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1st Lt. Marshall N. Samms
720th Squadron

Presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross by Colonel Rush

The Barracks in Manduria

720th Squadron members from California In Manduria:

Back Row Left to Right -
2nd Lt. Elmer Adrian, 1st Lt. Marshall N. Samms, 2nd Lt. Jorden M. J. Augustenburg, Carr, Wells, Wright, Weber
Front Row Left to Right - 1st Lt. William P. Correia, 2nd Lt. Howard C. Boulton, 2nd Lt. Winston C. Watson, Major Grant C. Caywood

Shoo Shoo Baby Crew:

Back Row Left to Right -
T/Sgt. Richard Hackney, 1st Lt. Marshall N. Samms, Lewis Shackleford, 2nd Lt. Louis Amster
Front Row Left to Right - T/Sgt. Armand J. L'Heureux, S/Sgt. George F. Dobbs, Cox

Pictures courtesy of Tom Samms




ON THE morning of June 24, 1944, the crew of "Shoo Shoo Baby" took off from a USAF base in southern Italy to bomb the oil refineries at Ploesti, Rumania. I was navigator of the crew, Vincent Olney of Texas was pilot, Floyd I. Robinson of Indianapolis co-pilot, Louis Amster of New Jersey bombardier, Armand L'Heureux of Connecticut, engineer, Richard Hackney of Minnesota radioman, George Dobbs, of Omaha, was tail gunner and assistant engineer, James Cox of North Carolina, ball turret gunner, Vernon Tanem waist gunner, and Edward Schwab nose gunner. Lt. Lewis Shackleford, our regular co-pilot, relinquished his spot to Major Robinson, our operations officer, who was giving the crew a final checking-out as a "lead crew."

We had started out on this same mission the day before, but were forced to turn back upon encountering bad weather at the coast of Albania. The target was a familiar one to all of us since we had been trying to knock out the oil refineries at Ploesti for the past three months by high altitude bombing. The Romano-Americano refinery furnished a huge part of the fuel for Germany's war machine, and was the only refinery still working full blast. It was a highly protected target with the highest concentration of anti-aircraft guns for any target in Europe.

Few missions were ever flown to Ploesti without encountering scores of German and Rumanian fighters. "The hottest target on the face of the earth" fitted perfectly. The 15th Air Force had already cut the oil production to a great extent, but excellent camouflage and smoke screens prevented the total destruction which was necessary. Every man on the crew had been over at least once, this raid making the fifth time for Olney and Robinson. So we all knew what to expect a very rough time!

Due to weather, we made our rendezvous at 12,000 feet, picked up our other group from the wing, and headed east. We climbed steadily all of the way across Albania, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria, reaching our bombing altitude just about the time we hit the Danube River, south of Bucharest, Rumania. We turned there and started north. Several planes had dropped out of formation with engine trouble and started home.

Our number four engine was smoking, but not bad enough to warrant turning back. We were leading the low left box in the second attack group and were therefore on the inside of the turn into Rumania. Bucharest was now off to the left and I called Olney up and pointed it out to him. So far we had not seen a single friendly or enemy fighter. We were the lead group and we could see other groups of B-24's in back of us. Then we hit the initial point and turned onto our bomb run.

Schwab called up from the nose and said that a plane was spinning down at twelve o'clock. Amster stuck his head up in the astrodome and said, "That's no fighter, that's a B-24 going down." So far, no flak, no fighters. Louis and I helped each other put on a flak suit, an apron of steel links, and I handed Schwab his flak helmet. Then I got up to look for fighters. And I found them. "Fighters coming in at twelve o'clock level. Get 'em, get 'em." And there they came, eight ME 109's on a head-on pass, puffs of white smoke coming from their wings and spinners. Our engines whined as Robinson pulled in to the center box. Schwab and L'Heureux cut loose with the twin fifties in the nose and upper turret.

Smoke filled the nose compartment and empty shell casings clattered down the glass window in front of the bomb-sight. One fighter zoomed over us leaving a trail of black smoke. Schwab and L'Heureux got him together. Luckily, we had not been hit seriously by this first pass of fighters.


