pilots in dress uniforms The pilots doughboys with mules African American Officers Riveters Mule Rearing African American Soldiers 1 gas masks

World War I Centennial News


 

Discover history while preserving it: The Memorial Hunters Club 

By Betsy Sheppard
Staff Writer, United States World War One Centennial Commission

This week, the United States World War One Centennial Commission announced the final fifty of the 100 Cities/100 Memorials preservation grant recipients. This effort has helped us to shine a light on WWI memorials across the entire Unites States.

Memorial Hunters Club 1000 2The Commission's Memorial Hunters Club program is designed to create a catalog of all the WWI memorials around the entire country, to increase awareness of these important legacies of World War I, and help preserve them.

Do you want to make history by preserving it?

You can join the World War I Centennial Commission’s Memorial Hunters Program, to catalog World War One memorials around the country. Using your smartphones, you can take pictures of the place, the memorial, and the plaque. From there, dig for more info, such as an exact address or Google Maps link, when the memorial was built, who built it, and what happened in the area during World War I. After discovering this information, head towards the success pages on the Memorial Hunters page of the World War I Centennial Commission website to permanently archive your discoveries.

Read more: Discover history while preserving it: The Memorial Hunters Club

Interview with Journey’s End director Saul Dibb

"The film needed really really really brilliant nuanced, convincing performances"

The movie Journey’s End opened widely across the U.S. in April. Journey’s End tells the story of Captain Stanhope and his British regiment during World War I. The regiment of about 120 soldiers goes back to a front line with knowledge of an enormous upcoming attack and the knowledge that they will likely be on the front to face it. The film portrays how these men wait as time tick by until the attack and the ways in which each of these individuals deals with their fear. The World War I Centennial Commission had a chance to interview director Saul Dibb on our weekly WW1 Centennial News podcast a few weeks ago about his vision for the film. Interview by Theo Mayer, edited by WW1CC Intern Betsy Sheppard.

Theo: Saul, Journey’s End is a really intimate film that is about a really intimate subject. It’s about men, mortality and fear. Can you give us a quick overview of the story?

Saul: image w240Saul DibbWell you’ve given a very good introduction there. It’s essentially about a regiment of soldiers, so around 120 men, who are going back to a front line in the knowledge that there is going to be an enormous attack coming and they are very likely to be there when it comes. So, it’s about how they wait as the days go by and the minutes tick by and how each of them deals with their fear, like you said. At the center of it is Stanhope, who’s a very seasoned captain even though he’s only in his early twenties, who’s changed irrevocably in the three years that his been at the front. And then, into his officers’ dugout steps a young man of 19 who hero-worshiped him when he was in school and has tracked him down, so in the middle of all the pressure that they’re under anyway, suddenly there’s a young man who remembers him how he was and that puts a massive added amount of tension onto Stanhope’s soldiers.

Theo: Well quite literally, from a historical standpoint, this is taking place during the Spring Offensive, right in that same time frame isn’t it?

Saul: It is yeah, and the big thing that’s hanging over all of it is just before that the Americans had joined the war but weren’t able to mobilize their troops until a year later. So from what I understand of it, and obviously your listeners may know much much more about it but, the Germans felt like this was the last big push before reinforcements arrived, so they planned an enormous barrage of bombs and mustard gas and things that were going to come on march the 21st. And you know the British were aware of it and so the word went out, to use a euphemistic phrase, to lightly defend these trenches. They thought “well what we’re gonna do is sacrifice this line and the men that go with it.” So the regiment is a microcosm of all the regiments that were there during the spring offensive and the Spring Offensive is a microcosm of the war itself, you know, so I think you’re absolutely right. Each part stands for a part that's much bigger than itself but they all say the same thing.

Read more: Interview with Journey’s End director Saul Dibb

Four Questions for Ed Nef and Doug Hartley, creators of the An American Martyr movie

"It was a sad but poignant tale."  

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission

Lifelong friends Ed Nef and Doug Hartley, are both 84 years young, and they recently undertook a remarkable project -- to create a documentary film about Doug's uncle, Charles Fletcher Hartley. One hundred years ago, Charles Fletcher Hartley was an American living overseas, who left a comfortable life in order to join the British Army. He served in the trenches as an infantry officer with the famous Coldstream Guards. The film, An American Martyr, is a remarkable finished project. We caught up with Ed and Doug to find out more about their movie.

