TESTIMONY (Utah Beach - D-DAY - June 1944)

Allied ASSAULT Sea & Air Routes (and Beaches)
for the Normandy Invasion, June 6, 1944
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… it was D-DAY, June 6, 1944 – at approximately 10:30 a.m., the Communications Group, comprising about 7 officers and 40 enlisted men (mainly radiomen, yeomen and seamen) landed on the beach at an entry point, close to the present location of the “Utah Beach Museum”, and not far from the current “Le Roosevelt” Restaurant . They immediately set themselves up as an operational Communications Center, using 3 trucks containing all necessary radio equipment to perform their mission . Their job was to support the Naval-Officer-in-Charge (NOIC) of Utah Beach who, along with the Beachmaster of the 2d Naval Beach Battalion (2d NBB), was responsible for the landing of men and equipment on the beach during the day of the invasion and also, beyond that time . The Naval Officer in charge of this group (NOIC) was Captain James E. ARNOLD . The very concept of NOIC was new and applied for the first time at both Utah and Omaha Beaches . For Utah Beach, i.e. our case, personnel who were to form the NOIC Communications Group came from different units; some were taken from the 2d NBB, the 7th NBB, from various ships, and other naval amphibious organizations, only a short time before the invasion itself, and with a few exceptions, most of the men did not know each other . I remember we had 3 men, who were previously attached to the 7th Beach Battalion before joining our group, I think, that I was part of the 2d Beach Battalion while stationed at a N.Y. Amphibious Base . Some seamen in fact came directly from New York, some just fresh out of Radio School, and others from Navy ships … I know for a fact, that our group was only integrated as a unit, no more than one month prior to D-Day …. and I just joined this Group on May 19, 1944 .

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RM 2/C Roger L. CHAGNON,
at his pup tent foxhole,
Utah Beach, June 1944
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NOIC personnel, Utah Beach, June 1944
front row sitting : S 2/C A. GAUMOND,
RM 2/C C. TUMASZ, unknown
back row standing : unknown,
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Home of NOIC personnel,
Utah Beach, June 1944
note individual shelter tents,
protecting foxholes, just off the beach, a little further inland ...
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As members of Naval Amphibious land forces, NOIC personnel were dressed in std. Army HBT combat fatigues, with leggings, the only difference being our helmets which had a blue-gray band across their base, but we had no white-stenciled USN on them ! We did not wear any shoulder insignia on our M41 Field Jackets (the yellow/red SSI was not yet authorized) and our individual equipment included basic items, such as cartridge belt, canteen, first-aid packet, shovel, knife, rifle, shelter tent, and of course some K-Rations, we carried no sidearms . According to Navy archives, our Group, sealed on board ship for about 3 whole weeks prior to landing (though, we were allowed to go to shore bases for fresh meals and showers) was part of Commander Task Group 127.4 (CTG 127.4), and after landing we became part of Commander Task Unit 127.2.4 (CTU 127.2.4), which was located on Naval Advance Base No. 12 (NAB 12) . We were not the only radio people, credit should also be given to 2d NBB and Army 1st Engineer Special Brigade (1st ESB) communication groups who also landed on Utah Beach, June 6, 1944, and shared responsibilities similar to those of the NOIC Group .

NOIC personnel, Utah Beach, June 1944
front row : unknown, S 1/C A. SARCHETTI,
back row : RM 2/C R. ACOSTA,
S 2/C R. PALINSKI, visiting British sailor,
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On D-Day 1, we received word from Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDU) or the Army Engineer Special Brigade(ESB) units that an enemy bunker (probably used as a telephone control center, and attached to a damaged fisherman’s cottage) was clear of occupants and of booby-traps, so the NOIC people moved in . All radio equipment was removed from the trucks and relocated in the bunker . Outside antennas were installed, cables buried in the sand with help of German PWs, and on June 8 the bunker became fully operational as a Radio Comcenter . Radio operations were based on 3 shifts / day, with men working two 4-hour shifts every day of the week, for close to 5 months . The Center generally communicated with the other landing beaches (e.g. Omaha), off-shore vessels, and Command ships . Operations continued until October 31, 1944, at which time all the men went off into different directions, depending on their assignments . I became a member of a Forward Intelligence Unit (FIU) comprising 1 officer 5 EM, engaged in operations against bypassed German pockets of resistance, this was mainly in the Gironde estuary . It was probably during their last days on Utah Beach, that 18 NOIC radio men wrote their names on the walls of the bunker, not knowing they would be discovered 50 years later …

