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Maginot Line

Discussion in 'WWII Today' started by SKYLINEDRIVE, Feb 13, 2012.

  1. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    Gros ouvrage d'artillerie du Simserhof.
    (Simserhof large artillery strongpoint.)


    The Simserhof was a Gros Ouvrage, one of the strongest Forts of the Maginot Ligne. It was build inbetween 1929 and 1938 and the costs amounted to the equivalent of 30 million €. Used by the french army till 1992 it is now a museum well worth visiting. The visit consists of one guided tour of the "caserne" underground barracks, a 15 minute documentary film and a tour by train through the huge ammunition storage. Unfortunately this part of the tour is a multimedia show that can only appeal to the visitor without any knowledge about WW2 and the Maginot ligne, I would have preferred a simple visit without noise and movies and lasers and special effects. The main critique is that any of the combat blocks, most of which are still intact, can't be visited. Though one of the employees told me that maybe next year they would open one of the blocks to the visitors.

    In all there were ten blocks, one entry block for personnel with a lift and underground barracks, one entry block for ammunitions with an underground ammo depot and eight fighting blocks. All the blocks were interconnected with underground tunnels (total length 5,3 km) for an electric railway. Inbetween the fighting blocks there was an underground Command Post.

    During the "Blitzkrieg" the Simserhof was not directly attacked, it fired a 13.500 artillery shells in defence of neighbouring Fort Casso though. (The Forts were always spaced in such a distance that they could defend each other and lay artillery fire on the sector inbetween.) After the french capitulation the Simserhof surrendered to the germans.

    During the war the Wehrmacht kept a technical crew in the fort and used it as a storage for torpedoes.

    On the 15th of november 1944 the 100th ID of the US Army took the Simserhof from the germans, only to abandon it in the first days of january 1945 when Hitler launched "Operation Nordwind". On the 15th of march 1945 the US Army again took control of the Gros Ouvrage.

    After the war the french army repaired the damages to the Simserhof, with the exception of the No. 5 fighting block which had been too badly destroyed. The Simserhof was used as a permanent installation until 1956 and was manned during exercises until 1992.


    The remnants of the old French army barracks at Légeret, a few hundred meters away from the Fort, except for two all the old buildings have been destroyed to make place for a new housing project. In these barracks the soldiers on active duty lived during peace time.

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    A WWI vintage machinegun cuppola from a "Casematte Pamard".

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    Barbed wire entanglement.

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    The ammunitions entry block.

    Ammunitions and stores were brought to the Simserhof by a 60 cm gauge Field Railway. The fort could fight in total autonomy, without being resupplied for 3 months.

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    Destroyed machine gun cuppola on top of the ammunitions entry block.

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    Tenders of the 60cm Field railway.

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  2. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    Amovible steel cuppolas for field fortifications.

    The sectors inbetween the Forts were meant to be filled with field fortifications. There were many different types of demountable armoured turrets and cuppolas that were used to reinforce the trenches and dugouts.

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    "Tourelle de mitrailleuse démontable" or "Tourelle Dufieux"
    There were two versions of this amovible steel Machinegun cuppola, a "Mlle 1934" and a "mlle 1937". The armoured steel parts were installed on a steel sheet base that was most often fitted into a concrete foundation, it would also have possible to fit it into a simple dugout though. It was possible for the gunner to rotate the turret with the help of pedals, cogwheels and chain, just like a bicycle! The turret had two observation slits as well as a periscope. The turret had a crew of two, a gunner and an assitant gunner.

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    75 mm naval artillery.

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    81 mm Fortress mortar.

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  3. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    Personnel entry block.

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    The ditch with the retractable bridge. Just underneath the bridge you can see two holes. The right one was to get rid of spent machine gun shells and the the left one was to slide handgrenades into the ditch.

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    Radio antenna, the radio was seldom used, all the bunkers, observation posts, installations, barracks and HQ were connected with two telephone lines that followed different routes and were buried three meters deep.