You read the letter from you uncle to his family about joining the Coldstream Guards. Is there any indication of why he felt so strongly about joining this particular fight, this particular war? Did he say anything about his feelings toward his American roots or national-identity? Why did he go on this journey? What comments did he make about it, in the letters, before he was killed?

Ed DougEd Nef (left) and Doug Hartley together in Belgium.Charles left the US at age 16 in 1913 before the outbreak in 1914. In the US he attended local elementary schools and later high school when his father decided to bring the family' to England.

Like many 1000s of Americans who fought in that war Charles parentage was mixed. A native born American, he had a British father and an American born mother.

He was undoubtedly patriotic but it would be hard to describe his motivations. He wanted to fight and in 1916 the US was neutral. However, many of his friends joined up, and he pleaded with his father to enlist. Hatred of the Hun? Feeling that freedoms were threatened? Youthful ardor? Or a mix of all the above?

In October 1917 before he left for Cambrai, Charles was slated to help train US army machine gunners before the massive US troop movements into France, but was killed before he could fulfill this duty.

Tell us about the making of the film. You went to remarkable places, sites where the WWI battles took place. What did the experience teach you about what happened there 100 years ago? What did the geography look like, what challenges did the armies face?

Doug and Ed, both 84 years old, are Harvard classmates (’55) and fellow former Foreign Service Officers. William Flanders, also 84, Yale '55, is Narrator for our film. He is Ed's classmate at Phillips Academy, Andover. One day Doug was telling Ed about his uncle who was killed in WWI. It was a sad but poignant tale. Ed, who had retired from the Government and had gone into the production of documentaries, was taken by the story. He suggested it could make an interesting film. They decided then and there to team up for this purpose.

Read more: Four Questions for Ed Nef and Doug Hartley, creators of the An American Martyr movie

WWI service banner spirit lives on as National Gold Star Spouses’ Day

By Amy Perry
via the Fort Lee Traveler newspaper web site

FORT LEE, Va. -- In 1917 – the early days of America’s involvement in the Great War – Army Capt. Robert L. Queisser, Fifth Ohio Infantry, created a window-hung service banner that symbolized his pride in the family’s two sons serving on the front lines.

blue star banner 2There's a Service Flag Flying at Our House is a World War I era song released in 1917 (lyrics by Thomas Hoier and Bernie Grossman; Al W. Brown composer.)The idea spread across the country like wildfire, and with the passage of the Selective Service Act that would see 2.8 million Americans drafted during World War I, many families were soon sewing their own banners.

A blue star on a white background lined with a red border symbolized a loved one deployed to a combat area. Additional stars were added to the banner for each family member similarly serving. If the spouse or parents learned their loved one had perished in battle, the blue star representing that individual was replaced with a gold one.

This simple service banner practice spawned the usage of “Blue Star” and “Gold Star” titles during discussions or recognition ceremonies related to those with a service member currently among the military ranks or who had lost their loved one while that individual was serving, respectively.

The tradition continued through World War II, encouraged by the creation of American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., in 1928. An official day of recognition, designated as Gold Star Mother’s Day, was enacted by Congress in 1936 and set for the last Sunday in September.

Another organization – Gold Star Wives – began operating before the end of World War II and boasted First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who joined the group as a founding member after her husband died in 1945.

Their first official meeting was held April 5, 1945, which stuck as the newly designated annual date for Gold Star Spouses Day. The event actually was titled Gold Star Wives Day until December 2010 when the unisex version was deemed more inclusive and codified into law in 2012.

By improving benefits, notifications and assistance given to families, the Gold Star organizations would make things better for the unfortunate constituents who would walk similar paths of tragedy in the future.

One of the early members of the legacy wives’ club, Myrtle Tesesco, would often share stories of surviving spouses banding together, according to the Gold Star Wives website.

Read more: WWI service banner spirit lives on as National Gold Star Spouses’ Day

10 Things You Didn't Know About World War I

By Brandon Christensen
via the Real Clear History web site

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice ending World War I, one of the bloodiest conflicts in world history. To mark it, RCH has been doing a series of articles highlighting various aspects of the Great War.

