Catalonia Offensive

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Catalonia Offensive
Part of the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War, map November 1938.png
Map of Spain in November 1938, after the end of the Battle of the Ebro and immediately before the start of the Catalonia Offensive. Republican territory is in red, and Nationalist territory is blue.
DateDecember 23, 1938 – February 10, 1939
Location
Northeastern Spain
Result Decisive Nationalist victory
Belligerents

Flag of Spain 1931 1939.svg  Spanish Republic

Flag of Spain under Franco 1938 1945.svg Spanish State
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg Italy

Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Germany

Commanders and leaders
Flag of Spain 1931 1939.svg Juan Hernández Saravia
Flag of Spain 1931 1939.svg Juan Modesto
Flag of Spain 1931 1939.svg Enrique Líster
Flag of Spain 1931 1939.svg Colonel Perea
Flag of Spain (1938-1945).svg Fidel Dávila Arrondo
Flag of Spain (1938-1945).svg Agustín Muñoz Grandes
Flag of Spain (1938-1945).svg Rafael García Valiño
Flag of Spain under Franco 1938 1945.svg José Moscardó Ituarte
Flag of Spain under Franco 1938 1945.svg Juan Yagüe
Flag of Spain under Franco 1938 1945.svg José Solchaga
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg Gastone Gambara
Strength
Thomas: 300,000 [1]
Beevor: 220,000 [2]
Jackson: 90,000 [3]
Thomas: 360 artillery pieces [4]
Beevor: 250 artillery pieces [2]
Thomas: 200 tanks and armoured cars [4]
Beevor: 40 tanks and armoured cars [2]
Thomas: 80 aircraft [4]
Beevor: 106 aircraft [5]
Jackson: 350,000 [6]
Beevor: 340,000 [7]
Thomas: 300,000 [8]
Beevor: 1,400 artillery pieces [7]
Thomas: 565 artillery pieces [1]
300 tanks [7]
500 aircraft [1] [7]
Casualties and losses
? dead
10,000 wounded
60,000 captured [9]
220,000 disarmed in France [10]
? dead
? wounded
? captured

The Catalonia Offensive (Catalan : Ofensiva de Catalunya, Spanish : Ofensiva de Cataluña) was part of the Spanish Civil War. The Nationalist Army started the offensive on December 23, 1938, and rapidly conquered Republican-held Catalonia with Barcelona (the Republic's capital city from October 1937). [11] Barcelona was captured on January 26, 1939. The Republican government headed for the French border. Thousands of people fleeing the Nationalists also crossed the frontier in the following month, to be placed in internment camps. Franco closed the border with France by February 10, 1939.

Catalan language Romance language

Catalan is a Western Romance language derived from Vulgar Latin and named after the medieval Principality of Catalonia, in northeastern modern Spain. It is the only official language of Andorra, and a co-official language of the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencia. It also has semi-official status in the Italian commune of Alghero. It is also spoken in the eastern strip of Aragon, in some villages of Region of Murcia called Carche and in the Pyrénées-Orientales department of France. These territories are often called Països Catalans or "Catalan Countries".

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian is a Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

Spanish Civil War War between the Republicans and the Nationalists in Spain from 1936 to 1939

The Spanish Civil War took place from 1936 to 1939. Republicans loyal to the left-leaning Second Spanish Republic, in alliance with the Anarchists and Communists, fought against the Nationalists, an alliance of Falangists, Monarchists, and Catholics, led by General Francisco Franco. Due to the international political climate at the time, the war had many facets, and different views saw it as class struggle, a war of religion, a struggle between dictatorship and republican democracy, between revolution and counterrevolution, between fascism and anarchism. The Nationalists won the war in early 1939 and ruled Spain until Franco's death in November 1975.

Contents

Background

After its defeat at the Battle of the Ebro the Republican Army was broken and would never recover. The Republicans had lost most of their armament and experienced units. [12] Furthermore, in October 1938 the Republican government agreed to withdraw the volunteers of the International Brigades. [13] On the other hand, the Nationalists received new supplies of ammunition, weapons and aircraft from Germany. [14] Furthermore, after the Munich Agreement, the hope of an intervention of the Western democracies in order to aid the Republic against Germany and Italy vanished. [12] France had closed the frontier again in mid-June 1938 and frozen Republican financial assets in French banks. [15]

The Battle of the Ebro was the longest and largest battle of the Spanish Civil War. It took place between July and November 1938, with fighting mainly concentrated in two areas on the lower course of the Ebro River, the Terra Alta comarca of Catalonia, and the Auts area close to Fayón (Faió) in the lower Matarranya, Eastern Lower Aragon. These sparsely populated areas saw the largest array of armies in the war. The results of the battle were disastrous for the Second Spanish Republic, with tens of thousands of dead and wounded and little effect on the advance of the Nationalists.

Spanish Republican Army

The Spanish Republican Army was the main branch of the Armed Forces of the Second Spanish Republic between 1931 and 1939.

