Things to be Thankful For: Citizen Soldiers

Imperial War Museum

This is the time of year that we tend to be more thankful than other times. For me, that often comes down to our soldiers. And what drives me nearly around the bend is what Kipling described as “O makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep”. One of the sources for the quote that seems misattributed to George Orwell. It’s been pretty endemic most of my life and always rubs me the wrong way. Here’s one of them

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to First Lieutenant Ronald W. McLean (MCSN: 0-105587), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with Company A, Third Reconnaissance Battalion, THIRD Marine Division in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On 8 June 1969, First Lieutenant McLean’s six-man reconnaissance team was patrolling eleven miles northwest of the Vandegrift Combat Base in Quang Tri Province when it became heavily engaged with an enemy force. Realizing the Marines needed a more tenable position, First Lieutenant McLean unhesitatingly exposed himself to the hostile rounds impacting around him and fired his M-79 grenade launcher into the midst of the enemy, killing two hostile soldiers and enabling his team to maneuver to a more defensible position. After the dead soldiers had been searched and the team had retrieved documents of intelligence value, the Marines were attacked by a platoon-sized hostile force. Reacting immediately, First Lieutenant McLean fired his grenade launcher at the enemy and killed five more hostile solders. Observing one of his men fall wounded, he boldly ignored the hostile rounds directed at him to give medical assistance to his comrade. As he was rendering first aid to the injured man, he alertly observed a hostile soldier preparing to fire on their position. Completely disregarding his own safety, he shoved his companion down and was mortally wounded by the enemy fire. His bold initiative and heroic efforts inspired all who observed him and accounted for eight enemy soldiers killed. By his courage, aggressive leadership and steadfast devotion to duty, First Lieutenant McLean upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.
Action Date: June 8, 1969

As always, the citation of a posthumous award tells us of the gallant way he or she died, but little of his life. That’s often interesting too. In this case, what jumps out is that his hometown was Beverly Hills, California.

LT McLean had a stepfather who outlived him, which is kind of amazing considering he (the stepfather) was assigned as operations officer of the 703rd Bombardment Squadron, 445th Bombardment Group, a B-24 Liberator unit soon to be sent to the war in Europe. On 20 January 1944, he was promoted Major and served as deputy commander of the 2d Bombardment Wing during what we remember as “Big Week”, where we and the RAF broke the back of the Luftwaffe. On 29 March 1945, he was promoted Colonel and given command of the 2d Bombardment Wing. Since he had enlisted after failing his draft physical, he had gone from Private to Colonel in four years.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster (two awards); the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters; the Distinguished Service Medal; and the Croix de Guerre avec Palme (France).

Unusually for a citizen soldier, he remained a reserve officer and was promoted Brigadier General by President Eisenhower on 23 July 1959. During his career, he remained current on B-36, B-47, and B-52 aircraft, as well as joining the Mach II club in a B-58 Hustler.

Brigadier General James M. (“Jimmy”) Stewart, USAFR (center) with the crew of B-52F Stratofortress 57-149, at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, 20 February 1966. (U.S. Air Force)

But wait there’s more…”20 February 1966: he, flew the last combat mission of his military career, a 12 hour, 50 minute “Arc Light” bombing mission over Vietnam, aboard Boeing B-52 Stratofortress of the 736th Bombardment Squadron, 454th Bombardment Wing. His bomber was a B-52F-65-BW, serial number 57-149, call sign GREEN TWO. It was the number two aircraft in a 30-airplane bomber stream.”

That was his part-time job, as a citizen-soldier, many are more familiar with his other career, as an actor. In fact if you are like me, you will watch at least one of his movies between now and Christmas. It’s become rather a tradition for many of us. It’s called It’s a Wonderful Life and he is indeed Brigadier General James Maitland Stewart, US Air Force Reserve. He died of a heart attack on 2 July 1997.

Many thanks to This Day in Aviation for providing accurate information on both of these citizen soldiers’ lives. There are more pictures there too.

Time for Some Pilot Shit

One for us?

 

Well, we’ll see.