THEN the flak started puffing up like little black mushrooms at one o'clock low and one o'clock level. None of it was too close. Below, I could see the large white cloud that I knew was the smoke screen over Ploesti. And then, "Bombs away." I watched the little yellow lights on the bombardier's instrument panel flicker off as the bombs left the bomb-bay. As soon as they were all out, I shoved the bomb release lever to SALVO and closed the bomb-bay doors. We could hear the flak as it burst close to the plane. Then we started our turn off the target. No flak was up ahead, and I thought it was over when WHAM! WHAM! and a bright flash burst a few inches above my head. I looked up and saw a hole about eight inches in diameter in the side of the fuselage a foot above me.

Olney called out, "What was that?" and I said, "Just a hole up here in the nose." L'Heureux yelled. "My God!" and Louie, who now had his head up in the astrodome yelled, "Look at number 3. Oil is pouring out, feather it quick!" Robbie then said, "Prepare for emergency."

I opened the door to the nose turret, ripped off my flak suit, and buckled on my parachute. Now Schwab was out of his turret and I handed him his chute. I felt the plane go into a dive and Dobbs call, "Fighters, a whole slew of them, coming in at six o'clock, and my damned guns are jammed." Olney called to L'Heureux to shut off the fuel to number three and number four engines. Down we went and Robbie cried, "Olney slow down or you will rip the wings off." I looked down at the air speed meter and it registered 290 M.P.H. altitude about 16,000 feet.

By this time I had opened the bomb bay doors and crouched down by our emergency exit. Then I felt Louie kick me and I looked up to see him motioning me to bail out. I pulled the handle to open the doors but nothing happened. I gave the doors a kick and they snapped open, letting in a strong blast of cold air. I swung my feet out and let myself down to my waist. Then I looked back to Louie once more and saw him motion again. Schwab was standing right behind him. So I shoved off and was hurled into the air. The shock was terrific and I started tumbling over and over.

I got my hand on the rip cord and pulled. I pulled again and again, but it would not budge, I let go of the cord and started to undo the flap that covered the pins. I got one side unsnapped, but my hands were so numb that I could not get the other side. I knew that I was not going to get that chute open. My life did not pass in front of me as is supposed to happen when you know that you are going to die; I just thought, "This thing is not going to open, damn it." But I pulled the rip cord once more, and it came out in my hand, I completely relaxed and for a second nothing happened. Then WHUMPFH, I was jerked to a stop. A sharp pain caught my right thigh. I tried to pull myself up by the shroud lines so that I could slip the strap and sit on it, but I did not have the strength. So I just held on to the right shroud line with both hands to ease the pain, I could not let go, fearing that I would pass out.

All was quiet deathly quiet, save for the distant drone of the bombers as they roared home, the zoom of the fighters, the staccato machine gun fire, and the thumpfhing of the flak. Far below I could see the green and brown of the Rumanian countryside. It seemed as if I was suspended in the air and would never reach the ground. The sky was a beautiful blue, dobbed with small fluffy clouds. I counted six other parachutes stringing out above and away from me. I could not be sure that they were members of my crew. Then I looked down and saw a column of black smoke rising from the side of a hill. I wondered if that was the remains of Shoo Shoo Baby. I figured approximately where I would be when I landed and which way I should attempt to get back to friendly territory.

After what seemed hours, I watched the ground come rushing up to hit me. I was in hilly, farming country and I saw that I would land near, or in, a gully or stream bed. A hill sloped steeply to the gully and a peasant was making his way down the hill to where I would land. I hit and rolled over backwards, ending up in a sitting position. My hands were numb from the cold and I had to struggle to undo the parachute harness. I wasted no time in hiding the chute, but immediately scrambled down the gully.

Reaching the bottom I got to my feet and ran up the gully for about five minutes before I stopped to take off my heavy flying boots and Mae West. I waited a few more minutes to catch my breath and was just about to start on when I heard voices. I crept under some foliage and looked around. On the opposite ridge of the gully walked peasants armed with clubs. They were looking down into the gully and I was sure they would see me. But they went past and I began to breathe a little easier. Their voices died away; then grew louder. The peasants had now climbed into the gully and were walking along looking up on both sides. One of them finally saw me and I crawled out with my hands in the air.

One of them, an old grey fellow smelling of garlic, smiled broadly and said, "Nix, comarad, comarad." Then he shook my hand warmly and saluted me. There were two other peasants with him and they did the same.

