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USS Alabama (BB-60)
Alabama (BB-60), 1 December 1942, in camouflage.
USS Alabama (BB-60), 1 December 1942, in camouflage. Note trunked tower foremast and funnel, similar to that used in the design of the later Iowa-class battleships.
Career (United States)
Ordered: 1 April 1939
Builder: Norfolk Naval Shipyard
Laid down: 1 February 1940
Launched: 16 February 1942
Commissioned: 16 August 1942
Decommissioned: 9 January 1947
Struck: 1 June 1962
Nickname: "Lucky A"
Honors and
Nine Battle Stars
Fate: Museum ship since 11 June 1964
General characteristics
Class & type: South Dakota–class (1939) battleship
Displacement: 35,000 long tons  standard
Length: 680 ft (210 m)
Beam: 108.2 ft (33.0 m)
Draft: 36.2 ft (11.0 m)
Propulsion: oil-fired steam turbines, 4 shafts
Speed: 27.5 kn (31.6 mph; 50.9 km/h)
Range: 15,000 nmi (17,000 mi; 28,000 km) at 15 kn (17 mph; 28 km/h)
Complement: 1,793 officers and men
Sensors and
processing systems:
Armament: 9 × 16 in (410 mm)/45 cal Mark 6 guns
20 × 5 in (130 mm)/38 cal guns
24 × Bofors 40 mm guns
22 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannons (ever-increasing)
Aircraft carried: OS2U Kingfisher scout planes

USS Alabama (BB-60), a South Dakota-class battleship, was the sixth ship of the United States Navy named after the US state of Alabama.[upper-alpha 1] Alabama was commissioned in 1942 and served in World War II in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. She was decommissioned in 1947 and assigned to the reserve duty. She was retired in 1962. In 1964, Alabama was taken to Mobile Bay and opened as a museum ship the following year. The ship was added to the National Historic Landmark registry in 1986.

Construction and commissioning

Alabama was laid down on 1 February 1940 by the Norfolk Navy Yard, launched on 16 February 1942, and sponsored by Henrietta McCormick Hill, wife of J. Lister Hill, the senior Senator from Alabama. Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, spoke at the launching ceremony: "As Alabama slides down the ways today, she carries with her a great name and a great tradition. We cannot doubt that before many months have passed she will have had her first taste of battle. The Navy welcomes her as a new queen among her peers. In the future, as in the past, may the name Alabama ever stand for fighting spirit and devotion to a cause." Alabama was commissioned on 16 August 1942, with Captain George B. Wilson in command.

Service history

World War II


After fitting out, USS Alabama commenced her shakedown cruise in Chesapeake Bay on 11 November 1942. As the year 1943 began, the new battleship headed north to conduct operational training out of Casco Bay, Maine. She returned to Chesapeake Bay on 11 January to carry out the last week of shakedown training. Following a period of availability and logistics support at Norfolk, Alabama was assigned to Task Group 22.2 (TG 22.2), and returned to Casco Bay for tactical maneuvers on 13 February 1943.

Alabama as a museum ship in Mobile Bay, Alabama, 1985

With the movement of substantial British strength toward the Mediterranean theater to prepare for the invasion of Sicily, the Royal Navy lacked the heavy ships necessary to cover the northern convoy routes. The British appeal for help on those lines soon led to the temporary assignment of Alabama and South Dakota to the Home Fleet.

On 2 April 1943, Alabama, as part of Task Force 22 (TF 22), sailed for the Orkney Islands with her sister ship and a screen of five destroyers. Proceeding via Little Placentia Sound and Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland, the battleship reached Scapa Flow on 19 May, reporting for duty with Task Force 61 and becoming a unit of the British Home Fleet. She soon embarked on a period of intensive operational training to coordinate joint operations.

Early in June, Alabama and her sister ship, along with British Home Fleet units, covered the reinforcement of the garrison on the island of Spitzbergen, which lay on the northern flank of the convoy route to Russia, in an operation that took the ship across the Arctic Circle. Soon after her return to Scapa Flow, she was inspected by Admiral Harold R. Stark, Commander, United States Naval Forces, Europe.