 

I’m with her on that, I want those big brass ones clanking so loud they’re heard from Peking to Tehran, and if they are not, the movie deserves to fail.

Then there is this, which, in truth is both annoying and offensive.

I have to admit I’m quite weary of this pandering. We used to make films for Americans, and the world loved (and still loves) them. Why this bullshit.

But OK, it does give us an excuse. Tony Daniel over at The Federalist reviews the FWS’s (Topgun) original OIC Dan Pedersen’s book.

In his engaging and succinct memoir Top Gun: American Story, Topgun’s original commanding officer Dan Pedersen argues that “what matters is the man, not the machine,” and because of this truism, pilot training will always be far more important than the technology of jet fighters for winning battles in the sky. At present, says Pedersen, “Something is rotten in Washington, and one day, sadly, we will lose a war because of it.”

Pedersen claims that the Navy lacks relatively cheap fighter jets for training such as the old F-14 Tomcats (the “Top Gun” jets in the movie) and others. He cites a price tag for the new F-35 as $330 million per plane. The service can’t buy and maintain a large number of trainers at those prices, he says. As a consequence, much of fighter pilot training must be done on simulators, which, in Pedersen’s view, are an inadequate substitute for real flight time.

More ominously, Pedersen says the Navy has once again been beguiled by the siren song of technological triumphalism and has lost the will to properly instruct pilots in dogfighting techniques. This was precisely the situation during the early years of Vietnam, and it led to devastating American losses, and ultimately to the creation of Topgun, the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School (the Navy spells it “Topgun,” without the space between words).

Unfortunately, claims Pedersen, bureaucratic rot and self-destructive rivalry and jealousy have set in in the years since the 1969 founding of that “graduate school for fighter pilots.” Pedersen suggests this is partly due to blowback from the 1986 movie Top Gun, and the lasting cultural cache it bestowed on the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School as a result.

Topgun is no longer located at Naval Air Station Miramar (which is now owned by the Marines), but was moved inland in 1996 to Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada. Although Topgun still operates as an independent command, the school has been largely subsumed within the Navy’s Strike Warfare Center at NAS Fallon.

Do read it all, he makes a good case, in an argument that has been going on since the early sixties. For the most part, he is correct, give me a properly trained man, with close to the same capabilities and he will triumph, but technology is also important. Say if Sidewinder had had the problems that Harpoon did, now what? Because the F4 did not have a gun.

We abandoned dogfight training because of the Navy’s faith in missile technology. Most of our aircrews didn’t know how to fight any other way. Yet our own rules of engagement kept us from using what we were taught. The rules of engagement specifically prohibited firing from beyond visual range. To shoot a missile at an aircraft, a fighter pilot first needed to visually confirm it was a MiG and not a friendly plane. . . . Yet three years along, the training squadron in California was still teaching long-range intercept tactics to the exclusion of everything else. Our training was not applicable to the air war in Vietnam.

And that was one of the major problems then…and now as well. We do not fight as we train. We train some of the best warriors in the world, and then our ROE force them to fight with at least one hand behind the back. The Marquess of Queensbury is long dead, and our opponents don’t fight by his rules. Time to take the gloves off.

I’d be far less opposed to using our forces if I had any idea that they would be used to win a victory, and then leave. No more of this nation-building crap, You got yourself into a war with the United States, you got the hell beat out of you, now it’s up to you to fix it, or not, not our problem. The world ain’t no china shop. It’s a place where actions have consequences and many of them are fatal.

That’s my take, anyway. Will I see the movie? Depends on what Vicki said above. But probably not in a theater, my local ones have crap sound, and if jet engines don’t shake the joint, what’s the point?

Heroes

A fairly quiet week for a change, so let’s back off a bit today and look around. A while back Gene Simmons of Kiss was visiting the Pentagon. He has some things to say. They are worth remembering. From Breitbart.

A remarkable story isn’t it? And yet it is not, that view of America is fairly common all around the world. Something to remember, and something to live up to.


I grew up in Northwest Indiana, and this man was on the news a lot in those strangely calm although noisy days. From Front Page Magazine.