"Well, I've fallen into friendly hands," I thought. So I shook their hands and smiled back at them. Then a German private with a Lugar in hand came up. I still did not realize that the peasants were not going to help me. They would not let the Jerry come near me and the old peasant kept holding my hand, squeezing it every once in a while, and smiled at me continuously. He reminded me of a little dog who had finally found a friend.


WE CLIMBED a hill to a narrow road and were met there by a large crowd of peasants. They stared and mumbled among themselves, but none were hostile. Their stares were only stares of curiosity. It seemed as if they respected and admired me. I had on a summer flying suit over a suit of O.D's. I had my insignia on my shirt collar and someone evidently recognized my bar, for they started mumbling, "Offisair, offisair." Little children ran around me, and I tossled the close shaven head of one of the boys. He rewarded me with a wide grin, danced off and whispered to his friends, who also smiled at me. Then, with the German private leading the way, we made our way down the narrow road. The country was strikingly beautiful A lot of green trees and grass, with small cultivated patches of land.

The war was over for me, and it was a strange feeling one of almost carefree relaxation. All this time the old peasant held onto my hand. After a walk of several miles we arrived at the bottom of a hill where a convertible sedan was parked. In it sat a German major. He looked at me in a nonchalant and casual manner, a touch of arrogance in his eyes. He turned and spoke to the private, who popped to attention with a click of the heels. Next he took the name of the old peasant and gave him a cigarette.

I found out later that the old boy would get a few acres of land for capturing me.

The major asked me if I spoke German and I told him that I did not. French? I said that I spoke a little French. So he called over a peasant girl, a very pretty girl, to talk to me. She rattled off a spiel of French that I am sure only a Frenchman could understand. When she finished, I laughed at her and told her that I did not understand. She laughed and stepped back into the crowd. The major then asked me, in French, how old I was, I told him that I was twenty, and he showed surprise that I could be an officer at that age. He then wanted to know how many men were with me and if they had all bailed out, but I refused to answer this.

We waited in the car for a half-hour or so; (I imagine for other prisoners to be brought in). Up until this time I had not been scared or frightened, but I was nervous and excited. This showed plainly when I started to light a cigarette. My hands were shaking and I was hardly able to find the end of the cigarette with the match. The Rumanians had never seen book matches before and this interested them greatly. The major and the private finally got in the car and we drove off; I was alone in the back seat. My parachute was taken along, for he Germans repack these and use them again.

We drove right through the city of Ploesti, It was a shambles, a complete wreck. There were very few buildings left standing, and there was no business of any kind other than some workmen fixing a water main that had been broken by bombs. The streets were full of debris from bombed buildings, and uprooted trees lay everywhere. The lawns and open fields were pockmarked with bomb craters. I saw a refinery whose storage tanks were flattened. And I saw the target for the day, Americano-Romano, going full blast, its storage tanks and buildings untouched. It was remarkable how the thousands of bombs missed this refinery completely. Anti-aircraft guns were sprinkled all around; their deadly noses pointed skyward, waiting for the next raid. These guns explained that black mushroom field up in the sky.


WE PULLED into a large airport north of Bucharest, and I was left in the car while the Germans went in to see the commanding officer. They left no one to watch over me, but it was easy to see that an attempt at escape was useless.

A guard finally came in and motioned for me to follow him. We went to the main building where he ushered me into an office where a fairly young first lieutenant sat behind a large desk. He was tall and thin, had blond hair and cold blue eyes. He did not smile often, but did not seem too unfriendly. He asked me to have a seat and offered me a cigarette.

He spoke excellent English, English that he had learned in England. He did not waste much time, but immediately started asking me questions which I could not answer because they were military information. He fired questions at me rapidly, trying to catch me up, but I do not think that he got much out of me. He gave up finally and started to talk about the war. He asked me what I thought of the robot bombs and I told him that I did not think that they amounted to much. To this he surprisingly replied, "I don't either."

He said that the Germans do not hate the Americans and really are not fighting the Americans. Their enemy is Russia and the Germans are fighting only to keep Bolshevism out of Germany. They went into Austria and Czechoslovakia only because those are Germanic countries and wanted to join with the Germans. He called me over to look out of the window and see one of the six motored transports which the Germans use. He was very proud of this plane, and I made him very bitter by saying that our fighters had a field day with them when the Germans flew troops down to Africa. He was a very decent fellow, though, and I shook his hand when I left. He returned my handshake warmly and gave me one of those rare smiles.