Shortly thereafter, in July, Alabama participated in "Operation Governor", a diversion aimed toward southern Norway, which was an attempt to draw the German military's attention away from the real Allied target, the Italian island of Sicily. This operation had also been carried out in an attempt to lure the Tirpitz out of her northern Norwegian seaport and into battle, but the German Navy (Kriegsmarine) did not rise to this challenge. Tirpitz remained in her port in a northern Norwegian fjord.

Alabama was detached from the British Home Fleet on 1 August 1943, and, in company with the USS South Dakota and their screening destroyers, steamed for Norfolk, Virginia, arriving there on 9 August. For the next ten days, Alabama underwent a period of overhaul, repair, and shore leave for the sailors. This work completed, Alabama departed from Norfolk on 20 August, bound for the Pacific Ocean. She transited the Panama Canal five days later, and then steamed across the Pacific. She reached her assigned destination of Havannah Harbor, Efate Island, the New Hebrides Islands, in the southwestern Pacific, on 14 September.

Following a month and a half of exercises and training with fast carrier task groups, Alabama steamed to the Fiji Islands, arriving on 7 November. Alabama steamed out of port on 11 November to take part in Operation Galvanic, the assault on the Japanese-held Gilbert Islands. The battleship screened the fast carriers, for defense against surface and air attacks, while they launched air attacks on Jaluit and Milli Atolls, in the Marshall Islands, attempting to neutralize Japanese airfields located there, within range of the Gilberts. Alabama supported the U.S. Marine landings on the main island Betio of the Tarawa Atoll on 20 November, and soon afterwards, she supported the U.S. Army landing on Makin Atoll. During the night of 26 November, Alabama twice opened up antiaircraft fire to drive off Japanese aircraft that approached her task group.

On 8 December, Alabama along with five other fast battleships, bombarded Nauru Island, an enemy phosphate-producing center, causing severe damage to shore installations there. Firing some 535 large caliber rounds in the bombardment, she also took the destroyer Boyd alongside, after that warship had received a direct hit from a Japanese shore battery on Nauru. Alabama took aboard three wounded sailors for treatment by the battleship's doctors – since the smaller warships did not have doctors.

Alabama next escorted the aircraft carriers Bunker Hill and the Monterey back to the port of Efate, arriving on 12 December. The battleship departed from the New Hebrides on 5 January 1944 for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. arriving on 12 January. She underwent a brief stint in the large drydock at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard. The major need for drydock repair was the replacement of her port outboard screw, one of her four propellers. Alabama was soon underway again to return to the combat area of the Pacific Ocean.


The USS Alabama reached Funafuti, the Ellice Islands, on 21 January 1944, and there she rejoined the Fast Carrier Task Forces. She was assigned to Task Group 58.2, which was centered around the carrier Essex and light carriers. Alabama left the Ellice Islands on 25 January to help carry out "Operation Flintlock", the wresting of selected members of the Marshall Islands, such as Kwajalein Atoll and Eniewetok Atoll, from the Japanese. Alabama, South Dakota, and North Carolina bombarded Roi Islet on 29 January and Namur Islet on 30 January. She fired 330 rounds of 16 in (410 mm) shells and 1,562 rounds of 5 in (130 mm) ammunition toward Japanese targets, destroying planes, airfield facilities, blockhouses, other buildings, and artillery emplacements. Over the following days of this campaign, Alabama patrolled the area north of Kwajalein. On 12 February, Alabama sortied out with the aircraft carrier Bunker Hill's Task Group, and many other members of the Fast Carrier Task Force to launch very major carrier air attacks on the Japanese installations, aircraft, and shipping at the major Japanese Central Pacific base of Truk Atoll. This large series of air attacks, flown on 16 and 17 February, caused heavy damage to all of the Japanese airfields, and other installations, and the enemy shipping that had remained there. Very little of the Imperial Japanese Navy fleet, which had used Truk as a major forward base for years, remained there, since it had already departed northwards to safer waters.