I was checking the new releases in a local theater when I saw the title HesburghSounds like a Dracula spin-off, I thought. I had never heard the name before and I knew nothing about the movie. [ How sad is that, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh is, arguably one of the greatest men of the last 100 years. Neo] Curious, I did a quick Google search and discovered that Hesburgh is a documentary about a Catholic priest. A documentary about a Catholic priest running in a suburban multiplex? I had to see it.

Father Theodore Hesburgh was president of Notre Dame for thirty-five years, 1952–1987. He also played a role in the Civil Rights Movement, the effort to limit nuclear arms, and immigration reform. He had close, personal relationships with Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Clinton, and Obama, Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, Martin Luther King Jr and Ann Landers. Much of the film consists of grainy, decades-old film footage of the Space Race, The Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War. A few scenes are reenactments of key moments in Hesburgh’s life. There are also contemporary interviews with people who knew Hesburgh, including Leon Panetta and Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson. Speakers at Hesburgh’s memorial service included Mike Pence and Condoleezza Rice.

Hesburgh sounds like a priestly Kardashian, no? Listen, I walked into the theater knowing nothing about Theodore Hesburgh and by the end of the film my face was sloppy with tears. I cry no tears for Kardashians. Why did this film move me so much?

The film depicts Hesburgh as a remarkably humble man. As a man who, yes, wined and dined with the rich and powerful, but who never lost the personal touch, and who was almost supernaturally humble, and relentlessly committed to his priestly vocation. In every scene I can remember, from the time he took his vows to his 2015 death at age 97, Hesburgh is wearing the exact same clothing: the unadorned, dark suit and white collar of a priest of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. Selecting personal dress and adornment is a fundamental human choice. Hesburgh surrendered that choice at 18 and never took it back. In a clip from an interview, TV host Phil Donahue presses Hesburgh. How have you lived your life alone, without a wife? Hesburgh’s visage is severe but calm. “I made that choice at 18.” It’s remarkable to witness a man of his word.

Pope Paul VI presented Hesburgh with his own emerald ring as a gift. The implication was that the pope hoped to elevate Hesburgh to cardinal. Hesburgh put the ring in a drawer. His vocation was as a priest, not a “prince of the church.” Former students from Notre Dame testify on camera that Hesburgh was like a father to them. Journalist Robert Sam Anson, a Notre Dame alum, was taken prisoner in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Hesburgh phoned the Vatican to help broker his release. Anson is visibly moved when discussing Hesburgh.

Hesburgh’s most sustained effort in public affairs, at least as depicted in the film, was in the field of Civil Rights. In one of the most famous images of Hesburgh, he is linking arms with Martin Luther King Jr. at Soldier Field in Chicago in 1964, as they sing together “We Shall Overcome.” Hesburgh was no mere fellow traveler. When Civil Rights Commission members were stonewalling each other, the Northerners against the Southerners, Hesburgh kept his eye on the individual human soul. His faith taught him that each Commission member, no matter how obstructionist, was made in the image and likeness of God. With that perspective, Hesburgh recognized that one thing all these diverse combatants had in common was a love of fishing. He arranged for a Notre Dame donor’s private jet to transport them to a secluded lake. There they could connect as human beings, and make progress. Hesburgh was willing to stick his neck out even when the presidents who counted him among their friends dropped the ball. The Kennedy administration had concluded that pushing Civil Rights would cost Kennedy votes in the South, and, thus, the election. They decided to “slow walk” progress. Hesburgh at this instance, and at other key moments as well, took it upon himself to press for an end to Jim Crow. Sorry, Hollywood and film critics cum social justice warriors, but yes Hesburgh was one of many white allies without whom the Civil Rights Movement would have been an historical blip that reached the same dead-end of a thousand other liberation movements in societies without conscience.

Like any serious Catholic, Hesburgh faced criticism from the right and the left. The Catholic Church opposes abortion, and, thus, gains approval and allies on the right. Other stances on poverty and immigration earn approval and allies on the left.

He faced more than criticism really, it was more like vilification as we see it today, and yes from both the right and the left. And the author is right, it was because he was a Catholic, an authentic and dare I say orthodox one. That may be one of the most difficult things to be in the world today.