For this week, here are 10 things you didn’t know about World War I. Behold:

10. World War I wasn’t the first “world” war in history. Since the early modern era (1450-1789), there have been numerous wars fought by European powers on a global scale, including on the European continent. The 30 Years’ War was a notable one, as was the era of Napoleon.

9. The first aerial dogfight was NOT fought in World War I. RCH just went over the 10 craziest dogfights of World War I last week, but the first aerial dogfight in history was fought in Mexico between two mercenaries from the Unites States. On Nov. 30, 1913, two mercenaries were flying reconnaissance missions for their sides and were ordered, from the ground, to kill the opposing pilot. The two pilots, both Americans, were not about to die for a cause they didn’t believe in, nor were they about to kill a fellow American for mere money, so they flew around in circles and shot their pistols into the sky until their guns were empty. This story has huge theoretical implications for today’s world: mercenaries don’t blindly follow orders, and nationality is hard to overcome for a buck.Tank TreeThe Tank fought the tree, and the tree won.

8. The first tank used in combat was during World War I. Tanks are an essential component of militaries today, so much so that it’s hard to fathom war without them. But up until Sept. 15, 1916 (two years into the Great War), horses were still the main form of cavalry used by militaries. Horses! The United Kingdom was the first empire to employ tanks, in the Battle of the Somme, and they were largely ineffectual. There were too many breakdowns and the French heavily criticized their allies for giving away the advantage of surprise by launching the tanks before they were battle ready.

7. World War I was the first time mobile flamethrowers were used. The Chinese had been using a type of flamethrower for centuries, and the Byzantines had mounted a type of flamethrower on their ships, but neither of these people had been able to do what the Germans did after a few years in the trenches fighting against the British and French empires: produce a mobile flamethrower that could be wielded by infantry. The element of surprise gave the Germans a short-lived psychological advantage (the British and French soon adopted the flamethrower themselves). Flamethrowers were used to clear out enemy trenches. Instead of throwing grenades into the trenches, which had the effect of ruining what could be a new home, infantry units just stuck a flamethrower into the opposing side’s trench and let ‘er rip.

Read more: 10 Things You Didn't Know About World War I

Film puts Stubby, famed World War I dog from CT, back in spotlight 

By Pat Eaton-Robb
Associated Press, via the Waterbury, CT Republican-American newspaper web site

HARTFORD (AP) — Curt Deane says his grandfather would be thrilled to know that a century after his service in World War I, people have not forgotten the heroics of his dog, Stubby.

A new animated film based on the true story of the decorated war dog, “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero” opens April 13.

ParadeThis April 30, 1919 photograph provided by the Connecticut State Library shows famed war dog Stubby walking in a homecoming parade for World War I veterans in Hartford, Conn. Stubby is the subject of a new animated movie being released on April 13, 2018. (Connecticut State Library via AP)Director Richard Lanni says he tried to be as authentic as possible when telling the story of the small stray who was adopted in 1917 by Deane’s grandfather, J. Robert Conroy, of New Britain, while he was training in New Haven.

Conroy was able to smuggle Stubby aboard a ship taking soldiers to Europe and, as the story goes, the Boston Terrier mix became the mascot of the 102nd Regiment by charming officers with his ability to salute, a trick which Conroy taught him.

Stubby was never made a sergeant, Deane said. But he did have many documented exploits, earning a medal that was presented to the dog by famed Gen. John Pershing.

“Before Stubby was a cartoon, he was a real dog, and he really did some amazing things,” Deane said.

Read more: Film puts Stubby, famed World War I dog from CT, back in spotlight

Pennsylvania oil and World War I

By Judith Etzel
via the thederrick.com web site

A new scholarly journal published by the non-profit Friends of Drake Well tackles a dual subject - Pennsylvania oil and World War I - and outlines how the two topics were closely intertwined.

The special Oilfield Journal edition, timed to mark the 100th anniversary of America's entry into the War to End All Wars, lays out "the impact of the global war on the local region."