I was then put in a car to be taken to Bucharest and turned over to the Rumanians. The lieutenant had explained that since I was shot down over Rumania, the Germans had no control over me and that I was really a prisoner of the Rumanian government.


AFTER a short drive we reached the city of Bucharest. It was an interesting sight. There were a lot of American made cars, and there were street cars and modern buildings. Quite a difference from the cities of Italy. Most of the people were dressed the same as the Americans; and from outward appearances it was as if we were driving through any town in the United States. I was taken first to a large white building where I was officially turned over to the Rumanians.

This building was a garrison for German and Rumanian troops. There I ran into the first Americans I had seen all day. There were two of them, both with blood on their shirts. One was a fighter pilot, Carl Osterhans, who was shot down the day before in his P-51. He had ripped a deep gash in his hand when he bailed out. The other fellow was a tail gunner of a B-24. He had been hit in the shoulder by shrapnel from an ME 109's twenty millimeter shell.

About two o'clock in the afternoon, more prisoners were brought in. Among these was Louie Amster, my bombardier. He was just as glad to see me as I was to see him. It seemed like years since we had been together. He did not know a thing about anybody else on the crew.

We began to get worried and we talked over the experience of the morning before and we came to the dreadful conclusion that the ship may have been all right and the rest of the crew had gotten home. Louie had not heard Robbie give the abandon ship order, either. He had been in the astrodome and had seen Robbie motion, a motion which Louie took as a signal to bail out. So he had sent me out, then taken another look to be sure, and Robbie had waved at him again.

Then he followed me out.

The next day was a big one, for the rest of the crew, with the exception of Dobbs and L'Heureux, showed up. Although I did not want to see anyone in prison, it was a relief to find that Louie and I had not pulled a big boner by bailing out, and that these other men were safe. Robbie and Olney had been able to hide some money, and that turned out to be a big help. They immediately saw to it that all the other members of the crew had a little money. We kept our spirits up by buying things to eat at the canteen.


THEN came out first air raid. The siren blew the next morning at ten o'clock and we watched the Rumanian soldiers head for the air raid shelters. We jeered at them and laughed. Then the second siren blew and we heard the drone of the bombers. By leaning out of the windows, we could see the silver specks of the bombers in the sky. They were going to bomb Bucharest, and we sincerely hoped that some bombardier would not have to get rid of his bombs at the wrong time.

The anti-aircraft guns opened up and the noise was terrific. We could see the black puffs of flak bursting around the bombers, and hear the crash of the bombs as they hit the ground. All was calm for a few minutes, and then another group of bombers came. This group was making its bomb run almost directly overhead, so we all hit the floor and crawled under the bunks. Again the flak and the deafening drone of the engines. Then a terrific explosion and the ground trembled. Some bombardier had screwed things up and dropped his bombs wrong. We were all thoroughly scared now. But there were no more close hits from that group.

The next wave of bombers came over in another few minutes and somebody else dropped his bombs near us. The ground shook and one of the windows crashed to the floor, narrowly missing Cox, who scurried back under one of the bunks. One other wave of bombers came over, but they did not bother us. Then all was quiet for ten or fifteen minutes before the all-clear siren sounded. It was decided than and there that it was better to be up in the air with the flak than down on the ground with the bombs.


THE rumors that flew around the camp were sensational. These were somewhat cut down by the addition of a radio, which was smuggled in and hidden, and a camp newspaper. Only the higher officers in the camp were able to hear the British Broadcasting Company's news reports on the radio. The paper edited by Carl G. Rosberg of California, and he did a very fine job. The paper had the latest news from B.B.C. editorials, a sports section, and a comic strip, "Joe Razbouie," drawn by Harold Sapinoff. The news, of course, was the most import thing in our day. We devoured the good news hungrily, and dismissed the bad news as a rumor.