The author found another interesting movie:

Franciszka Halamajowa died in obscurity. Few outside her immediate family had any idea of her heroism. She never rubbed elbows with the rich or the powerful. When Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia invaded Poland in 1939, Halamajowa was a 54 year old Polish, Catholic farm woman, her gray hair brushed back into a simple bun. She was plump, with apple cheeks and kind eyes. She wore simple, loose, cotton dresses. She lived on a small plot of land with fruit trees and pigs in the small town of Sokal. Sokal was then in Eastern Poland; it is now in Ukraine. In 1939, it had a mixed population of Poles, Ukrainians, and 5,200 Jews. Only thirty Jews survived the war. Sixteen Jews were sheltered by Franciszka Halamajowa. The documentary No. 4 Street of Our Lady tells the almost unbelievable story of Halamajowa’s heroism. This ninety-minute, 2009 documentary is currently available on Vimeo.

One can’t begin to understand Halamajowa’s feat without understanding the Nazi and Soviet approach to Poland. Both were genocidal, and their hostility to the continued existence of Poland had begun centuries before. Under German and Russian occupation beginning in the eighteenth century, at times and in places, Poles could not build permanent dwellings on their own land, could not speak their own language in school, and were subject to mass deportations to Siberia, where many died. The Nazi Generalplan Ost called for the genocide and occupation of Slavic nations. In his infamous August, 1939 “Armenian speech,” Hitler said, “I have placed my death-head formation in readiness … with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need.”

Soviet Russians, Sokal’s first World-War-Two-era occupiers, deported between 500,000 and 1.7 million Poles to Siberia. Soviet Russians arrested and imprisoned hundreds of thousands of other Poles. Many were tortured and executed, including 22,000 Polish Army officers shot in the Katyn Massacre. Soviet propaganda depicted Poles as enemies of the people. Polish land was seized and redistributed, most to collective farms. An estimated 150,000 – 500,000 Polish citizens died during the Soviet occupation.

In June, 1941, as part of Operation Barbarossa, the Nazis arrived. Scarred by the 1932-33 Soviet-orchestrated Ukrainian famine, interwar Polish rule, and Soviet occupation, some Ukrainians collaborated with the Nazis. In addition to persecuting Jews, Ukrainians tortured, mutilated, and massacred Polish Catholics. Historians estimate that approximately 100,000 Poles were murdered by Ukrainians.

All this bloody history swirled around Franciszka Halamajowa as she tended her fruit trees, chickens and pigs. Ukrainians knocked on her door and told her to leave. Sokal was now Ukrainian territory, and no longer safe for a Polish woman alone with a young daughter. Nazis could kill Poles for infractions so minor as owning a radio. Poles were regularly rounded up and sent to slave labor or concentration camps. Any aid given to any Jew, even something so simple as offering a drink of water, was a capital crime, not just for the one giving the aid, but for her entire family. This punishment was unique to Poland. Miep Gies, who aided Anne Frank in Holland, for example, survived betrayal and discovery. One list of Poles killed for helping Jews includes 704 names. No doubt many more were killed but their accounts cannot be documented.

Jews escaping a Nazi aktion asked Halamajowa for help. Yad Vashem reports that Halamajowa and her daughter Helena “believed that it was G-d who had brought the Jewish refugees to their door to test their faith. They considered it their religious duty to protect the Jewish refugees, and never demanded payment of any kind.” It was not until after the war that the Jews Halamajowa was hiding in a pigsty discovered that she had another Jewish family hiding in a specially built dugout under her kitchen floor. Indeed, Halamajowa was also hiding a renegade German soldier in her attic. He did not want to participate in Nazi killing.

This post is already ridiculously long, so I’m not going to comment on it other than to say that this is what the left is trying to destroy when the attempt to destroy Christianity, for Gene Simmons’ story is not really that different, except in outcome to millions of others. If not for Christianity, and in a sense the last gasp of European culture, America, it may well have been lost by now, and very likely would be.