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    Chimneys, airvents and air intakes.

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    They had an anti blocking mechanism that prevented the ennemy to block the chimneys and vents. A system of grills blocked the soil and stones from falling down and deviated it into the ditch.

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    4.7 cm AT gun

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    Double machine gun mount.

    The AT gun and the double machine gun mount were interchangeable and the crew could switch them in a time of just a few minutes.

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    Single machine gun mount.

    The entry block was defended by two interchangeable AT/MG mounts, one single machine gun mount and two machine gun cuppolas.

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    Machine gun cuppola.

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    The retractable steel bridge.

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    Loophole defending the retractable bridge.

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    Machine gun defending the angled corridor leading to the armoured door.

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    Armoured door with rubber seal. Contrary to the Westwall, the Maginot Ligne bunkers had self sealing gastight doors. The armoured doors in the german bunkers had to be sealed with a special paste.

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  4. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    The interior of the entry defense.

    Double MAC 31 machine gun mount

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    The 4.7 cm AT gun in it's storage position on a ceiling mounted rail.

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    Rack with MAC 31 magazines.

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    The mechanism that allowed the crew to safely slide offensive handgrenades into the ditch

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    FM 24/29 and 50 mm grenade launcher.

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    Rack with spare mags for the "Fusil mitrailleur 24/29"

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    Gas monitoring station.

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    Loophole defending the retractable bridge.

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    Ladder leading to the machine gun cuppola.

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  5. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Great photos again! thanx for sharing them! :)
     
  6. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Excellent matey...You can keep these thngs coming...great pics.
     
  7. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    Concept and layout.

    Plan of the layout of the G.O. du Simserhof. (NB the plan is only schematic)

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    Alltough I have no pics of the combat blocs I would like to give a few explanations about the concept of the G.O. of the Maginot ligne.

    Generally speaking the Simserhof, like all the other "Gros Ouvrages", was separated into two sections. There was a fighting section and a supporting logistic section. The different "Blocs" of the fighting and suport sections were interconnected with a 60cm gauge electric railway.

    The logistic section was made of the following elements:

    EH : "Entrée des hommes" = entry for personnel. The personnel entry of the Simserhof was a "entrée en puits" = well entry, which means the access was through a vertical shaft via stairs and lift, it was about thirty meters above the level of the tunnels and underground facilities.This entry block was defended by:
    2 X "créneaux mixtes pour JM/AC 47(Jumelage Mitrailleuses/Anti Char 47" = interchangeable embrasure for twin machineguns and 4,7cm AT-gun
    2 X "cloches GFM (Guetteur Fusil Mitrailleur)" = spotter and machine gun cuppola
    1 X "cloche LG (Lance Grenades)" = grenade launcher cuppola

    EM:
    "Entrée des munitions" = ammunitions entry. It was a "entrée de type A de plein pied" = A type horizontal entry. The ammunitions entry was on the same level as the tunnel system! This entry block was defended by:
    1 X "créneaux mixtes pour JM/AC 47(Jumelage Mitrailleuses/Anti Char 47" = interchangeable embrasure for twin machineguns and 4,7cm AT-gun
    2 X "cloches GFM" = spotter and machine gun cuppola


    égouts: waste water drainage.

    magasins: Storage for food and all materials except ammunitions.

    magasin munition M1: M1 ammunitions storage

    usine: power station.

    caserne: barracks and living quarters.

    garage: railway depot.

    sous-station: railway relay station

    The fighting section was made of the following elements:

    The western wing

    B 1: "Bloc 1" was a "casemate mixte d'artillerie et d'infanterie flanquante" = mixed artillery and flanking infantry combat casemate. It was equipped with:
    1 X "créneau pour lance-bombe de 135mm" = armoured bedding for 135mm howitzer
    1 X"créneau mixte pour JM/AC47" = interchangeable embrasure for twin machineguns and 4,7cm AT-gun
    1 X "créneau pour JM" = double machine gun firing port
    1 X "tourelle de mitrailleuses éclipsable" = retactable machine gun turret
    1 x "cloche GFM" = spotter and machine gun cuppola