During the first weeks of D-Day, we lived in shallow foxholes or in 3-foot deep holes with pup tents set up directly over the holes . Basic food was K-Rats during the first week, later on this improved to some C-Rats and even 10-in-1s over many weeks, and finally, hot food in mess-hall tents provided by the CBs . As soon as the danger of possible enemy encounter had passed, most of the men, built large dugouts, for 3 or 4 men, big enough to hold cots, tables, chairs, and a little space for clothes . Our men lived in those dugouts for several months and enjoyed occasional visits from neighboring French civilians, some of whom provided us with Calvados to drink and to use as light fuel for cooking outside . A little football here and there, and letter writing, accompanied with talk about going home ‘soon’ often took place . Eventually, the unit was to leave the dugouts and move into 4-man tents, set up by the Seabees .
(Roger L. CHAGNON, RM 2/C, NOIC Group, USN, 3235000, recollections) .

NOIC & 2NBB personnel,
Utah Beach, June 1944
front row :
back row :
unknown 2NBB,
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Notes :

UTAH BEACH (Force "U")

The main assault waves consisted of following units ; 4th Infantry Division - 70th Tank Battalion (F Co, E Co, C Co, B Co), Beach Obstacle Demolition Party, 4th Infantry Division (8th Inf Regt – G Co, H Co, A Co, D Co), 237th Engineer Combat Battalion, 299th Engineer Combat Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment (3d Bn), 22d Infantry Regiment (2d & 1st Bns), 12th Infantry Regiment, 1st Engineer Special Brigade, and 2d Naval Beach Battalion.

Activated February 1943, participated in the Invasion of Sicily (10 Jul 43) and Normandy (6 Jun 44) .

Activated October 1943, trained in Florida (Cp. Bradford & Ft. Pierce), and participated in the Invasion of Normandy (6 Jun 44).

Under Command of Rear-Admiral Morton L. DEYO
USS Nevada (BB-36) 10 x 14" guns, 16 x 5" guns (all in support of 4th Inf Div)
USS Quincy (CA-71) 9 x 8" guns, 12 x 5" guns
USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37) 9 x 8" guns, 8 x 5" guns
HMS Hawkins 7 x 7 1/2" guns, 4 x 4" guns
HMS Erebus 2 x 15" guns, 6 x 4" guns
HMS Enterprise 5 x 6" guns
HMS Black Prince 5 x 6" guns
Destroyers USS Bates (DE-68), Butler (DD-636), Corry (DD-463), Fitch (DD-462), Forrest (DD-461), Gherardi (DD-637), Herndon (DD-638), Hobson (DD-464), Jeffers (DD-621), Laffey (DD-724), Meredith (DD-726), Rich (DE-695), Shubrick (DD-639) ...