Unplanned

The Federalist (and others) tell us that the film Unplanned is far outperforming expectations, and that is very good. If you happened to miss it, which would not be hard since there is a media blackout, including most TV networks refusing advertising, Twitter sabotaging its account, and what looks like a malicious R rating, it is the story of a director of a Planned Parenthood clinic whose interaction with a prayer vigil group, and witnessing the attempts by an unborn child to avoid being aborted, eventually brought her to become a stalwart pro-life witness.

It’s a story we have told before, here. In fact, my former co-blogger was personally involved in one of those stories. She told her story here, and here is a bit of it.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine had a knock on the door of the vicarage where he lives. It was a young woman. She was pregnant and did not want to be. She could not get an immediate appointment with a doctor or a medical social worker, or even the counsellor she was seeing at the abortion clinic; she’d heard that you didn’t need an appointment to see a vicar – so there she was. She’d never been to church and admitted she didn’t know what ‘it was all about’, but she needed an ear. My friend listened to her for about an hour. He did not try to influence her against her will, but to discern that will. She was clearly confused and in some desperation.  After the hour, she left, thanking him.

We heard nothing more until Friday evening, when she telephoned to say she was going to have an abortion the next day; she asked if he would come to see her on Sunday. He asked if he could bring a friend – me, as he felt a woman might help in the situation; she said that would be fine.

I posted about her on my own site and asked people to join me in prayer for her. Most of those commenting did so, although there was one poster who thought we ought to be telling her what a dreadful sinner she was, although, since she knew not the Lord, it is hard to know what she would have made of that. We went, wanting to be there to extend compassion to her, and to do whatever the Lord wanted.

When we went into her small flat, it was clear that she was depressed – it was like a huge cloud over her. She told us that she had been counselled about all the medical things, and the side-effects, but she had never felt so empty and so ‘wrong’. She cried, and it was hard to know what to do, so I held her hands. I asked if she’s mind if we said a prayer, and through her tears she said she didn’t really mind, though couldn’t see it would help. The three of us held hands and I asked God to have mercy on the three sinners in the room, and to grant His grace to the dead child. The room filled with light. We all felt the same thing. She gasped. We sat in silence, holding hands for as long as was needed.

As he light faded, I asked her how she felt. She said: “As though God has spoken to me saying that I should go and sin no more,” I asked if she knew where those words came from, and she laughed and said “I’ve just told you, God told me.” I said I knew, I had heard them too, but did she know they had been said before? She asked what I was talking about, so I told her about the woman taken in adultery. She got very serious: “But I thought you Christians would condemn such a slut – and one like me, but you haven’t, and God loves me.” We all cried.

Back when Jessica first told me this story, I sat here crying as well. From things she told me in confidence, I am very sure that that young woman would not have lived a week, she would, I will always believe, have committed suicide. Instead, she is now married to the vicar in the story, happily, I hope. I haven’t heard in quite a while.

Christians were known from the very beginning for their quite obdurate insistence on raising their children, not following the common Roman practice of leaving the unwanted ones to die of exposure. It is one of the reasons Christianity spread so far and so fast.

And now we see politicians who openly advocate the old Roman practice once again, but we also see these little groups of Christians who pray and are kind to all around Planned Infanticide Planned Parenthood. It has caused the baby killers in Britain such fear that they have attempted to use the law to remove the prayer groups.

But like those attempting to stifle the film, well, God has His ways, and He will prevail.

And The Spectator reminds us that there is nothing Feminist about this either. Susan B. Anthony a legendary and genuine fighter for women’s rights’ wrote this:

She must feel herself accountable to God alone for every act, fearing and obeying no man, save where his will is in line with her own highest idea of divine law.… When the mother of Christ shall be made the true model of womanhood and motherhood, when the office of maternity shall be held sacred and the mother shall consecrate herself, as did Mary, to the one idea of bringing forth the Christ-child, then, and not till then, will this earth see a new order of men and women, prone to good rather than evil.

Here’s the trailer, but see the film.

Cabaret, Haffner, and Chicago

My friend Brandon Christensen over at Notes on Liberty each evening does a post with a few links, which are often interesting. The day before yesterday had one that struck me, so let’s take a look.