Several times we jumped the gun on the invasion of Southern France, which we all knew was coming off. Herky, as Rosberg was fondly called, had also drawn a large map of Europe on the wall of his room. This map was an excellent job and was the scene of many discussions. Herky had the battle lines with red string, and every day we would visit his room to see exactly how we stood. The Russian line in northern Rumania was of primary interest to all of us, as we expected the Russians to drive down and set us free. I was not so sure that this would be such a lucky thing for us if the Russians come down and started to shell the city. Then, on August 15, came the invasion of Southern France, and only a few days later the Russians started their drive south. Odds were given that the Russians would be in Bucharest in a few days. It was an exciting time for everyone. Every day the Russians came closer. Ploesti was taking a terrific pounding from the 15th Air Force. Something had to happen.


AUGUST the twenty-third was a big day for us. Our basketball team won its game in the afternoon. Then right after supper, we were given our first Red Cross food packages. These contained five packages of American cigarettes, Kraft's cheese, jam, crackers, chocolate, canned meat, coffee, milk, sugar, fruit extract, and raisins; the coffee, sugar, milk, and fruit extract were given to the kitchen to be used with our meals. The cigarettes were the big thing. We were so tired of smoking the Rumanians at four thousand lei a package. That is equivalent to $4 or enough to buy about $8 worth of goods, since prices are so low in Rumania.

We all went to bed feeling pretty fine. We hadn't had a raid for several days, the Russians were still driving south, we heard a rumor that landings were made by the Allies on the Black Sea, and we had some American food and cigarettes. At about ten-thirty there was a little commotion in the streets. Another fellow and I went to the window, thinking it was caused by people going to the air raid shelter just across the street. There was an alert given over the radio if bombers were heading for Rumania. There were a lot of people in the street but they were not going into the shelter. Then somebody burst in the door to tell us that Rumania had capitulated to the Allies and had declared war on Germany. We all went down to the auditorium where we were told by our C.O., Lt. Col. Gunn, to stay quiet, to keep the lights off, and to stay away from the windows. We were all confused by the sudden events. We knew that there were still a lot of Jerries around and we were afraid that they might try to get us and ship us to Germany. The guard around the school was doubled and machine guns had been set up in the streets. These precautions were taken to keep the Jerries from getting us.

We were all dressed now, and had all our belongings ready to go. We were called down to the auditorium again and a Rumanian from the General Staff gave a speech, translated to us by the captain who had interrogated us, telling us that Rumania had finally found the "right side." There was much cheering during his speech. We were assured that all measures were being taken to protect us. Then we all went to the mess hall and had our first American coffee. Then breakfast of scrambled eggs, bread and jam, and more coffee. It was now getting light and several of us went outside and bought papers from the paper boy in the street. Rumanian people smiled at us. About seven o'clock the street in front of the school was packed with civilians giving us watermelons, wine, and other food. All of us were now as carefree as could be.

We went to the courtyard and had a flag raising ceremony. The Rumanian, American, and Russian flags were raised on the flag pole while each group sang their national anthem. It was quite an impressive ceremony. All this time there were airplanes flying overhead ME 109's and Hienkel 111's. They had German markings but they seemed friendly, so we took them for Rumanians,

At ten o'clock the air raid siren blew and we knew that it was the Germans. Our happiness vanished as we made our way to the basement. A few minutes later the second alarm came and then the drone of planes. Some of the fellows were standing by the doorway and saw the planes coming. They were Heinkel 111's at about five thousand feet. They came directly over the schoolhouse and dropped their bombs. The walls really quaked and I was just as scared as I had been on July 28.

The Jerries made three or four passes before leaving for good. We were all determined that they were after us and that we had better clear out, but fast, and stay out. We grabbed our belongings and made our way out to the courtyard. Col. Gunn wanted to know what we wanted to do. The Jerries controlled every road out of the city. Did we want to try to rush one of these barricades? Nobody seemed to know exactly what to do. We had no weapons of any kind. Finally the Rumanians opened the gates and we were on our own. Bob Cress, Louie, and a couple of others and I started for the south end of town. We were stopped by many people who wanted to help us, but assured us that the Germans were at the south. Then the siren blew and we ran back to some shelters across from the school.


FOR the next three days the Jerries kept up a constant alert. They came over all the time bombers, fighters, and dive-bombers and strafing. The shelters we were in were just trenches with boards and dirt on top, but it would have taken a direct hit to get us. It was a lot better than "sweating it out" in the basement of the school. The Germans had poisoned all of the water, so we had none for drinking, washing, or cooking.