Upon leaving the vicinity of Truk, the USS Alabama began steaming toward the large islands and Japanese air bases of the Marianas to screen the aircraft carriers in heavy air raids on the islands of Tinian, Saipan, and Guam. During these air attacks on the Marianas, Alabama, while fighting against Japanese air attacks on 21 February, accidentally fired her 5 in (130 mm), 38 caliber, dual-purpose gun mount number nine into gun mount number five. Five sailors died, and 11 more were wounded in the mishap. The twenty 5-inch dual-purpose guns of Alabama were her major, long-range, radar-directed anti-aircraft guns, as well as forming her secondary armament for ship-to-ship combat and shore bombardments.

After the carrier air strikes were completed on 22 February 1944, Alabama conducted a sweep of the ocean southeast of Saipan, looking for damaged enemy ships, and finding none, she then returned to Majuro Atoll on 26 February. There she served temporarily as the flagship for Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher, the Commander of the Fast Carrier Task Force, called Task Force 58 at that time, from the third to the eighth of March.

The battleship's next mission was to screen the fast carriers while they projected air strikes against Japanese positions on the islands of Palau, Yap, Ulithi, and Woleai, in the Caroline Islands. She steamed out from Majuro on 22 March with Task Force 58, in the screen of the carrier Yorktown. On the night of 29 March, about six enemy warplanes approached Task Group 58.3, with which Alabama was operating, and four planes broke off to attack ships in the vicinity of the battleship. Alabama helped in shooting down some of these aircraft and driving the rest away.

On 30 March, planes from Task Force 58 began bombing Japanese airfields, shipping, fleet servicing facilities, and other installations on the islands of Palau, Yap, Ulithi and Woleai. During that day, Alabama again provided anti-aircraft fire whenever enemy planes appeared. At 2044 hours on the 30th, a single plane approached Task Group 58.3, but Alabama and other ships drove it off.

Alabama next returned briefly to Majuro, before she steamed out on 13 April with Task Force 58, this time in the screen of the carrier Enterprise. During the next three weeks, Task Force 58 hit enemy targets on Hollandia, currently known as Jayapura, Wakde, Sawar, and Sarmi along the northern coast of New Guinea. She next covered U.S. Army landings at Aitape, Tanahmerah Bay, and Humboldt Bay on New Guinea, and then escorted further aircraft carrier raids on Truk Atoll.

As part of the preliminaries of the invasion of the Marianas, Alabama, in a battle line with five other fast battleships, shelled the large island of Ponape, in the Caroline Islands, which was the site of major Japanese airfields and a seaplane base. As Alabama's Captain, Fred T. Kirtland, later noted, this bombardment, of 70 minutes' duration, was conducted in a "leisurely manner". Alabama then returned to Majuro Atoll on 4 May 1944 to prepare for the Marine Corps and Army troops' invasion of the Marianas.

After a month spent in exercises and refitting, Alabama again got under way as a part of Task Force 58 to participate in "Operation Forager", the invasion of the Marianas Islands and the recapture of Guam from Japanese occupation. On 12 June, Alabama screened the aircraft carriers as they made air strikes on Saipan. On 13 June, Alabama took part in the six-hour-long pre-invasion bombardment of the western coast of Saipan, aimed at softening up the ground defenses, and also to cover the Navy minesweeping operations off the shore of the island. Alabama's spotting planes reported that her salvoes had caused great destruction and fires in Garapan town. Though the shelling appeared to be successful, it was later found to be a relative failure, due to the warship's gun crews lacking the specialized training and experience required for successful shore bombardments. Alabama had spent many months in the Pacific screening aircraft carrier Task Groups, and thus the efforts of her gun crews had been concentrated on providing anti-aircraft fire to defend the carrier task groups against Japanese air attacks.

Additional air strikes and shore bombardments of Saipan by the fleet continued, and two Marine divisions landed on the heavily defended island on 15 June. These were later reinforced by an Army division.

On 19 June 1944, during the last major carrier air battle of the War in the Pacific, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the USS Alabama, operating with Task Group 58.7, provided the first confirmed radar warning to Task Force 58 of the incoming Japanese attackers. The Japanese aircraft were initially detected by shipboard radars at a distance of about 190 miles, but that detection was thought to be a radar anomaly. The USS Alabama formally reported its radar's detection of the attack at the distance of about 140 miles, and the USS Iowa confirmed this radar report soon afterwards.[1]

Beginning at 1046 hours, and continuing over the course of the next five hours, the Japanese carried out repeated air strikes against the Fast Carrier Task Force commanded by Vice Admiral Mitscher. These totaled seven attacking groups in all on that day. Three of these Japanese attacks were aimed at Task Group 58.7, and two of them caused Alabama to open up with anti-aircraft fire.