International Brigades paramilitary supporting the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War

The International Brigades were paramilitary units set up by the Communist International to assist the Popular Front government of the Second Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War. The organisation existed for two years, from 1936 until 1938. It is estimated that during the entire war, between 32,000 and 35,000 members served in the International Brigades, including 15,000 who died in combat; however, there were never more than 20,000 brigade members present on the front line at one time.

Opposing forces

Nationalists

At the beginning of December, the rebel faction concentrated an Army Group, the Army of the North, of 300,000 [1] –340,000 [16] men led by the general Fidel Dávila in order to conquer Catalonia. The Nationalists assembled their best divisions all along the front from the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean. Along the Segre the Nationalists deployed Muñoz Grandes's Army of Urgel, Garcia Valiño's Army of Maestrazgo and Moscardo's Aragon Army; in the confluence of the Segre with the Ebro Gambara's Italian Cuerpo Legionario Italiano of four divisions (55,000 men) and Solchaga's Army Corps of Navarra; and in the Ebro the Yagüe's Moroccan Corps. [1] The Nationalists also had, according to Beevor, 300 tanks, more than 500 aircraft (among them the Bf 109E and Heinkel 112 fighters) and 1,400 cannon. [17]

Catalonia Autonomous area of northeastern Spain

Catalonia is an autonomous community in Spain on the northeastern corner of the Iberian Peninsula, designated as a nationality by its Statute of Autonomy. Catalonia consists of four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. The capital and largest city is Barcelona, the second-most populated municipality in Spain and the core of the sixth most populous urban area in the European Union. It comprises most of the territory of the former Principality of Catalonia. It is bordered by France (Occitanie) and Andorra to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the east, and the Spanish autonomous communities of Aragon to the west and Valencia to the south. The official languages are Catalan, Spanish, and the Aranese dialect of Occitan.

Pyrenees Range of mountains in southwest Europe

The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between Spain and France. Reaching a height of 3,404 metres (11,168 ft) altitude at the peak of Aneto, the range separates the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of continental Europe, and extends for about 491 km (305 mi) from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean Sea.

Segre (river) French-Spanish-Andorran river

The Segre is a river tributary to the Ebro with a basin comprising territories across three states: France, Andorra and Spain. The river was founded by the hero Francesc Lara.

Republicans

Opposing the Nationalists, the Republicans had Colonel Perea's East Army and Colonel Juan Modesto's Ebro Army under the command of General Juan Hernandez Saravia, commander of the Oriental Region's Army Group, with 220,000 [18] –300,000 [1] men, many unarmed (Hernandez Saravia said that the Republican army had only 17,000 rifles for all Catalonia), [19] 106 airplanes [5] (most of them Chatos), 250 cannons and 40 tanks (many of them unserviceable due to shortage of spare parts). [2] The Soviet government agreed to send to Catalonia a shipment of 250 aircraft, 250 tanks and 650 cannons, [1] but the shipment did not reach Bordeaux until January 15 and only a small part of it crossed the border. [20] Furthermore, because of the international isolation of the Republic and the lack of food (according to Beevor, in Barcelona the ration per day was down to 100 grams of lentils) [5] the morale of the government troops and civil population in the Republican zone was very low. The people only wished the end of the war: "...just let it be over, it doesn’t matter how it ends, but let it end now." [21]

Juan Guilloto León, usually referred to as Modesto or Juan Modesto, was a Republican army officer during the Spanish Civil War.

Polikarpov I-15 fighter aircraft

The Polikarpov I-15 was a Soviet biplane fighter aircraft of the 1930s. Nicknamed Chaika because of its gulled upper wings, it was operated in large numbers by the Soviet Air Force, and together with the Polikarpov I-16 monoplane, was one of the standard fighters of the Spanish Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, where it was called Chato (snub-nose).

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Battle

Nationalist offensive

The Nationalist offensive was planned for December 10, but was postponed to December 23. [8] On December 23, the Italians and the Navarreses crossed the Segre at Mequinenza, broke the Republican lines, and advanced sixteen kilometres, but they were stopped by the V and XV Republican corps led by Lister on December 25. On the left flank, Muñoz Grandes and Garcia Valiño advanced towards Cervera and Artesa, but they were blocked by the 26th Republican Division. On the south, Yagüe's troops were held back by the Ebro's floodwater. The Republicans had stopped the first Nationalist attack; nevertheless, they had lost 40 aircraft in the first ten days of the battle. [22]

Mequinenza Municipality in Aragon, Spain

Mequinenza or Mequinensa is a town and municipality of the province of Zaragoza, in the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain. It is located beside the river Segre, close to its confluence with the river Ebro.

Enrique Líster Soviet general

Enrique Líster Forján was a Spanish communist politician and military officer.

Cervera Municipality in Catalonia, Spain

Cervera is the capital of the comarca of Segarra, in the province of Lleida, Catalonia, Spain. The title Comte de Cervera is a courtesy title, formerly part of the Crown of Aragon, that has been revived for Leonor, Princess of Asturias. The city is also the birthplace of five-time MotoGP world champion, Marc Márquez.