"The Rumanians took several huge barrels to a well in the country and filled them with fresh water, though. At night Cress and I would go into the school and sleep in the basement. Though planes came over at night, no near hits were scored. We passed the time by playing bridge, but all of us were ready to duck at the first sound of an engine. Nobody felt like cooking, so we ate out of the Red Cross food packages.

We were all nervous and anxious to get out of town. On the afternoon of August 26th a couple of trucks were brought to take us to a former Officers Training Camp about five miles out of town. This suited us to a T. The trouble came when we tried to load the trucks. No sooner would a truck be loaded than the siren would blow, and everyone would pile out of the trucks and head for the nearest shelter. This happened three times, so Cress and I decided that we would get on the next truckload and stay on, raid or no raid. As soon as all was quiet again, we piled on the truck and away we went. Through the whole town we rolled, people on the streets cheering us and giving the V for victory sign. Any minute I expected to hear a siren or plane. We would have been sitting ducks for some Jerry out strafing.

But we made the trip all right. Olney was already at the camp, and so were the enlisted men. Cress and I grabbed a couple of mattresses and found a place to sleep in one of the barracks.

ON THE afternoon of the 28th we saw three B-17's circle the city and come in for landings, but that couldn't be. But it was true. We were to be evacuated by B-17's on the 31st, weather permitting. Now would the weather please be good? The next day was a long one, but everyone was too happy over the prospect of getting out of Rumania to care about that. We finally settled down to our last night of bed bugs and lice.

I woke up about four o'clock on the morning of the 31st to find an overcast sky. I knew that it was going to rain. But the sky cleared with the dawn, and we were all ready to go at seven o'clock. I think every bus in Bucharest was out at the camp to take us to the airport. Back through the city again, I got my first look at the marshalling yards the 15th Air Force had bombed. The Jerries had bombed it in the previous weekend it was a well torn up place. The hospital where the enlisted men stayed was almost totally destroyed. The Germans had either had that hospital as a target or they hit that when they were trying for the railroads yards. We threw American cigarettes to the Rumanians on the streets. Oh, how they loved us now.

We got to the airport and waited several hours before the first group of P-51's came over. They gave us a terrific buzz job, and circled the field as the first flight of B-17's arrived. What a feeling to see those planes! The Forts circled the field once, dropped their gears, and came in for a landing. I can imagine how the men on those planes felt, landing on territory that they used to bomb. The first several hundred men scrambled aboard, and the planes took off almost immediately. I held my breath as each one of them climbed into the air.


A HALF HOUR later the next group of bombers, with their escort of P-38's arrived. I was to be on one of these, a ship whose bombs painted on the fuselage showed that it had been on seventy-five missions. I hoped that it would get to make the seventy-seventh soon. I crawled up to the nose and looked around. Then back onto the specially built floor of the bomb bay for take off. Yes, I sweated this takeoff, but not as much as the two fighter pilots with us on their first ride in a bomber. As we were circling to gain altitude and get in formation, I crawled back up to the nose, not wanting to miss the last of Rumania.

Then on to Bulgaria, crossing the Danube River which was as muddy as always. It all looked familiar and yet so strange. I kept getting up and looking out the astrodome. The P-38's criss-crossing above us was a beautiful sight. On and on, over the flat country, and then the mountains of western Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. Then, after what seemed hours, we saw the Adriatic Sea. On the other side was Italy. The escort had now left us and we were safe from enemy action. Then Italy came into view. I had never seen it look so nice and peaceful. Back to the bomb-bay as we circled for a landing. We finally hit the ground and rolled to a stop.

We piled out of the ship to face newsreel cameras and 15th Air Force men who seemed as happy to see us back as we were to get back. Italian ground felt mighty good. Then onto trucks where we waited to hear General Nate Twining welcome us back. A major told us that we would go to get clean clothes and a bath. We were a sorry looking bunch of men. We were going to be deloused, and that was the best news of all. The end of the lice would mean the end of Rumanian prison souvenirs for us. United States, here we come!




- Contributed by Marshall Samms, July 2007. The story was printed in the September 1945 issue of the magazine "Sir!". The crew was shot down in "Shoo Shoo Baby", June 24, 1944.

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