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Dieppe merged thread (70th Anniversary, historical debates, etc.)

Aerobicrunner

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Michael O'Leary said:
 Who might have expected it, operational logistic planning helping to shape invasion strategy and tactics.
Just a slight diversion because it sure helped at Vimy Ridge.
Quote from Valour Remembered - Canada and the First World War (p11):
"Canadian commanders , however, had learned well the bitter lessons of assault by vulnerable infantry.  This time the prepartation was elaborate and the planning thorough.  Engineers dug great tunnels into the Ridge; roads and light railways were built; signals and supplies were ready.  The operation was to be supported by a large concentration of heavy guns and howitzers, and full artillery.  The men two were fully prepared.  The area was simulated behind the lines and troops practiced their roles until every man was familiar witht he ground and the tactics expected of him."

 

Groucho

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The raid on Dieppe was planned then cancelled after a period of time the whole thing was started up again. The 2nd Canadian Infantry Divison was added after planning was underway. Many people say it was too big for a commando raid but too small for an invasion force. At the last moment the heavy naval support of battleships and the heavy bomber raid where cancelled. It is one of the great what ifs of WW2 . What if they had held the port intacted there was no follow up troops to re-enforce the beach head . This should not take away for the bravery and fighting spirit of the troops that take part. The hand of fate was not kind to the units that saw action. It is proudly wore as a battle honour as any victory is . It is one of the many events that has shape the modern Canadian Forces and the country of Canada. Both would be poorer if it did not happen!


Just my 2 cents on the issue.
 

GUNS

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I was in the Honor Guard for the 30Th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid. It was wonderful to see the looks of appreciation and thanks  from the towns people of Dieppe. Even though Dieppe was a disaster for the Canadians, in later years it was a godsent for the people of France
 

3rd Herd

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ParaMedTech said:
It presents as a factual account, but is often billed as fiction.  In it, the author claims to have worked for a very secretive relation of British SOE, and he claims that he was in fact a double agent, who was tasked to leak the plans for Dieppe to the German intelligence (anyone who's read some WWII history will be familiar with the truly crappy rep that German Int had in WWII).

The objective of the op was to allow the landing to be defeated, and thereby convince the German Command that the Atlantic Wall was sufficiently defended, and didn't need any further reinforcing.


DF

Well Para Med tech here is some reading for you: London Calling North Pole by Hermann J. Giskes , It is just one of a series of works that proved beyond a wildest doubt that German intelligence had most of the resistance and SOE operations well penetrated. Also in this genre is Cookridge, E.H in Set Europe Ablaze . Yes they had the information but it is what the higher ups chose to do with it is another story. For D-day for example in  Invasion! They're Coming!: The German Account of the D-Day Landings and the 80 Days' Battle for France by Paul Carell there are several quite excellent examples of German penetration of allied plans. Keith Macksey's Partisans provides a continental view of German successes and failures. A relatively recent published book by Jean Overton Fuller, titled The German Penetration of SOE is worth the read. Interestingly though the one resistance organization the Germans did have problems with was the Communist controlled ones.

As for the Eastern Front  most anything by Glantz, Le Tessier, Belvor and Seaton can clear up the situation as all have examined this area. There is a reexamination of the wonder star of German intelligence, General Reinhard Gehlen, Hitler's chief of eastern front intelligence is starting to occur now too as more archival material is seeing the light of day.

as for Dieppe there are several theories floating around around several universities as earlier stated more material is now available to examine.

Edit to add:

http://forums.army.ca/forums/threads/38082.0.html
 

a_majoor

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Groucho said:
The raid on Dieppe was planned then cancelled after a period of time the whole thing was started up again. The 2nd Canadian Infantry Divison was added after planning was underway. Many people say it was too big for a commando raid but too small for an invasion force. At the last moment the heavy naval support of battleships and the heavy bomber raid where cancelled. It is one of the great what ifs of WW2 . What if they had held the port intacted there was no follow up troops to re-enforce the beach head . This should not take away for the bravery and fighting spirit of the troops that take part. The hand of fate was not kind to the units that saw action. It is proudly wore as a battle honour as any victory is . It is one of the many events that has shape the modern Canadian Forces and the country of Canada. Both would be poorer if it did not happen!