The Engineer Special Brigades (former Engineer Amphibian Command, 10 June 1942, CO > Col. Daniel NOCE) in fact originated as Boat & Shore Regiments (to provide necessary Beach organization) and took part in the Invasion of North Africa . Being later stripped of their boats (under Navy control), they however still remained specially trained in beach operations, and were subsequently redesignated Engineer Special Brigades (Army units), with a capability to support an Infantry Division ! The coming Invasion of Normandy was an amphibious operation unlike any before (with enormous logistics to care for) . The organization of the E.S.B.s consequently swelled to provide for the needed units to handle the initial landings and the following support phases of D-Day . The (veteran) 1st Engineer Special Brigade (total T/O strength 16,252 men) under command of Brig. General James E. WHARTON would provide the necessary structure for Utah Beach (main unit to support : 4th Inf Div, on beach sectors TARE Green, TARE Red, UNCLE Green, UNCLE Red), and Omaha Beach would be supported by the 5th (total T/O strength 6,756 men) (main unit to support : 1st Inf Div) and 6th Engineer Special Brigades (total T/O strength 6,630 men) (main unit to support : 29th Inf Div) . To provide for overall control of the units on Omaha Beach, the Headquarters Provisional Engineer Special Brigade Group was activated February 17, 1944 (total T/O strength, assigned & attached for Omaha Beach 21,928 men; for Utah Beach 16,252 men) under command of Brig. General William M. HOGE (CO), Col. Timothy L. MULLIGAN (XO), and Col. Leland B. KUHRE (CofS) . Full dress rehearsals for the Normandy Invasion took place May 3 > 7, 1944 and included the 1st, 5th and 6th E.S.B.

MAIN TRANSPORTS – Utah Beach (all 4th Inf Div elements)
USS Bayfield (APA-33)
USS Joseph T. Dickman (APA-13)
USS Barnett (APA-5)
HMS Empire Gauntlet (LSI(L)

The "Forward Intelligence Unit" was an Intelligence unit attached to the Twelfth Naval Fleet . Its mission was to interrogate German PWs on naval issues, therefore FIU members were all US Navy officers who used to be peacetime educators, newspapermen and professionals of various industries all of whom spoke more than 2 languages. The FIU (mentioned in above Testimony) was basically a small communications group comprising 1 officer, 3 radiomen, 1 radio technician and 1 motor machinist mate; all Navy personnel, dressed as soldiers ! Vehicles were 1 radio truck, 1 weapons carrier and 1 jeep . Following interrogations of enemy personnel, reports and results were then transmitted to Naval Fleet Intelligence. The specific mission of this FIU was to support military and intelligence operations against German Navy pockets of resistance, mostly in the area of the Gironde estuary (western coast of France), these pockets were small enemy naval support bases for Kriegsmarine activities and were staffed by non-combat units, both Navy and Army . Military operations against these bases were conducted by American or Free French infantry units, the number of which depended on the size of the objective . As mobile radio support unit, we would move to an assembly area close to the target and set up our tents there . Following the enemy surrender (generally, after little or no resistance), the FIU officers interrogated the PWs and the communications group would transmit the results by radio to Naval Intelligence .

The official Normandy Campaign credit covered the combat period between 6 June 1944 and 24 July 1944

Normandy (6 June - 24 July 1944) ... a great Invasion Force stood off the Normandy coast of France as dawn broke on June 6, 1944 - 9 Battleships, 23 Cruisers, 104 Destroyers, and 71 large Landing Craft of various descriptions, as well as Troop Transports, Minesweepers, and Merchantmen, over 5,000 ships, the largest Armada ever assembled ! In the hours following air and naval bombardments, more than 100,000 fighting men would sweep ashore to begin one of the epic assaults of "military history", a "mighty endeavor", as President Franklin Delano ROOSEVELT described it to the American people, "to preserve ... our civilization and set free a suffering humanity." The final countdown for Nazi Germany had begun ...

TESTIMONY (Utah Beach - D-DAY - June 1944)

D-Day, June 6, 1944 -
USS Nevada (BB-36) firing her forward 14-in guns off Normandy ...

… I was five days into my 19th birthday as we approached the Normandy coast on June 5, 1944 – and completely unaware of what was to happen on the beaches … Just before dawn, in the cool air of the pitch black night, I was suddenly numbed by the enormity of what was about to happen . It was as though the curtain was about to go up on one of the biggest shows in history, and I was part of the cast ! I knew it was going to be a small part, but the overriding sense of it all was that I was there !