In an article entitled The Unromantic Truths of Weimar Germany, Marilyn Macron is essentially reviewing Blood Brothers by Ernst Haffer. The book was originally published in 1932 and banned a year later by the Nazis. Ms. Macron starts this way.

EVEN HALF A CENTURY ON, Cabaret heavily informs perceptions of Weimar Germany. The popular, Oscar-winning 1972 musical features garter-clad Liza Minnelli and elegant Joel Grey slinking their way through a decadent Berlin underworld of sex and style, and it all seems so glamorous. The reality for most Germans at the time was, of course, colder, duller, and much more miserable.

But no one wants anything to do with misery. It’s not the kind of thing viewers and readers pay money to experience. If you dress up misery with tuxedos and boas, though, and hide the accompanying desperation under makeup and sequins, you get decadence, and decadence sells. German writer Alfred Döblin filtered this aesthetic into his classic 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz. Christopher Isherwood was similarly taken in — his 1937 novella Sally Bowles, later collected in The Berlin Stories(1945), was the basis for Cabaret.

They wrote of Berliners who knew how to commodify decadence. Of aristocratic gangsters who wouldn’t do a job without top hat and tails. Of Apache dancers, Brylcreemed villains, and two-mark whores with fire-red curls. There were discreet champagne lounges in basements, secret entrances, and trapdoors. The observer of this falsified and superficial milieu would find Berlin’s actual criminal underworld deathly dull. Nothing of interest there at all. Except, perhaps, real people with real needs, and few ways to get those needs met.

She’s right though, that undertone that runs through Cabaret does give you a feel for what is coming. A newer version, set in the US, with much the same feel of desperation about it is Chicago, another fine effort, this time about what might have been instead of what was.

Haffner’s writing is of the short-lived Neue Sachlichkeit, or New Objectivity, movement that rejected romanticism and expressionism in favor of realism. His collage of the exploits and exploitation of these boys shows them fully responsible for their actions but also indicts German society as a whole. In this, his prose pairs well with the vitriolic caricatures of Dada/New Objectivist artist George Grosz, a contemporary of Haffner’s who left for the United States in 1933.

Grosz’s works were mainly done in pen and ink to emphasize the starkness of his subject matter. Of his claustrophobic collage A Funeral: Tribute to Oskar Panizza, he sought to portray, he said, “[A] gin alley of grotesque dead bodies and madmen […] A teeming throng of possessed human animals […] think that wherever you step, there’s the smell of shit.” A Funeral is an artistic analogue of Blood Brothers, in which Haffner writes, “And the big beer joints with their lively oom-pa-pah music from early morning on, they are just waiting rooms for armies of pimps, unemployed and casual criminals.”

All very interesting, and I wonder if it has implications for our time. For aren’t we seeing the same things, decadence, missing fathers, self-harming or more or less defeated mothers leading to feral young people, surviving however they can? How different is Haffner’s Berlin to present-day London, or Chicago? I don’t know and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know. But what I really don’t want is to find out they are the same. Neither the United States nor Weimar Germany survived the thirties as they were before. Neither did the world.

The book is now on my wish list. And do read the linked review.

As for Haffner himself, Macron tells us…

Beyond being a creative risk, Haffner’s humane depiction of the gang members turned out to be a grave political error: the Nazis banned and burned Blood Brothers within a year of its publication, during the notorious May 1933 Bebelplatz book burning. Sometime after, the writers’ union affiliated with the Third Reich, the Reichsschrifttumskammer, summoned him to appear. It is believed that he did.

Haffner was never seen again.

There is a lesson in that, as well.

Remember These Fighting, WWII, Hollywood Idols? “Hollywood’s greatest–Compare them to today’s simpletons.”

Well, you get another couple of days of short posts from my phone. This although a reasonably short article, highlights something we’ve spoken often of, as have our British counterparts. So enjoy, and I’ll find something for tomorrow, and see you Monday.

Remember These Fighting, WWII, Hollywood Idols? “Hollywood’s greatest–Compare them to today’s simpletons.” http://www.watcherofweasels.org/remember-these-fighting-wwii-hollywood-idols-hollywoods-greatest-compare-them-to-todays-simpletons/

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