Just my 2 cents on the issue.

There was never a follow up because Dieppe was designed as a "raid". What exactly they were raiding may be open to question; a book called "Green Beach" suggests the aim was to capture a radar station and bring parts and maybe the operators back for investigation; as stated earlier there were questions as to the utility of capturing a port to support an invasion force and so on.
 

Haletown

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as it was reported at the time  . . . .

http://archives.cbc.ca/IDC-1-71-2359-13810/conflict_war/dieppe/clip5


 

TangoTwoBravo

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Groucho said:
What if they had held the port intacted there was no follow up troops to re-enforce the beach head .

The plan for the raid had units pushing inland for a ways before withdrawing that day.  It was all very optimistic, and the aim of the raid was questionable in and of itself.

The Germans also learned some lessons.  The chert beach had not been mined, as they were not very concerned about tanks landing and doubted that they could cross the pebbles in any case.  The Churchills came as a nasty suprise.  The rather primitive bobbin trackways that allowed fifteen odd tanks to cross the beach demonstrated that antitank defences were a requirement.  The Normandy beaches would indeed by mined.

Again, I find the article has some questionable paths of logic.  I think he is trying to make some link to Iraq (a defeat quells a nation's warrior spirit or something like that).  Even before Dieppe the Canadian government was not enthusiastic about committing ground forces.  The memories of WWI casualty lists and the ensuing conscription crisis were quite fresh in 1939 and haunted the PM throughout.  I believe that the PM wanted to make providing aircrew training the centrepiece of Canada's war effort (shades of later limited involvement in wars).  I find it hard to believe that postwar policy decisions were based on memories of Dieppe.  Canada seemingly sits secure behind its oceans with a huge neighbour to the south as a guarantee against foreign aggression.  I'm not saying I agree with this view, but I think that it does predominate in some quarters. 

I expect that the US will, on the whole, will be reluctant to engage in foreign campaigns for some time as a result of Iraq.  Their position in the world will prevent complete isolationism as will memories of 9/11, but I think that it will still be hard to get support for a new war any time soon barring some major event.  The same dynamic was seen post-Vietnam, and I would argue that it took the Iran hostage crisis to shake them out of their funk.  That the Cold War heated up at the same time ensured that it was not a passing moment. 

Going back to Dieppe, I had the privilege to visit there on a battlefield study.  The view from the German defences is chilling.  The locals received us warmly despite the passage of time.
 

The Bread Guy

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From the PMO
Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced that His Excellency, the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, will attend ceremonies in Dieppe, France, from August 19 to 20, to mark the 70th Anniversary of the Dieppe Raid.
The Governor General will join the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, who will lead an official delegation to France from August 17 to 21, which includes Veterans who participated in the Dieppe Raid.

While in France, the Governor General, Minister Blaney and the Canadian delegation will attend a number of commemorative ceremonies including the Government of Canada’s signature event at Canada Memorial Square on August 19 and a ceremony at the Pourville Memorial on August 20.

In addition to the ceremonies taking place in France, there will also be a ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, as well as a number of events in communities across the country.

The raid on Dieppe, France, on August 19, 1942, was a pivotal moment in the Second World War. With virtually all of continental Europe under German occupation, the Allied forces faced a well-entrenched enemy. A method had to be found to create a foothold on the continent, and the raid on Dieppe offered invaluable lessons for the successful D-Day invasion in 1944, saving countless lives in that momentous offensive.

The Dieppe Raid was particularly devastating to the Canadian military. Of the nearly 5,000 Canadians who embarked on the operation, less than half returned to England, many of whom were wounded. There were 1,946 prisoners of war and 913 who lost their lives.