Infantry troops, on board transport ship,
note Pliofilm Bags, Assault Gasmasks,
Life Belts and Assault Jackets,
June 6, 1944
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RM 2/C Raymond L. ACOSTA (L)
with fellow seaman
in front of temporary dugout,
Utah Beach, June 1944
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Infantry transferring from LCVP
onto larger LCI,
prior to Normandy Beachhead assault,
June 6, 1944 ...
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It all started seven months earlier, when I arrived near Roseneath, Scotland, aboard QE1, as a Navy radioman, assigned to the Commander of the Eleventh Amphibious Force (later annexed to the Naval-Officer-in-Charge, Utah Beach - NOIC-Utah Beach) . On May 16, 1944, after six months of duty in Wales and England, we were all assigned aboard Liberty Ship S/S Robertson . For three weeks we remained on board as a ‘sealed ship’, sailing back and forth between Penarth (Wales) and Plymouth (England) . A most boring tour of duty, if you ask me . But then we heard, that we were to be part of a vast mobilization of Allied forces getting ready to invade the European continent …we knew it was going to happen soon, but the big question remained : where?” .

Meanwhile, almost every week, 6 or 7 operators (of our original group of 35) got assigned to other ships, until there were only 12 of us left on the S/S Robertson .We all felt sad, since we had been together since our radio training at Northwestern University . On June 5, 194, we set sail for Barry (Wales) . During the afternoon, our skipper, Commander DUNN, called for attention and read a message from Rear-Admiral Alan G. Kirk, commanding US Naval Assault Forces . It was a grim message, about what was to be expected from the enemy, in the coming battle . I could feel the adrenalin surging through my whole body (recalling the tragic incidents during ‘Operation Tiger’), but still managed to say to one of my shipmates, with a dry throat, “I guess, this is it !” From that moment on, until two weeks later, I went into a kind of trance, though I was aware of everything that was happening around me, I guess I was unconsciously creating a mental fog to act as a kind of protecting shield . Yet, I was able to write about these historic events in the little diary I carried with me …

Another Normandy Beachhead scene -
two roads out of Normandy,
wounded and prisoners,
June 1944 ...
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Disabled German remote controlled
"Goliaths" (filled with explosives)
being examined by 2d NBB personnel,
Utah Beach, June 6-7, 1944
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Trailer for carrying the German
"Goliath" Sd.Kfz. 302 Sprengpanzer 
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This was D-Day, June 6, 1944 – the big Day has come ! and here we are cruising along to France to set up a Comcenter on the Utah Beachhead (NOIC-Utah Beach) . We’re all pretty nervous and jittery, wonder what it will be like when we get there ? We’ll sure know within a few hours . Sofar, only one enemy E-boat contact … Everything was black and quiet as we sat top side on the hatch covers preparing our individual gear, when suddenly a battleship opened up nearby with its 12-inch guns, the noise was incredible . Sound waves literally entered our mouth and nose, and hit right into the pit of your stomach . Next, the sky lit up with millions of tracer fire, both sound and sight were truly awesome . It looked, no it was, the world’s greatest fireworks ! I remember, feeling uncomfortable, because I thought it was so damn beautiful, how can anything so destructive, be so beautiful ? As I was going down the cargo nets on the S/S Robertson’s portside, the chinstrap of my helmet became unhooked and dropped down into the waiting LCVP, it landed on another guy’s helmet who was sitting in the stern . There was a lot of cursing and yelling, but I was lucky at least to get my helmet back, for sure !

German prisoners in temporary PW Cage,
somewhere on Utah Beach, 9 June 44

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German PWs being searched on Utah Beach, 8 - 9 June 44
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somewhere on Utah Beach, 8 June 44,
searching & sorting German PWs

