She was about to become the first woman to fly solo around the world.

But before she could reach Columbus and enter the annals of aviation history, she was concerned about her fuel levels and potentially threatening weather on the horizon.

She decided to make an unplanned stop before making the final push to Columbus. She chose an airport she knew well – what was then known as the City-County Airport on the outskirts of Bowling Green.

Dreams of flight

According to her granddaughter, Rita Pike, Mock caught the aviation bug when she was about 7 years old and saw a pilot offering rides at a county fair in Ohio.

Mock decided then and there “that I am going to be a pilot,” her granddaughter said. “I am going to fly around the world.”

Aviators like Charles Lindbergh and Earhart were international celebrities in the first half of the 20th century, and Mock wanted to follow in their footsteps.

Mock later recalled listening daily to radio reports about Earhart’s ill-fated attempt in 1937 to fly around the world.

To help make good on her dream to also be a pilot, she studied aeronautical engineering at Ohio State University, where she was the only female in a class of 100, Pike said.

She was not put off by the notion of the time that serious flying was a male domain.

“She was aways very distinct at the time ... She didn’t want to do ‘girl’s work,’ ” Pike said. “She was a feminist before it was cool.”

But marriage did put a hold on her dream temporarily.

Her new husband, Russell Mock, however, was also an aviation enthusiast. She eventually received her private pilot’s license in 1958, when she was 32.

Just six years later, the 38-year-old mother of three decided to fly around the world alone – a daunting task for even the most experienced pilot.

Mock would later say the desire to make the dangerous, global trip was spurred by a desire to see more of the world and by her love of aviation.

David Southard, a pilot since 1974 and former director of what is now called the Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport, said the huge challenge was not only the planning needed in those pre-internet days but the difficulty of simply flying long-range from one location to the next.

“That would be quite a challenge because of the navigational skills that were required at that time that we take for granted today,” he said, noting Mock had to use paper maps and charts and what was called at the time a flight “computer” – but what we today would call a paper slide rule.

“She was doing so much figuring and navigating,” Southard said. “You are talking hours and hours of concentrating, of flying, looking at maps ... she had challenges that we don’t worry about today. Her confidence level had to be pretty good.”

She did have different types of radios in the plane that could be used to help navigate, but those were not foolproof.

She learned that on her first leg of the journey – leaving Columbus on March 19 to head to the island of Bermuda.

As Mock and “Three-Eight Charlie” took off from the Columbus airport, the controller in the radio tower, perhaps only half-jokingly, reportedly said, “I guess that’s the last we’ll hear from her.”

And trouble did strike early on Mock’s historic trip.

As she headed out over the Atlantic, she switched on her high-frequency radio to help her navigate to the relatively tiny island. But she turned it on “to absolute silence,” said Bob Pitchford, a pilot and member of Aviation Heritage Park in Bowling Green.

“That would have frozen me on the spot,” Pitchford said. “And I would have done a 180-degree turn to find somewhere to land right now because I would have thought, ‘God is telling me to land.’ Not Jerrie Mock.”

She had her charts, other radios and a compass, and “she found her way to Bermuda,” he said.

For the next month, Mock circled the globe, tackling one challenge after another, such as avoiding sand storms in North Africa to finding aircraft fuel at remote landing strips and overcoming language barriers nearly everywhere she went. She would go almost full days without food and had to ration her water supply, and the plane’s cabin stuffed with extra gear and fuel tanks was anything but comfortable.

For the sake of the press that would descend upon her at many of her stops, Mock was in the habit of wearing a blue skirt and blouse when she flew.

“In these long, sunlit days of going across desserts, she began to know Charlie ...,” Pitchford said of the connection a pilot often develops with a specific aircraft.

She was finally on the homestretch on April 17, 1964. That morning, she boarded “Three-Eight Charlie” in El Paso, Texas, expecting to land in Columbus that night to complete her trip.

But several hours into her flight, she realized she might be short of fuel and was worried about the weather, and a logical place for her to stop was a place she was familiar with – the City-County Airport in Bowling Green.

The airport at the time was still a relatively small one, but it was far from a desolate airstrip as it was offering commercial Eastern Airlines flights daily and had other advantages.

One was the presence of a short-range radio navigation system called a VOR. Another was the presence of a flight service station.