The Canadians who fought in the Dieppe Raid sacrificed much in their efforts to help bring freedom and democracy to the people of France and Europe. Their task was a difficult and costly one, but their effort was not in vain.

Lest we forget.
 

The Bread Guy

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More on the Dieppe raid:
New research suggests the real intent of the historic raid on Dieppe in 1942 was to steal a machine that would help crack top-secret German codes.

Military historian David O’Keefe spent 15 years searching through the once-classified and ultra-secret war files and says the real purpose behind the Dieppe operation—which cost hundreds of Canadian soldiers their lives — was to capture advanced coding technology from the German headquarters near the French beach.

(....)

Bletchley Park, located just north of London, was the centre of British code-breaking in the Second World War. Scientists and mathematicians would intercept and crack enemy radio messages by breaking into ciphers and codes used to keep top-secret information private.

For the Allies, the Bletchley Park operation was crucial to move supplies and win the Battle of the Atlantic.

According to O’Keefe’s research, British naval officers used Operation Jubilee to target the German-made Enigma code machine, an electro-mechanical piece of equipment that used a series of rotors for the encryption and decryption of secret messages.

Unlocking such a device, says O’Keefe, would mean knowing enemy intentions — information that could potentially reveal German intent, capabilities, hopes, and fears.

“It’s like reading your opposition’s e-mail or, better yet, reading your opposition’s poker hand and knowing exactly how to play or use your forces,” says O’Keefe. “The Allies relied on this in almost every decision they made in the Second World War." ....
globalnews.ca, 9 Aug 12
 

Old Sweat

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I will wait and see on this one. However, it does not seem logical to lay on a divisional size raid with large air and naval forces just for this. In the past there have been claims that the aim of the raid was to provoke a huge air battle or to gain information about radar or . . . It seems to me that the raid was planned for a military purpose and the rest of the stuff was added by various organizations who saw an opportunity.

However stranger things have happened - the raid on St Nazaire for example. The aim of this raid was to disable the large dry dock, which was the only one on the Atlantic Coast which could hold a major German warship. This, it was felt, could prevent the Germans from trying a repeat of the Bismark sortie.

The wikipedia entry gives a general overview:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Nazaire_Raid

 

Edward Campbell

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Old Sweat said:
I will wait and see on this one. However, it does not seem logical to lay on a divisional size raid with large air and naval forces just for this. In the past there have been claims that the aim of the raid was to provoke a huge air battle or to gain information about radar or . . . It seems to me that the raid was planned for a military purpose and the rest of the stuff was added by various organizations who saw an opportunity.

However stranger things have happened - the raid on St Nazaire for example. The aim of this raid was to disable the large dry dock, which was the only one on the Atlantic Coast which could hold a major German warship. This, it was felt, could prevent the Germans from trying a repeat of the Bismark sortie.

The wikipedia entry gives a general overview:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Nazaire_Raid


My understanding, from what I've read over the years, is that the Bletchley Park (and other) people had secondary objectives in the raid, important but secondary, added on, as suggested, but that, as Old Sweat suggests, the main objective was to test amphibious operations.

My sense is that the various special people, often rather odd civilians, were "minded" by some small teams of quite bloody military folks and that small, apparently pinprick raids were their normal mode of operations.

Regarding Enigma: the 'fuel' for Bletchley Park was provided by carelessly preserved hard copies of 'clear' (decoded) German message traffic; the Brits could, apparently, decode the addressees on the Enigma message traffic and they were, occasionally, able to guess that some small signal centres might be a bit careless about the timely (almost immediate) destruction of Enigma decodes. Hence small raids to steal decoded traffic, with sabotage (actually much like 21st century terrorism) attacks as a cover.

There is a wonderfully informative museum and reading room at Bletchley - well worth a trip when you are in England.