5ac5b7f5b0c2f.imageThe newest Oilfield Journal highlights the oil industry's heavy involvement in World War I. This September 1918 photograph of a Pennsylvania National Guard unit crossing a bridge in war-torn France is the cover of the journal. (Photograph courtesy of the Pennsylvania Military Museum and PHMC).The hefty paperback issue features articles by local authors as well as an interview with "a prominent military historian and World War I expert," notes the edition. Numerous illustrations are included in the publication.

Petroleum products, from lubricants to gasoline, played a crucial role in World War I and nowhere was that impact more dramatic than in Pennsylvania's oil patch.

Shaky oil prices, limited pipeline access, stagnant drilling, regulatory excess and more were rattling the industry as Europe convulsed into war. At the same time, Pennsylvania's independent producers and refiners worried about fierce competition from larger companies outside the state.

As America moved closer to declaring war on Germany, the need to guarantee production quotas for the U.S. military as well as ensure America's allies had fuel extended far beyond the Oil Valley refineries to include the major oil companies such as Standard Oil, Atlantic Refining, Gulf Refining, Sinclair Oil and others.

The looming war even prompted a name change for one local company. In reaction to anti-German sentiment resulting from America's likely entrance into World War I, Germania Refining, under the guidance of the Suhr family, was renamed Penn-American Refining Co. in 1917. Five years later, Penn-American and the Pennzoil subsidiaries were merged to form the Pennzoil Co.

The war and the Oil Valley

"Pennsylvania's Oil Region during the Great War" is the lead article in the Oilfield Journal and is written by Ihor J. Bemko, an associate professor of history at Edinboro University and a Fulbright Scholar.

In the run-up to war, Oil City businessman Joseph Seep, whose agency was a prime buyer and price setter of crude oil, and Charles Miller of the Franklin-based Galena Signal Oil Co. anxiously watched the petroleum industry's reaction to supply and demand, noted Bemko.

Read more: Pennsylvania oil and World War I

One Hundred Years Ago: New York City Bids Farewell to the Doughboys

By Edward Lengel
via the edwardlengel.com web site

By the time German forces launched Operation Michael on the Western Front on March 21, 1918, only six full American divisions had arrived in France. Desperate to ramp up the American contribution as fast as possible, AEF Commander General John J. Pershing and French Generalissimo Ferdinand Foch agreed to increase the tempo of troop shipments across the Atlantic Ocean. It was time to send in the draftees of the so-called. The first of these divisions departed New York City one hundred years ago: the 77th “Metropolitans” and the 82nd “All-Americans”. 77thDoughboysSoldiers of the 77th Division, circa 1918. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The Metropolitans

The 77th Division had been training at Camp Upton on Long Island since the previous fall, until the Doughboys thought that maybe they would never get to go overseas. After all, many critics had publicly questioned whether the Metropolitans were reliable: they had been drafted into service, after all, and many of them were first or second-generation immigrants. They called themselves Americans now—but were they?

Orders to prepare for shipment overseas finally arrived at the beginning of March 1918. The first to go were the machine gun battalions and supply and support personnel. Next would come the infantry.

Captains Charles Whittlesey and George McMurtry, future Medal of Honor recipients of the famed “Lost Battalion,” must have nursed bittersweet feelings as they packed their belongings.

On March 12, their 308th Regiment had proudly opened a theater. Housed in a brand new frame building on a concrete foundation, the theater was the only one in camp and had cost $10,000. The money had been raised from a show that they had recently put on in New York City’s Hippodrome.

The 308th Regiment’s theater was like a little Hippodrome of its own, accommodating 1,500 men with a stage, movie theater, gymnasium and dressing rooms. Opening day featured eight boxing bouts thanks to the efforts of Lightweight Boxing Champion Benny Leonard, along with a movie and vaudeville routines. But now they would have to let it all go.

At the beginning of April, after just a few more shows, the men were put on 36-hour notice. Doughboys wrote letters home, packed their bags, and stripped the barracks of all their remaining amenities. From now on they would sleep on freezing cold concrete floors until it was time to depart. On the evening of April 5, the men of the 308th Regiment including Whittlesey and McMurtry, held a torchlight procession replete with drums and bugles to serenade the divisional commander and his staff.