In the first instance, only two planes managed to evade the defending Navy fighter planes to attack the Task Group's ships. The only casualties were on board the battleship USS South Dakota, which suffered from one aerial bomb hit that killed one officer and 20 enlisted men, and also wounded an additional 23 sailors. One hour later, a second wave, composed mostly of torpedo planes, attacked, but Alabama's anti-aircraft barrage helped repel two Japanese planes from attacking the already-hit USS South Dakota. The intense concentration paid to the group of incoming torpedo planes left one Japanese dive bomber nearly undetected, and it dropped its bomb load close to Alabama. The two small aerial bombs were near-misses, but caused no damage to the battleship.

What the U.S. Navy fighter pilots soon came to call the "Marianas Turkey Shoot",[1] with nearly 400 Japanese airplanes shot down, plus the sinking of three Japanese aircraft carriers, practically finished off all Japanese naval air power. The Imperial Japanese Navy was never again able to accumulate enough trained pilots and naval warplanes to engage in a serious air attack against the American Navy and its allies. Practically no more conventional air attacks were ever made against these ships, with the Japanese Navy and its Army Air Force resorting to determined kamikaze attacks for the remainder of the war in the Pacific.

The USS Alabama had had a hand in this, as the Commander of Task Group 58.7 (the fast battleship fleet of the U.S. navy, Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee, recognized in his TBS (low-frequency voice radio) message to the ships of his Task Group at 1247 hours: "In the matter of reporting initial bogies, to IOWA well done, to ALABAMA very well done." Alabama's radar early warning had allowed the aircraft carriers to scramble huge numbers of their fighters, which intercepted the inbound Japanese warplanes "at a considerable distance" from Task Force 58 – farther than would have been possible, otherwise.

Alabama continued patrolling areas around the Marianas to protect the American landing forces on Saipan, screening the carriers to the east as they struck enemy shipping, aircraft, and shore installations on Guam, Tinian, Rota, and Saipan. She then retired to the Marshall Islands for upkeep.

The USS Alabama, as flagship for Rear Admiral E. W. Hanson, Commander, Battleship Division 9 (BatDiv 9), left Eniwetok on 14 July, sailing with the task group formed around Bunker Hill. She screened the fast carriers as they conducted pre-invasion attacks and support of the landings on the island of Guam on 21 July. She returned briefly to Eniwetok on 11 August. On 30 August, she got underway in the screen of Essex to carry out Operation Stalemate II (the seizure of Palau, Ulithi, and Yap). From 6–8 September, the forces launched strikes on the Carolines.

Alabama departed from the Carolines to steam to the Philippines and provided cover for the carriers striking the islands of Cebu Island, Leyte, Bohol, and Negros from 12–14 September. The carriers launched strikes on shipping and installations in the Manila Bay area on 21–22 September, and in the central Philippines area on 24 September. Alabama retired briefly to Saipan on 28 September, then proceeded to Ulithi on 1 October.

On 6 October, Alabama sailed with TF 38 to support the liberation of the Philippines. Again operating as part of a fast carrier Task Group, Alabama protected the flattops while they launched strikes on Japanese facilities at Okinawa, in the Penghu archipelago, and Taiwan.

Detached from the Formosa area on 14 October to sail toward Luzon, the USS Alabama again used her anti-aircraft batteries in support of the carriers as enemy aircraft attempted to attack the formation. Alabama's gunners claimed three enemy aircraft shot down and a fourth damaged. By 15 October, Alabama was supporting landing operations on Leyte. She then screened the carriers as they conducted air strikes on Cebu, Negros, Panay, northern Mindanao, and Leyte on 21 October.