    B 2: "Bloc 2" was a "bloc mixte d'artillerie et d'infanterie servant aussi d'observatoire" = mixed artillery, observation and infantry combat block (NB: as opposed to a "casemate" a "block" had no outside facade). The armament of Block 2 was:

    1 X "créneau mixte pour JM/AC47" = interchangeable embrasure for twin machineguns and 4,7cm AT-gun
    1 X "créneau pour JM" = double machine gun firing port
    1 X "tourelle de lance grenade 81mm éclipsable" = retactable 81 mm grenade luncher turret
    1 X "cloche VDP (Vue Directe et Périscopique)" = direct observation and perisopic observation cuppola
    1 X "cloche GFM" = spotter and machine gun cuppola


    B 5: "Bloc 5" was a "casemate flanquante d'artillerie" = flanking artillery casemate, it was equipped with:
    3 X "crénaux pour canons de 75 mm modèle 1932" = armoured beddings for M1932 75mm guns
    1 X "cloche LG" = grenade launcher cuppola
    1 X "cloche VDP" = direct observation and perisopic observation cuppola
    2 X "cloches GFM" = spotter and machine gun cuppola



    The middle part:

    It was located to the rear, inbetween the western and the eastern wings.

    PC: "Poste de commandement"

    B 7: "Bloc 7" was a "bloc d'artillerie" = artillery block,with:

    1 x "tourelle éclipsable pour lance-bombe de 135mm" = retractable tower for two 135mm howitzers
    2 X "cloches GFM" = spotter and machine gun cuppola


    B 8: "Bloc 8" was a "bloc d'artillerie" = artillery block with:
    1 X "tourelle éclipsable pour canon de 75mm modèle 1933" = retractable tower for two M1933 75mmguns
    2 X "cloches GFM" = spotter and machine gun cuppola

    The eastern wing:

    B 3: "Bloc 3" was a "bloc mixte d'artillerie et d'infanterie" = mixed artillery and infantry block, it was armed with:
    1 X "tourelle de lance grenade 81mm éclipsable" = retactable 81 mm grenade luncher turret
    2 X "cloches GFM" = spotter and machine gun cuppola
    1 X "créneau mixte pour JM/AC47" = interchangeable embrasure for twin machineguns and 4,7cm AT-gun
    1 X "créneau pour JM" = double machine gun firing port

    B 4: "Bloc 4" was a "casemate mixte d'artillerie et d'infanterie" = mixed artillery and infantry casemate with:
    1 X "créneau pour lance-bombe de 135mm" = armoured bedding for 135mm howitzer
    1 X "cloches GFM" = spotter and machine gun cuppola
    1 x "créneau mixte pour JM/AC47" = interchangeable embrasure for twin machineguns and 4,7cm AT-gun
    1 X "créneau pour JM" = double machine gun firing port
    1 X "tourelle de mitrailleuses éclipsable" = retactable machine gun turret

    B 6: "Bloc 6" was a "casemate d'artillerie flanquante" = flanking artillery casemate, armed with:
    3 X "crénaux pour canons de 75 mm modèle 1932" = armoured beddings for M1932 75mm guns
    1 X "cloche LG" = grenade launcher cuppola
    1 X "cloche VDP" = direct observation and perisopic observation cuppola
    2 X "cloches GFM" = spotter and machine gun cuppola
     
  8. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Great treat of good quality pictures once again. Amazing they keep the FT17 turret buried outside.
     
  9. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    The "caserne"

    Staircase leading from the "Bloc d'entrée pour hommes" down to the "Caserne" that lies 30 meters underground.

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    The lift which was only used for stores and VIP's.

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    Shaft with air vent tubes.

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    The staircase and the lift on the underground level.

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    The beginning of the tunnel, behind the first blast door, on the left side, are the filter rooms. Note the rails on the floor, in the caserne heavy loads where moved on buggys that had to be pushed by men. There was a railway station connecting the caserne to the underground railway system though.