Read more: One Hundred Years Ago: New York City Bids Farewell to the Doughboys

Sniping From Below: Periscope Rifles in World War I 

By Tom Laemlein
via the American Rifleman web site

World War I saw the widespread introduction of many, what we would call “modern” arms, including the aircraft, the machine gun, the armored vehicle, the submarine and even poison gas. When you drill down a little farther, there are several highly specialized arms used in the “Great War” that were specific to the conflict.

m1917 US periscope riflePeriscope rifle using the U.S. M1917 rifle.One of these was the periscope rifle. Born in the battle of the trenches, the periscope rifle was a specialized tool for the deadly cat-and-mouse game of Great War snipers. The basic concept was to give the marksman the ability to aim and fire from the comparative safety of below ground—inside his trench position—without having to raise his head above the parapet and expose himself to enemy fire. 

A standard rifle was cradled in one of many various style mounts, with a mirrored-periscope set up to provide the shooter with a reasonable approximation of a normal sight picture. A string or wire was attached to the trigger. The rest was the fine art of marksmanship.

“Sniping” was generally considered a dirty business, or a black art at best, on both sides and throughout most of World War I. Regardless of official sentiments, the snipers’ deadly skills were readily cultivated and refined beginning in 1915.

Allied sniper manuals from the Great War are quite detailed (and much of the information in those guides is still relevant today). The development of the periscope rifle was simply in keeping with the needs of the troops engaged in trench warfare, and periscope-sighted rifles could be found in service with the British, French, Belgian, Russian and German armies.

Read more: Sniping From Below: Periscope Rifles in World War I

World War I: Far uglier than many people remember 

By Bill Federer
via the World Net Daily web site

“The Great War” began in 1914 between Germany and its allies, and England and France and their allies. Battles were fought in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands, China and off the coast of South and North America.

Wounded American SoldierPrivate Edward Hubert having hot chocolate and cakes at Field Hospital No. 328 of the 82nd DivisionOne of the reasons for World War I was access to Middle East oil. In the article “Falling Empires and their Currencies” (Centre for Research on Globalization, Global Research, Jan. 15, 2007), Rolf Nef wrote of circumstances leading up to the war: “France after Waterloo (1815) had been militarily beaten. … The 19th century was the time when the British upper class had the time to spend … plunder from its colonies. … When (German Chancellor) Bismarck started war against France in 1871, London found it … to her advantage to have a weakened France. But the defeat of France gave birth not only to a new united Germany under Bismark and Prussia, but also to a new economic powerhouse, Germany. …”

Rolf Nef continued: “Britain, where the first Kondratieff cycle (50 years of economic growth followed by depression) started with the steam engine fell into a heavy depression by 1873. But Germany started the new Kondratieff cycle with diesel, gasoline and electric engines (founders were all German: Messers. Diesel, Otto and Siemens). Soon Germany was producing more steel than England. The new source of energy, oil, made the German war ships faster than the English one, something of great concern to London. Deutsche Bank and Georg von Siemens initiated the Baghdad railway, which went from Berlin through the Austrian Empire, Serbia and into the Ottoman Empire to the oil fields in Kirkuk, north of Baghdad (oil was at that time only known in Baku, Russia, Kirkuk and Pennsylvania). … The new German rail link with Baghdad was out of range of British sea power and their controlled waterways. The alarm bells went on in Whitehall (London’s government district). …”

Read more: World War I: Far uglier than many people remember

Historian Builds Replica American Tank from WW1 for UK Museum

By Matthew Moss
via THEFIREARMBLOG.com web site

British historian Stephen Wisdom has built a full-scale replica of a World War One tank from fibreglass and wood.

The recreation of a French Renault FT light tank has been built for the American Museum in Bath, UK. Wisdom built the fibreglass tank around a wooden frame and fabricated plastic moulded parts to create a faithful model which is lightweight and easy to transport.

replica tankStephen Wisdom's replica WWI FT tankHe moulded over 1,000 plastic rivets fixing them to the replica with glue before hand painting the tank to match the correct camouflage colours and even the colour of the French mud of the Western Front.

The replica tank will be part of the museum’s upcoming exhibit: Side by Side: America and World War I, which is going to run from the end of March to the 28th October 2018.

The exhibit marks the 100th anniversary of America’s first major military engagement during World War One.