Alabama, as a part of the carrier USS Enterprise's screen, supported air operations against the Japanese Southern Force in the area off Surigao Strait then moved north to strike the powerful Japanese Central Force heading for San Bernardino Strait. After receiving reports of a third Japanese force, the battleship served in the screen of the fast carrier task force as it sped to Cape Engaño. On 24 October, although American air strikes destroyed four Japanese carriers in the Battle off Cape Engaño, the Japanese Central Force under Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita had transited San Bernardino Strait and emerged off the coast of Samar, where it fell upon a task group of American escort carriers and their destroyer and destroyer escort screen. Alabama reversed her course and headed for Samar to assist the greatly outnumbered American forces, but the Japanese had retreated by the time she reached the scene. She then joined the protective screen for Essex task group to hit enemy forces in the central Philippines before retiring to Ulithi on 30 October for replenishment.

Underway again on 3 November, Alabama screened the fast carriers as they carried out sustained strikes against Japanese airfields, and installations on Luzon to prepare for a landing on Mindoro Island. She spent the next few weeks engaged in operations against the Visayas and Luzon before retiring to Ulithi on 24 November.

The first half of December found Alabama engaged in various training exercises and maintenance routines. She left Ulithi on 10 December, and reached the launching point for air strikes on Luzon on 14 December, as the fast carrier task forces launched aircraft to carry out preliminary strikes on airfields on Luzon that could threaten the landings slated to take place on Mindoro. From 14–16 December, a veritable umbrella of carrier aircraft covered the Luzon fields, preventing any enemy planes from getting airborne to challenge the Mindoro-bound convoys. Having completed her mission, she left the area to refuel on 17 December, but as she reached the fueling rendezvous, began encountering heavy weather. By daybreak on the 18th, rough seas and harrowing conditions rendered a fueling at sea impossible; 50 kn (58 mph; 93 km/h) winds caused ships to roll heavily. Alabama experienced rolls of 30°, had both her OS2U Kingfisher floatplanes so badly damaged that they were of no further value, and received minor damage to her structure. At one point in the typhoon, Alabama recorded wind gusts up to 83 kn (96 mph; 154 km/h). Three destroyers, Hull, Monaghan, and Spence, were lost to the typhoon. By 19 December, the storm had run its course, and Alabama arrived back at Ulithi on 24 December. After pausing there briefly, Alabama continued on to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for overhaul.


The USS Alabama entered a drydock on 18 January 1945, and she remained there until 25 February. Shipyard work continued until 17 March, when Alabama got underway for standardization trials and refresher training along the southern California coast. She got underway for Pearl Harbor on 4 April, arrived there on 10 April, and held a week of training exercises. She then continued on to Ulithi and moored there on 28 April.

Alabama departed from Ulithi with TF 58 on 9 May, bound for the Ryukyu Islands, to support forces which had landed on Okinawa on 1 April, and to protect the fast carriers as they launched air strikes on installations in the Ryukyus and on Kyūshū. On 14 May, several Japanese planes penetrated the combat air patrol to get at the carriers; one crashed into Admiral Mitscher's flagship. Alabama's guns splashed two, and assisted in splashing two more.

Later on, Alabama rode out a typhoon on 4–5 June, suffering only superficial damage, while Pittsburgh lost her bow. Alabama subsequently bombarded the Japanese island of Minami Daito Shima, with other fast battleships on 10 June and then headed for Leyte Gulf later in June to prepare to strike at the heart of Japan with the 3rd Fleet.

On 1 July, Alabama and other Third Fleet warships got underway for the Japanese home islands. Throughout the month of July, Alabama screened while the carriers carried out strikes on targets in the industrial areas of Tokyo and other areas of Honshū, Hokkaidō, and Kyūshū. On the night of 17–18 July, Alabama, and several other fast battleships in the task group, carried out a night bombardment of six major industrial plants in the Hitachi-Mito area of Honshū, about 8 mi (13 km) northeast of Tokyo. On board the USS Alabama to observe the operation was the retired Rear Admiral Richard Byrd, the famed polar explorer.

On 9 August, Alabama transferred a medical party to the Ault, for further transfer to the Borie. The latter had been struck by a kamikaze plane on that date and required prompt medical aid at her distant warning radar picket station.

According to data found at the USS Alabama Monument in Mobile, Alabama, this battleship fired over 1,250 16 in (410 mm) shells on the enemy during supporting bombardments, shot down 22 enemy aircraft and never incurred any damage due to enemy action. Alabama suffered only five casualties during the war, the result of one of the ship's guns accidentally firing on one of the ship's other guns. She did not lose a single man due to enemy action, thus earning it the nickname the "Lucky A".