Pilots at the time typically flew from VOR to VOR, Southard said. The flight service station was manned with weather observers who could help her “find out what was ahead of her,” he said. “We had both of those, which was very advantageous.”

As she approached the airport, she descended over what was then primarily farmland before landing on the same runways still in use today.

There was a small terminal building and separate facility for private pilots like her (both buildings are now gone).

Pitchford said the airport was a comfortable landing spot for her.

“She came to Bowling Green a lot when she was just flying round ... she liked the airport for the same reasons current general aviation pilots like it,” he said.

Along with the VOR and flight service station, there was no control tower, so she could land and depart as she saw fit.

When she landed at the airport, she told the worker in charge of fueling planes to just fill the right wing fuel tank, indicating “pretty much I’ll be right back,” Pitchford said.

About 20 local residents caught wind of her arrival at 6:10 p.m. and rushed to the airport to see her.

A photographer and reporter from the Daily News also arrived and briefly spoke to Mock. As was her custom, she was dressed more like she was attending church than piloting a plane. Wearing her blue skirt and matching jacket, she looked like an “Easter parader,” the Daily News reported.

In her book recounting her famous flight, “Three-Eight Charlie,” Mock wrote that she was also in search of “a mirror so I could put on fresh lipstick and comb my hair. I felt I must look a mess, and better get ready for the photographers at Columbus.”

She also bought a candy bar and soda. She said she had not eaten since early that morning. “This will be my steak until I get to Columbus,” she told the Daily News about her snack.

She told the reporter that she was familiar with the airport because of previous stops here. “I had been here before and found the service good and the exit clearance good,” she said.

Charles Bridges of Bridges’ Aircraft Sales and Service at the airport told the reporter, “It’s a real honor to have her stop here.”

She also had a brief phone call with several people in Columbus, including her husband, to update them on her schedule.

The stop lasted 30 minutes. She left the airport about 6:40 p.m. and arrived in Columbus at 9:36 p.m. – 29 days after her journey began – to a whirlwind of well-wishers, reporters and her family.

A month later, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented Mock with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Exceptional Service Decoration.

Pike said her grandmother had fond recollections of the Bowling Green stop, including that, unlike the Columbus finale, she “did not have to face all the media. ... She was an introvert. It was a very nice memory for her.”

Legacy

In 1937, Earhart gained international headlines when she attempted to fly around the world, and then again when her plane went missing over the Pacific Ocean. What also lent drama to Mock’s 1964 flight was that another female pilot, Joan Merriam Smith, was coincidently also trying to become the first to circle the globe. Smith chose to try to re-create Earhart’s route while Mock had a more direct route. Another difference was that Smith was flying a twin-engine plane, which provided a safety backup in case of engine failure.

In a single-engine plane, “when it gets quiet, you are going to land,” whether you like it or not, Pitchford said.

In the end, Smith completed her journey about a month after Mock’s flight.

While Mock’s accomplishment is well-known among aviation enthusiasts, she is far from a household name.

Pike said that was largely a result of her grandmother’s private nature.

“She backed away from the limelight,” Pike said.

It was also “hard to overcome things tearing apart the country at the time,” Pitchford said of the turbulent 1960s. “The incredible weight that such a challenge had daunted everyone ... apparently Jerrie didn’t see the weight. With her planning and “a truckload of courage and confidence ... she was filled to the brim and away she went.”

Shortly before her death in 2014, Mock still downplayed her achievement in an interview with Air & Space magazine.

“I didn’t think it was such a great thing; it was just lots of fun,” Mock said. “It was a good, practical thing that dozens of women, both in the United States and other countries, could have done before I did. You just use your common sense, know how to fly the airplane, do what you’re supposed to do, know the routes and all the rules and regulations. Just nobody else had the sense – or shall I say, the stupidity – to try it. There were women who told me that they flew because of me. I’m glad I did what I did, because I had a wonderful time.”

Although her flight drew international headlines, much of the focus was on Mock’s appearance and that she was a mother of three; she was often described at the time as “the flying housewife.”

But Mock “had courage for five people,” Pitchford said.

“Aviation and great feats of courage are recognized by humans and encouraged and celebrated,” he said. “She deserves to be remembered.”


Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear delivered the State of The Commonwealth address, Wednesday night, Jan. 5, 2022, at the Capitol in Frankfort, Ky. (Scott Utterback/Courier Journal via AP)


News
Terror prosecution of BG man years in the making

A federal indictment charging a Bowling Green man with providing material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a designated foreign terrorist organization, was unsealed a few days before Christmas, but the investigation into the man’s alleged activities began several years earlier.

Mirsad Hariz Adem Ramic, 31, is charged with providing and attempting and conspiring to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, as well as receiving military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green and faces up to 50 years in prison if convicted as charged.

Ramic had been previously incarcerated in Turkey and was deported to the United States, arriving here last month.

The case against Ramic was unsealed Dec. 21, and court filings indicate federal investigators believed in 2016 that they had probable cause to bring terror-related charges against him.

A federal criminal complaint filed July 7, 2016, by FBI Special Agent William Kurtz outlines the reasons for suspecting Ramic joined ISIL, which was known initially as al-Qaida in Iraq and was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. secretary of state in 2004. In 2014, the secretary of state amended the designation to add ISIL as the organization’s primary name, and the organization is also commonly referred to as ISIS.

Ramic is believed to have left the country in 2014 with two co-conspirators who are identified in the criminal complaint as Saudi nationals who came to the U.S. on student visas and attended Western Kentucky University.

Ramic was not a WKU student, but a number of civilian witnesses told the FBI they often saw him socialize with the two co-conspirators, one of whom is believed to have been killed in 2015 while fighting a Kurdish militia group in Syria.

The FBI obtained flight manifests that appear to show Ramic departed on a flight from Nashville on June 3, 2014, that eventually landed in Istanbul, Turkey.

The two co-conspirators left on a different flight on the same day, also ending up in Istanbul, where they met with Ramic and bought one-way tickets with cash to Gaziantep, Turkey, the complaint said.

“Gaziantep is located near the border with Syria,” the complaint said. “Significantly, the original flight tickets for all three individuals were flights to third countries with only a stopover in Istanbul ... the airlines confirmed that each of the three did not use their final leg departing Istanbul. This method is commonly used by aspiring ISIL fighters as a means to hide their travel and intentions.”

It is believed that after arriving in Gaziantep, Ramic crossed the border into Syria.

The FBI obtained emails among Ramic and the two co-conspirators.

In a July 30, 2014, email, Ramic and a co-conspirator discussed how he used an anti-aircraft weapon to shoot at planes, and Ramic said in a separate email from that date that he was in Syria, the complaint said.

The two co-conspirators kept in touch with one another through email, and the criminal complaint includes an excerpt from an Oct. 6, 2014, email in which one co-conspirator tells the other “Paradise and the virgins long for you,” records show.

The emails continued throughout 2014 and into the following year.

In a Dec. 6, 2014, email, Ramic told one co-conspirator that he put the co-conspirator in his will so that the co-conspirator “would get his belongings if Ramic was killed during jihad,” the complaint said.

The following day, the same co-conspirator emailed Ramic to tell him that as soon as the second co-consiprator meets him in Shadadi, Syria, they plan to go and meet Ramic, records show.

The second co-conspirator emailed Ramic on Feb. 13, 2015, to tell him he was in Mosul, Iraq, and on March 1, 2015, Ramic received a message from the first co-conspirator informing him that the second co-conspirator “was missing and is being considered a martyr,” the complaint said.

Later emails from the first co-conspirator state that the second co-conspirator “went to fight jihad and was killed by the crusader’s plane” and that he died in Syria while deterring an attack, according to the criminal complaint.

The FBI investigation also uncovered emails one of Ramic’s co-conspirators sent to WKU after he left the U.S.

Authorities obtained the emails from WKU officials, and one email from Sept. 18, 2014, states that he “came to factually believe that Islamic state in Iraq and Levant I.S.I.L. is the true way.”

In a second email from June 8, 2015, the co-conspirator says that he is “with Islamic state ... when we conquer the U.S. I will look for you,” the complaint said.

The FBI also obtained a photograph appearing to depict Ramic dressed in camouflage and standing in front of a pickup truck outfitted with an anti-aircraft gun and an ISIL flag.

“The photo is believed to have been taken while Ramic was in Syria,” Kurtz said in the complaint. “In a Jan. 11, 2016, interview with the FBI, Ramic’s mother admitted that she had received the same photo from Ramic after he had left the United States. She identified the individual in the photo as her son. During the same interview, Ramic’s mother provided the FBI with an additional photo she had received from Ramic after he had left the United States. The second photo depicts Ramic seated on the ground, wearing a typical jihadi head covering and holding a rifle.”