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temporary PW enclosure on Utah Beach, 6 June 1944
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We landed on Utah Beach, at 10:30 hrs from an LCVP . 2 officers, RM 3/C John Besemer and myself, got lost from the bunch, when some German shells started whizzing by, some of which landed too damn close ! I got a terrible bruise on my right knee when I fell on one of the steel mats laid out for the tanks, it hurt like hell, but I don’t think they’d award Purple Hearts for tripping over your own feet ! We must have hit the sand 12 times before we found the rest of our guys near a German blockhouse . On D-Day 1 we dug our foxholes and started setting up communications and standing radio watch in the enemy bunker, now free from its former occupants . I wish they would get that kraut gun that keeps shelling the beach, he’s getting to be a real pain … The following days were kind of hectic; too many damn enemy guns going off and too many German planes, what a hell of a racket . Impossible to sleep, all you can do is lie in your foxhole and shake all night . This morning I must have jumped into my foxhole for cover 75 times . Then, they shot down an enemy plane, it was June 8, it was strafing the beach, and the pilot had to evacuate, he parachuted down about 60 yards from us . Some jerk in the bivouac area started shooting at him while he was coming down, and we all yelled to him to quit shooting . The boys from the 2d Naval Beach Battalion(2d NBB) got hold of the enemy pilot and hustled him off without much ceremony to the PW cage . We then later met the incoming troops and reinforcements, and tank crews rolling by our bunker . We were however still subjected to random attacks by German aircraft which bombed the beaches at night, since we had no searchlights, we couldn’t see them . An enemy ‘88’ still opens up now and then, and about 40 yards from us, a soldier stepped on a mine and up he went in the air, you still have to watch where you walk around here … German prisoners keep pouring into the cages, they certainly don’t look like supermen anymore . My ‘private’ foxhole is now 4 feet deep, and I have stuffed a cot in it, while over it I placed a pup tent . It’s not exactly home, but at least it keeps me dry . The Army boys are always shocked when we tell them we are Navy . We dress like them, eat with them, and who ever heard of sailors living in a foxhole ? we’re supposed to be on a ship, sleeping in nice dry and clean bunks ! I remember the 4th of July, when we had a grand display of flares with tracers and guns blasting all over the place, without an enemy in sight . I wonder what the German PWs must have thought about us lighting up the whole sky . On July 10, the 2d Naval Beach Battalion left us for England … and we all expected to go too, one day or another . I was granted my first leave after approximately nine weeks spent on Utah Beach . Early September 1944, I received my papers, for transferring back to the United States, where I got back September 10, 1944 . I managed to survive D-Day …
(Raymond L. ACOSTA, RM 2/C, NOIC Group, USN, 7081655, recollections)

Notes :


Under command of Rear Admiral John L. HALL Jr – organized in November 1943 at Plymouth, in view of the Normandy Invasion, responsible for training and preparation of all Naval Amphibious Forces . (it included a wide variety of ships, barges and landing craft, such as, 168 (US) 61 (Br) LST, 124 (US) 121 (Br) LCI, 216 (US) 265 (Br) LCM, etc …
separate group of landing craft under command of Captain Lorenzo S. SABIN Jr – organized 12 December 1943 as Gunfire Support Craft group consisting of (Reverse Lend-Lease) British-built support landing craft, split into 2 separate forces: Force "Oboe" in support of Omaha Beach landings with 9 LCT(R) 7 LCF 5 LCG(L) 18 LCT(A) 32 LCP(L) under Captain Lorenzo S. Sabin Jr himself, and Force "Uncle" in support of Utah Beach landings with 5 LCT (R) 4 LCF 4 LCG(L) 8 LCT(A) 16 (LCP(L) under Lieutenant-Commander L.E. Hart Jr …

ADMIRAL ALAN G. KIRK (1888-1963)
Born 30 Oct 88 in Philadelphia, he graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1909 . Alan Goodrich KIRK was first a White House Aide (early 20s), and also XO of the Presidential Yacht "Mayflower". Capt. A.G. Kirk became Naval Attaché in London June 7, 1939, and secured much needed technical information from the Royal Navy while being stationed in Britain . In March 1941 he became Director of Naval Intelligence in Washington, and already commanded a Destroyer Division escorting Atlantic convoys in September . Kirk was promoted Rear Admiral in November 1941 . In March 1942, Rear Admiral Alan G. KIRK joined Admiral Harold R. STARK (Cdr US Naval Forces, Europe) as Chief of Staff . February 1943, he succeeded H.K. HEWITT at Norfolk, Va. As Commander, Amphibious Forces, Atlantic Fleet . The Central Task Force for "Operation Husky" was commanded by Kirk . After the successful Invasion of Sicily, A.G. KIRK was named Commander Western Task Force (TF 122) for the Cross-Channel attack of June 6, 1944 . In Oct 44 he took command of all US Naval Forces in France . After the war Kirk retired a full Admiral (1 Mar 46), he became US Ambassador to Belgium and Minister to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (1946-1949) . He was then appointed Ambassador to Moscow until 1952, as well as shortly Ambassador to Nationalist China (1962-1963). Admiral Alan G. KIRK died on October 15, 1963 in New York City.