View looking aft on USS Alabama at her permanent berth in Mobile, AL

The end of the war found Alabama still at sea, operating off the southern coast of Honshū. On 15 August 1945, she received word of the Japanese capitulation. During the initial occupation of the Yokosuka-Tokyo area, Alabama transferred detachments of U.S. Marines and sailors for temporary duty ashore. Her sailors were among the first men from the U.S. fleet to land. She also served in the screen of the aircraft carriers as they conducted reconnaissance flights to locate prisoner-of-war camps.

Alabama entered Tokyo Bay on 5 September to embark some men who had served with the occupation forces, and then departed from Japanese waters on 20 September. At Okinawa, she embarked 700 sailors, principally members of Navy construction battalions (or "Seabees"), as a part of her mission in Operation Magic Carpet to return American servicemen home as soon as possible. Alabama reached San Francisco around mid-day on 15 October, and on 27 October, she hosted 9,000 civilian visitors. She next steamed to the port of San Pedro, California, on 29 October. The USS Alabama remained at San Pedro through 27 February 1946, when she left for the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for an end-of-war deactivation overhaul. Alabama accumulated nine U.S. Navy battle stars for her World War II service.

Alabama was decommissioned on 9 January 1947, at the Naval Station at Seattle, Washington, and from there sent to the Bremerton Group of the United States Pacific Reserve Fleet. She remained at Bremerton until stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 June 1962.

Museum ship

Alabama citizens formed the "USS Alabama Battleship Commission" to raise funds for the preservation of Alabama as a memorial to the men and women who served in World War II. (Nearly $100,000 was raised by Alabama schoolchildren, mostly in the form of small change and a corporate fundraising effort completed the nearly $1 million donation.)[2] The ship was awarded to that state on 16 June 1964, and was formally turned over on 7 July 1964 in ceremonies at Seattle. Alabama was then towed to her permanent berth at Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile, Alabama, arriving in Mobile Bay on 14 September 1964 and opening as a museum ship on 9 January 1965. She was joined in 1969 by the Gato-class submarine USS Drum which was moored behind Alabama until it was damaged in Hurricane Georges, resulting in its move to an onshore display.

USS Alabama on museum duty in Mobile, Alabama

The ship was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.[3][4]

Visitors are allowed to view the inside of the main gun turrets and anti-aircraft guns. The powder magazine was opened to the public through some holes that were cut, and stairs put in. The bunk of Major League Baseball Hall of Fame member Bob Feller is marked for those touring. Feller served on Alabama for several years during World War II, serving as Gun Captain by the end of the conflict.

In recent years, Alabama has been occasionally used as a hurricane shelter. During Hurricane Katrina, Alabama suffered damage which resulted in an eight-degree list to port,[5] and shifting at her permanent anchorage. (The families of 18 museum employees were aboard during Katrina.[5]) In addition, the Aircraft Pavilion was severely damaged, with three of the exhibited aircraft destroyed. At the end of 2005, damage estimates were in excess of US$4 million. The park reopened 9 January 2006, with the ship having a three-degree list (which was still being corrected). The battleship, submarine, and Aircraft Pavilion are all open.

Film appearance

Although the action was supposed to be occurring aboard Missouri, and that ship was shown in some of the footage, Alabama was actually used for most of the battleship scenes in the 1992 action film Under Siege.

The ship was used as a stand in for the USS Iowa in the ABC miniseries War and Remembrance. The number 60 is clearly visible during one of the scenes.

The opening scene of the low-budget, David A. Prior action movie, Rapid Fire (1989), was filmed aboard Alabama.

Part of the Abbott and Costello movie In the Navy takes place on a fictional USS Alabama battleship. The movie was shot in 1941, but the USS Alabama (BB-60) was not commissioned until 1942.[6] The pre-dreadnought battleship Alabama (BB-8) was scrapped in 1924.


  1. A seventh prominent ship named for the state was the famous Confederate commerce raider CSS Alabama.


External links

Coordinates: 30°40′54″N 88°00′53″W / 30.68178°N 88.01479°W / 30.68178; -88.01479

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