The FBI also received information from a cooperating witness who claims to have had conversations with Ramic while the two were in an ISIL training camp in Syria.

The witness traveled to Syria to join ISIL, then contacted the U.S. government after leaving Syria, providing information in this case and other matters, according to federal court records.

The witness, who is not named in the complaint, has pleaded guilty to federal terror-related charges and is cooperating in exchange for a possible reduction in sentence.

While in the ISIL training camp, the witness claimed to have met a man known as Abu Hazim al Bosnawi, who authorities believe is Ramic.

“The (cooperating witness) stated that Abu Hazim told (the witness) that he has a criminal record and the (witness) remembered it was in Kentucky or somewhere else in ‘the Bible belt,’ ” the complaint said. “The (cooperating witness) also was told by Abu Hazim that he knows the FBI has a case on him regarding jihadi activities, and that he previously attempted to travel to Yemen but was kicked out and returned to the United States.”

The cooperating witness told investigators that he first met Ramic at an ISIL military training camp near Taqba, Syria, that they were in together for a couple of weeks in 2014, they conversed with one another in English on one or two occasions and that everyone at the camp received military and weapons training and fired an AK-47.


News
BG's Minter slams GOP redistricting push as attack on voters

Democratic state Rep. Patti Minter of Bowling Green is among Kentucky lawmakers condemning House Bill 2, which lays out the Republican majority’s plans for redrawing representative districts using 2020 U.S. census data.

“Voters believe, rightly, that they choose their elected representatives,” Minter told the Daily News on Thursday after the legislation moved out of the Kentucky House by a 71-19 margin.

However, with the proposed redistricting maps only available for review for a few days, and with Republicans racing to final passage, Minter accused GOP lawmakers of subverting the will of voters.

“There has been no opportunity for input. … The people deserve to have their say,” Minter said of her constituents in House District 20 and others across Kentucky affected by the changes. “I think people across the political spectrum, across party lines, all want to be heard.”

Also Thursday, a bill recasting the state Senate’s 38 districts easily cleared the Senate, with a handful of lawmakers objecting, according to The Associated Press. Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers, meaning the GOP has the power to override any vetoes by Gov. Andy Beshear.

The House changes are stark when viewed through a mapping tool created by Louisville-area data scientist Robert Kahne at kypoliticaldata.com. For example, much of the west end of Bowling Green – fanning out across Russellville and Nashville roads – has been given to House District 17, which is currently represented by Republican state Rep. Steve Sheldon, who represents Minter’s ideological opposite.

Minter said the changes also divide much of the Bowling Green Independent School District and Western Kentucky University communities, moving them out into the county for no good reason.

“They cracked the city of Bowling Green, and there’s no good reason to do so,” Minter said of the changes.

Further, the redistributed voter precincts on the west end of Bowling Green are primarily “communities of interest,” which in redistricting-speak often means communities where people of color predominate. Minter cast the changes as a GOP attempt to “diminish their voices,” she said.

Speaking on the Kentucky House floor Thursday, Minter questioned why the changes needed to be passed immediately, especially given that lawmakers also successfully pushed the filing deadline to run for public office to Jan. 25. Minter also said she’d heard from several of her constituents who asked why they had not been consulted.

“They want to know why their voices have not only not been heard, but have not been sought,” Minter said. “There’s no reason to hurry this up.”

Minter also elaborated on changes she said will “crack the city of Bowling Green at its historic core.”

“For the first time, the Bowling Green Independent School District … has been cracked. The school where my son went to elementary school (W.R. McNeill Elementary) is no longer in the district under this plan. It’s five minutes from my house,” Minter said. “I no longer have Parker-Bennett-Curry … which is in a community of interest, where many people are concerned that they’ve not been consulted and they wonder why their voices might be diluted …

“This proposed bill cracks the west side of Bowling Green, which is where the largest minority population and communities of interest are. This cracks it into three districts … that dilutes their voices and it’s not mathematically defensible,” Minter said.

Going forward in the legislative session, Minter said she would be willing to support legislation that would take the redistricting process out of the hands of lawmakers and put it under the control of an independent nonprofit, as she has in the past, she said.


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