Wisdom, also a trained artist, explained the idea behind the ambitious project:

"Everything we do is targeted towards big historical stories. They’re done just to tell these great stories. If we have these great props that kids can climb all over and see the size of, that’s brilliant. That’s why we built the tank, for that wow factor."

Read more: Historian Builds Replica American Tank from WW1 for UK Museum

World War I mission: 'Quicken the Americans' enthusiasm for the war!' 

By Alasdair Sandford
via the EuroNews web site

Gordon SandfordEuronews' Alasdair Sandford tells the story of one British army officer sent to the US in April 1918 to recount his experiences from WWI, part of a drive to raise funds via the 'Liberty Loans' campaign. This soldier was Alasdair's grandfather.

“The object of your journey is… to quicken the interest and enthusiasm of the American people for the war by the narration of your personal experiences,” explained the letter marked “secret” from the British Ministry of Information to my grandfather.

A hundred years ago this month, Major L. Gordon Sandford — an Australian who had fought with the British army in France and Belgium and had been injured — duly sailed to New York. He was one of several officers sent to the United States to help raise money for World War I which America had joined the previous year.

Specifically, he was to take part in the latest “Liberty Loan” campaign. April 5, 1918, saw the launch of the third of four Liberty bond schemes — effectively loans from people and organisations to the government which would later be repaid with interest.

Increasingly, the financial burden for the war against Germany was falling on Washington, and the bonds — often obtained by accumulating war savings stamps — were a way of spreading the cost as widely as possible.

Despite massive publicity and appeals to a sense of patriotic duty (Charlie Chaplin even made a short film “The Bond”), the first two Liberty bonds had raised insufficient funds. The third offering more than $4 billion had still more promotion.

The next six months took the major on a tour of the Midwest, Colorado and also West Virginia. Gordon Sandford spoke to crowds ranging from a couple of hundred to several thousand, describing life on the battlefields of France and Belgium.

Read more: World War I mission: 'Quicken the Americans' enthusiasm for the war!'

31143503276 825a845602 oFebruary 26,1919 - World War I Welcome Home parade in Washington, D.C. - along Pennsylvania Ave. (Photo via Nashville Public Library.)

How the Great War could reign on Trump’s parade

By Bryan Bender
via the Politico.com web site

Many of President Donald Trump’s critics fear he will start World War III.

But he may bring good news for devotees of World War I.

This coming Veterans Day, the weekend selected for Trump’s $30 million military parade, is also the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War on Nov. 11, 1918. That’s the conflict that gave birth to the national veterans' holiday and planted seeds for many of the global convulsions that have erupted since.

Bastille Day 2017President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump watch the traditional Bastille Day military parade on the Champs Elysees, in Paris, Friday, July 14, 2017. | Michel Euler/AP Photo Neither the president nor the Pentagon has remarked on the historical significance of the parade date. But it hasn't gone unnoticed by the federal commission that has sought for five years to heighten public awareness about the cataclysmic conflict that toppled empires, introduced chemical warfare, drew the borders of the modern Middle East and helped spawn Soviet Russia.

The parade “presents a wonderful opportunity for us,” said Edwin Fountain, vice chair of the congressionally created World War One Centennial Commission, which is also raising money to construct a national memorial in Washington to the Great War. “We have suggested to the secretary of Defense and the White House that the thematic focus of the parade can and ought to be the centennial of the armistice.”

So far, the Pentagon has said only that the parade to be held in Washington will honor veterans from all branches of the military who fought in all of America's wars. "We’re still very early in the planning stages and therefore do not have any specific details to provide yet regarding the parade," said Air Force. Col. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is coordinating the planning.

Yet Fountain said he hopes that the timing of the parade will bestow special honor on the Americans who sacrificed in World War I, including nearly 117,000 who were killed and another 204,000 wounded. He also said the publicity surrounding the event could be used to highlight some of the enduring lessons of the war — including how easily regional disputes can still escalate into global ones.

"How can we learn the lesson of World War I? You look at Ukraine and you look at Syria and you wonder how those regional conflicts might escalate," Fountain said of two current wars where major rivals, including the United States and Russia, are on opposing sides.

"You can see how a conflict between forces we are each supporting could escalate and draw us in the same way as World War I," he added.

Read more: How the Great War could reign on Trump’s parade

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