800px-Bletchley_Park_-_Draco2008.jpg

 
 

gordjenkins

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On page 16 of the current Macleans magazine of August 20 2012, the article states the real reason for the raid had a real " vital mission" -" to steal highly valuable inteligence material from a German naval headquarters in the town (Dieppe")"
Simple question - Yes or No?
 

Michael OLeary

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From what I have read (and I stand to be corrected), the main objective of the Dieppe raid was basically a proof of concept; to see if it was possible to capture and hold (for a brief period within the scope of operations for Dieppe) a channel port because at the time the technology to support a major landing across open beaches did not exist. There were included operations such as a raid on a radar station (if I recall correctly) but that was not the main objective.
 

dapaterson

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Historians love to think that They and They alone are smart enough to discover Previously Undiscovered Secrets!

In this case, yes, there is evidence that there were intelligence objectives included in the raid.  But it is a tremendous stretch to say that the raid was a cover for intelligence gathering activities, when most available evidence suggests the plans for the raid came first, with the intelligence gathering objectives second.
 

Old Sweat

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Mods,

There is a discussion of this theory here. At Dapaterson says, historians love to discover "secrets" but this is more of a "Shot in the Dark."

Perhaps we could move some of the stuff from the visit to Dieppe referenced below thread to here.

http://forums.army.ca/forums/threads/107000/post-1163813.html#msg1163813
 

Old Sweat

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This very interesting piece from today's National Post include a frank discussion on a challenge that plagued most armies in the early years of the war - the dead wood that accumulated in the officers' mess in peace time and rose to the top by seniority. I had heard comments re the CO of the RHLI and route marches from other sources. The article is reproduced under the Fair Dealin provision of the Copyright Act.

Arthur Kelly on Dieppe: A battle doomed to fail for all the wrong reasons

Special to National Post | Aug 17, 2012 6:20 AM ET


The Second World War has a day of infamy, ones signifying the end of fighting in Europe and Asia, and of course June 6, 1944, D-Day, the most recognized of all. For Canadians, there’s another meaningful date, Aug. 19, 1942, a day seemingly without end, for its tragic unfolding remains a source of bewilderment and controversy. Even 70 years later, the true nature of the Dieppe Raid remains a mystery to most.

“Difficult to visualize as a whole,” was the German assessment of the Allied plan of attack. Not so the casualties, graphically preserved on film and in photos. Mounds of dead stretched over 15 km of French coast from Puys to Pourville, a total exceeding 4,000, including 907 Canadians killed. Unrelentingly cruel, the raid confirmed the worst-held fears of one its most able participants: Captain Denis Whitaker of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI) had been an eyewitness to failed leadership, conduct he could neither forgive nor forget. “The defeat cleared out all the dead weight,” he told me at his Oakville, Ont., home during a meeting in 1989. “It was the best thing that ever happed to the regiment.”

A platoon commander at Dieppe, Whitaker is the most prominent of those few Canadians who penetrated inside the town. Like all the other soldiers landed at the beach, he immediately went to ground under machine gun and mortar fire, but he got up and led the charge inside the casino, assisting in its capture. By day’s end, he was the only RHLI officer to return to England unscathed, the others either dead, wounded or taken prisoner. The performance of some, in his opinion, was disgraceful: “They went to ground and didn’t get up.”

I was present at Whitaker’s home on July 11, 1982, when he, a retired brigadier-general then, discussed Dieppe with another RHLI veteran, one decorated for valour at the 1945 battle of the Goch-Calcar Road. “We would have done a lot better at Dieppe with you and the others,” he commented thoughtfully. “We would have at least got off the beach.”

What a sore spot for this gifted soldier, one of Canada’s finest field commanders of the Second World War. A graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada, Whitaker led the RHLI after D-Day, successfully guiding it to war’s end. The regiment more closely resembled a social club, however, when Whitaker joined it in 1936. “The officers had no real training,” he explained. “They simply played soldier on weekends. The CO, Colonel Bob Labatt, was a stockbroker.”