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    Still under the influence of the traumatic impressions left by the gas war waged in WW1, the french had installed very proficent air filtering systems into the Maginot Ligne fortifications. In the Simserhof there were 6 batteries of eight filters.

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    Behind the filter rooms there was another blast door with an internal blockhaus to defend the access to the caserne.

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  10. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    The "usine".

    The keys!
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    The tunnel leading to the machine room, the "Usine".
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    The workshop
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    Transformator room.
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    One of four huge water tanks. All in all there were 800.000 liters of water.
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    Emergency engine, it was only meant to make enough electricity to light the engine room to allow repair works in case of a breakdown.
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    Switchroom for the three incoming power lines. The engines only worked in times of war, when the external power supply was cut.
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    The engine room with four naval diesel engines. Two are originals and two are replacements from after the war. The germans had taken one of the engines to Berlin and another one was integrated into the Atlantikwall.
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    There are still huge stockpiles of old spare parts.
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  11. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    Automatic fire door.
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    One of the ten huge fuel tanks.
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    The "PC".

    The original command post is not part of the visit, but they have taken the original equipment and installed it in some rooms of the "caserne". Some purists are raving mad about this sacrilege.
    :D

    The main telephone switchboard.
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    There was one telephone booth for each observation post. The operators noted the observations on a small blackboard and all the informations were collated on the big blackboard. With the help of these observations the artillery officers at the big map table choose wich fighting block should react to the different threats and drafted the firing misisons that were transmitted by a kind of engine telegraph, quite similar to those used aboard ships.

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    The telephone operators booths where the observers informations were written down.
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    The big blackboard.
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    The maptables.
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    The fire mission telegraph.
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  12. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    A superb report with fantastic pictures, as per usual.:cool:
     
  13. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Excellent photos, thanks much for sharing them.
     
  14. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    ERRATUM:

    In the first post I wrote that it was the 100th ID that had captured the Simserhof, this is obviously wrong, in the future I will have to double check my sources!

    It was the 71st regiment of the 44th Infantry division that, aided by men of the 63rd Engineers, captured the G.O. du Simserhof! Later they were relieved by the 100th ID.

    Some pics of the men of the 44th ID in action at the Simserhof:

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    See also:

    Storming Fortress Simserhof

     
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  15. Artem

    Artem Member

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    they weren't joking when they said 'impenetrable'
     
  16. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Wonderful pictures and smart move from the army to allow it to be turned into a museum and the government gets some money out of it too by selling the caserns for a project building. At least the historic bunkers will be preserved now.

    Great now and then pics too btw.
     
  17. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Just Outstanding!
     
  18. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    The project is quite controversial, there are many NGO's working on restoring Maginot Ligne bunkers who do not see a cent on government money and do a brilliant job! The Simserhof is decried to be a "political" project where big money was pumped in to end up with shiny displays and multi-media shows but not really an authentic conservation and too many jobs for political cronies! So the latest news I heard was that they are bankrupt and the site will probably be closed. All that comes through the grapevine and french internet forums, so maybe we should take it with a pinch of salt!
     
  19. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    Officer's WC.
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    Enlisted men's WC.
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    Enlisted men's washing room.
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    Decontamination showers.

    Initally the showers were meant to be used only in case of a gas attack. The commanding officers soon allowed the men to have one hot shower a week in order to boost the morale of the troops.

    Changing room with special air ventilation and filter to get rid of the remnants of combat gas.
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    The showers and the boiler.
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    The second changing room with a stock of fresh clothing.
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  20. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    The medical facilities.

    The Gros Ouvrages had a Doctor as well as a Dentist. Mostly they had to treat the many cases of depressions and phobias once the crews were underground for any longer stretch of time. Apparently quite a few soldiers had to be locked-up as they had gone completely mad.

    First aid post.
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    The dentist's chair
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    Sterilisator.
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    The sick bay
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