Through the first five months of 1944, individual and group assault training had been increased in view of D-DAY . SHAEF Headquarters supplemented the program from January 1944 on by large-scale exercises designed to test not only the assault and landing techniques, but coordination between the joint Allied Armies, smoothness of staff work, and techniques of mounting, marshaling, loading, and unloading . The latter cumulated in 2 dress rehearsals for the proper Invasion : Exercise Tiger (Force "U" VII US Corps) held end of April, and Exercise Fabius (Force "O" & "B" V US Corps) conducted early May . Of the various Training Exercises conducted at Slapton Sands in Start Bay and in nearby Tor Bay, on the coast of Devon, southwest of Dartmouth, United Kingdom, Exercise Tiger nearly ended in total disaster . It was a training exercise for the Utah Beach Assault Force (Force "U") under Admiral Don P. MOON which took place from April 22-30, 1944 . In the early hours of 28 April, Convoy T-4 was attacked by 9 German E-boats out of Cherbourg which had evaded Allied patrols . LST-507 and LST-531 were both torpedoed, while LST-289 although severely crippled managed to limp into port . Death toll was 198 sailors and 551 soldiers, i.e. a total of 749 (of which the majority from the 1st Engineer Special Brigade) . The loss of LSTs to the ‘Overlord’ Plan was particular critical in view of the general shortage of landing craft …

The WESTERN (i.e. American) TASK FORCE, commanded by Rear-Admiral Alan G. KIRK, USN, with Flagship USS Augusta, numbered a total of 2400 naval craft . In the scope of Fire Support for the American Landing Forces, Rear-Admiral Carleton F. BRYANT was in command of all Battleships, while Rear-Admiral Morton L. DEYO was in charge of all Destroyers . While consolidation of all US Naval Forces in Europe, took place under Admiral Harold R. STARK (as Cdr Twelfth Fleet – also responsible for providing all TF with necessary facilities for training and operations; as Cdr Naval Forces, Europe – responsible for coordination with ETOUSA & COSSAC and for all naval preparations for Operation Neptune), a special organization was set up for the Normandy Invasion ;
TF 122 – Rear Admiral Alan G. KIRK – Control Force – Flagship USS Augusta, this special Task Force was formed to control all Operations and Training for the Cross-Channel Assault . TF 122 was responsible for training, preparation and operations of all US Naval Forces involvedin the Normandy Invasion .
TF 124 – Rear Admiral John L. HALL Jr – Assault Force "O" – Flagship USS Ancon (reached Omaha Beach transport area and dropped anchor at 0250, June 6), also Cdr of Eleventh Amphibious Force, and responsible for all US amphibious forces afloat (V Corps > Leonard T. GEROW) .
TF 125 – Rear Admiral Don P. MOON – Assault Force "U" – Flagship USS Bayfield (reached Utah Beach transport area and dropped anchor at 0230, June 6) (VII Corps > Joseph L. COLLINS)
TF 126 – Commodore C.D. EDGAR – Assault Force "B", follow-up Force of the US Invasion component (Western TF)
TF 127 – Rear Admiral John WILKES – Service Force of TF 122, also responsible for all Landing Craft & Bases in Europe, including support and maintenance operations .
TF 128 – Captain A. Dayton CLARK – Mulberry Harbor array of concrete blocks and other vessels

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