Whitaker despised Labatt, holding him responsible for the regiment’s lack of discipline and combat readiness. Morale was poor among the troops as well. He recalled an incident prior to Dieppe, when the regiment conducted an 11-mile march before passing a reviewing stand. Labatt was nowhere to be seen, until he arrived by car out of sight of the dignitaries, just in time to lead the soldiers onto the parade ground. “This kind of behaviour destroys morale,” said Whitaker. “It sets a terrible example.”

At Dieppe, Labatt dashed a few meters from the water’s edge to a sea wall and here he remained, declaring the position battalion headquarters. Others joined him such as Major Dick McLaren, one of the longest serving members of the regiment. At the most critical juncture of the battle, when the troops should have been directed off the beach, Labatt and McLaren fidgeted with a damaged radio set, desperately trying to contact Major General John Roberts onboard the command ship.

“When I got to the wall,” recalled Whitaker, “I knelt down behind it to catch my breath and figure out what to do next. A German fired at me with a machine gun, the bullets passing underneath my stomach and in front of my head. I got out of there in a hurry and on to my objective. I shouted, ‘We can’t stay here because they’re going to mortar the hell out of this beach.’”

Well fortified, Dieppe was a horrific testing round for green troops. “The place is in the shape of a saucer,” noted Whitaker, who died in 2001. “Christ, they were firing at us from behind as well as the front and both sides.”

In the face of such murderous fire, Labatt and his officers had but one task before them, to press the attack forward. Failure to do so would result in the regiment’s annihilation, as well as their own, which is exactly what happened. It was a necessary evil in the mind of Whitaker and others. “Once the society guys were gone,” Bob Wight of Toronto told me in 1989, “there was a second group of officers comprised of real leaders.”

Wight, now deceased, was among the latter group, and the contrast between it and the first couldn’t have been greater. Even in their 70s and 80s when I knew them, these post-Dieppe veterans remained every inch the soldier, exuding courage, resoluteness and professionalism. My personal contact with McLaren, who along with Labatt, was taken prisoner at Dieppe, proved embarrassing and sad: Embarrassing to hear him admit he didn’t know what he was supposed to do on the raid; and sad to think of this otherwise decent man thrown into a situation for which he was completely unprepared.

What remains to be answered is if there was another element at play shaping events. The late Brigadier General Forbes West of Toronto thought so, identifying a political reason for the raid’s launch. “I feel that from the day planning began, it was intended to be a failure,” he revealed to me in his home 23 years ago. “Perhaps not as costly a failure, but a failure nevertheless. The British were being pressed by the Russians and Americans to open a second front, so we were put in with the firm intention of being destroyed. Men at the Chiefs of Staff level would consider 4,000 casualties a small price to pay for convincing the Russians and Americans an invasion would be a disaster.”

Public expectations were high for 1942 with many certain that the Western allies would open a second front against the Germans in Western Europe while the Soviets continued to battle the Nazis in the east. As spring gave way to summer, and the prospect of action grew dimmer, protests erupted. A July 26 rally in Trafalgar Square drew 60,000, the voices ever more shrill on the issue. Varsity Stadium in Toronto hosted a crowd of 14,000 demanding a cross-Channel invasion to help the hard-pressed Russians. On Aug. 2 The New York Times wrote that “the two words most deeply engraved on the minds of the Americans and British peoples at this moment are: Second Front.”

The British War Cabinet vehemently opposed such a move. Churchill himself preferred to secure Britain’s Mediterranean and Far East interests. Against a mounting backdrop of pressure, the Canadian 2nd Infantry Division under the command of Major General Roberts was presented a plan.

“I don’t know who the hell dreamt it up,” remarked Whitaker, “but they didn’t know anything about fighting a war. It was terrible planning, just awful, absolutely ridiculous. They had company objectives that you wouldn’t give to a battalion.”

Whitaker spoke knowingly of the “fog of war,” of not distinguishing what lay 20 feet away in a combat situation. A fog of a different sort descended over 5,000 Canadian soldiers on Aug. 18, 1942. Without prior warning they were hastily assembled, and then transported to the coast. Weapons were issued on-board ship, Sten guns in oily packaging. The raid, cancelled early in July, was now on again, but there had been no training for it since. One reassuring fact sustained the soldiers in the tension-filled hours prior to attack: The German defences would be pulverized by saturation bombardment making for a quick exit from the beaches. But the bombardment never occurred, as the British had opted to maintain “tactical surprise” and not alert the Germans to the pending attack until it began when men hit the beaches. This change in plan was withheld from the soldiers. Unmolested, the Germans commenced machine gun and mortar fire before the landing craft reached shore, killing all but two members of the RHLI’s 17 Platoon before they had hit the beach.

“The battle as far as we were concerned was really nothing but a massacre,” said West, a major in the Royal Regiment of Canada, destroyed at Puys, site of a flanking assault in support of the main thrust at Dieppe. “I remember going in with the second wave with the commanding officer. There was no sound of firing, so I said to him, ‘They must have got through the first line of defences.’ And he replied, ‘The hell they did, they’re all dead.’ When we landed there wasn’t anybody standing, everybody was just strewn on the beach.”

Shot through the leg, West was taken prisoner. During his time in captivity he reflected on the raid’s evolution: “I came to the conclusion that the attack was meant to be a disaster. First you have a frontal assault, which is not very good practice. It’s to be supported with heavy bombing; capital ships and paratroopers, and then each of these are taken away leaving just infantry to attack a fortress with rifle and bayonets. I’m absolutely certain it was intended to be a failure.”

Having been selected for a suicide mission once before in 1940, it’s easy to imagine the Canadians being chosen again two years later. Major General Churchill Mann, deputy military force commander at Dieppe, later revealed the true intent of a British plan involving Canadian forces: “On May 26, 1940,” he wrote, “the war cabinet considered that a sacrifice of a good part of the Canadians might bring the United States into the war as an ally. We at HQ1 Canadian Headquarters commenced arrangements to embark about half the divisions, using passenger-ship lifeboats to land over open beaches without any support at all at Gravelines. Fortunately wiser counsels prevailed and this operation was cancelled.”

As the guns fell silent at Dieppe, so too did public calls for a second front. The shift in attitude was total, seemingly on cue, like this Hamilton Spectator editorial: “This raid should sober the judgment of amateur strategists and silence the irresponsible clamor for a second front. That action will no doubt be taken when our military leaders deem the hour to be ripe for it. Meanwhile, the direction of the war should be wholly entrusted to their care.”

The brutality of Aug. 19, 1942 is contrasted by the kindness bestowed upon the raid since, namely its designation as “a rehearsal” for D-Day. The lessons supposedly learned from the disastrous attack are easily refuted, yet are routinely used as justification for the raid. On this subject West was particularly succinct: “Since the time of the Roman legions, it’s been known that there is no possibility of dislodging a well-entrenched enemy without superior fire power. I don’t know of any lessons we learned at Dieppe.”

Cannon fodder is a term typically associated with the trench warfare of 1914-18, not the conflict of 1939-45. That’s what the Canadians were, however. Why were Canadians selected for such a dubious honour?

Whitaker identified the reason, poor leadership in the first contingents to Britain. The lack of initiative on the beaches of Dieppe was just as evident at the command centre, a problem well understood by the venerable Forbes West: “You have a Major General like Roberts surrounded by Mountbatten, Montgomery and God knows who else, and they say, ‘You don’t mind if we don’t bomb the town do you?’ It would take a man with a tremendous amount of guts to respond, ‘No, if we don’t have any bombardment I personally will not command.’ Roberts didn’t have it in him to say, ‘Look Montgomery, you don’t know sheep s–t from dates and we won’t go.’”
 

gordjenkins

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Has anyone an opinion that Dieppe Raid real reason
was to gain Ultra /Enigma secrets
-per recent
-this weeks article in Macleans magazine??
 
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