On January 3, Solchaga attacked Les Borges Blanques, Muñoz Grandes and Garcia Valiño occupied Artesa, and Yagüe crossed the Ebro. Moscardo attacked from Lleida and the Italians occupied Les Borges Blanques on January 5. The same day, the Republican army started a surprise attack in Extremadura towards Peñarroya in order to divert Nationalist forces, but the offensive was halted after a few days and the Nationalist offensive in Catalonia continued. [23] On January 9, the Moscardo's Aragon Army Corps joined Gambara at Mollerusa and broke the northern part of the front. The V and XV Republican Corps collapsed and retreated in disorder. On January 15, the Aragon and Maestrazgo Corps conquered Cervera and the Moroccan Corps after a one-day march of 50 km occupied Tarragona. By this day, the Nationalists had conquered a third of Catalonia, had taken 23,000 prisoners, and had killed 5,000 Republican soldiers. [24]

Les Borges Blanques Municipality in Catalonia

Les Borges Blanques is the capital of the comarca of Les Garrigues, in the province of Lleida, Catalonia, Spain. According to the 2014 census, the municipality has a population of 6,088 inhabitants.

Battle of Valsequillo

The Battle of Valsequillo, also known as Battle of Peñarroya, was a diversionary Republican offensive which took place in the Sierra Morena area in southern Extremadura and the north of Andalusia between 5 January and 4 February 1939 during the Spanish Civil War. The main goal of the offensive was to distract forces from the Nationalist offensive against Catalonia, but after having occupied 500 square kilometers the Republican advance was stopped and all the territorial gains were lost to a Nationalist counteroffensive.

Extremadura Autonomous community of Spain

Extremadura is an autonomous community of the western Iberian Peninsula whose capital city is Mérida, recognised by the Statute of Autonomy of Extremadura. It is made up of the two largest provinces of Spain: Cáceres and Badajoz. It is bordered by the provinces of Salamanca and Ávila to the north; by provinces of Toledo and Ciudad Real to the east, and by the provinces of Huelva, Seville, and Córdoba (Andalusia) to the south; and by Portugal to the west. Its official language is Spanish.

Fall of Barcelona

The Republican government then attempted to organize a defense of Barcelona, ordering the general mobilization of all men to forty-five and militarized all the industry. Nevertheless, the successive defensive lines (L1, L2, L3) fell, [25] the Republican forces were outnumbered six to one and the Nationalist air force bombed Barcelona every day (40 times between January 21 and 25). [26] It became clear that the defense of the city was impossible. [27] On January 22, Solchaga and Yagüe reached the Llobregat only a few miles west of Barcelona, Muñoz Grandes and Garcia Valiño attacked Sabadell and Terrassa, and Gambara advanced to Badalona. The chief of staff of the Republican Army, Rojo told the Republican prime minister Negrín that the front had ceased to exist so the government abandoned Barcelona after releasing most of its prisoners. [28] A large part of the Barcelona population fled from the city as well. On January 24, Garcia Valiño occupied Manresa, [29] and on January 25 the Nationalist vanguard occupied the Tibidabo in the outskirts of Barcelona. The Nationalists finally occupied Barcelona on January 26, [30] and there were five days of looting by the Yagüe's Regulares [31] and extrajudicial killings (paseos). [32]

Retreat

After the occupation of Barcelona, the Nationalist troops, tired from the long marches, slowed their advance but soon resumed their offensive, pursuing the retreating columns of Republican soldiers and civilians. [28] On February 1, Negrín proposed, in the last meeting of the Cortes in the Figueres Castle, capitulation with the sole condition of respecting the lives of the vanquished and the holding of a plebiscite so the Spanish people could decide the form of government, but Franco did not accept. [33] On February 2, the Nationalists entered Girona, arrived within 50 kilometers of the frontier on February 3, [9] occupied Figueres on February 8 and Rojo ordered the Republican troops to withdraw to the French frontier. [9] Hundreds of thousands of Republican soldiers, women, children and old men marched to the French frontier on foot and on carts, buses and trucks [30] through bitterly cold sleet and snow. Their retreat was covered by units of the Republican Army, which carried out hit and run attacks and ambushes. [34] The Nationalist air force and the Condor Legion bombed and strafed the roads leading to France. [35] On January 28, the French government announced that civilians could cross the frontier and, on 5 February, the Republican soldiers as well. [36] Between 400,000 [37] and 500,000, [9] Republican refugees crossed the frontier, among them the president of the Republic (Manuel Azaña), the prime minister (Juan Negrín) and the chief of staff of the Republican Army (Vicente Rojo), as well the president of Catalonia (Lluís Companys) and the members of the Catalan government. Negrín returned to Spain on February 9, but Azaña and Rojo refused to return. [35] By February 9, the Nationalists reached the frontier, and on the following day the last units of Modesto's Army of the Ebro crossed into France and the Nationalists sealed the frontier. [1]

Aftermath

Military and political consequences

Spain after the conclusion of the Catalonia Offensive. Nationalist Spain is in gray and Republican Spain is in white. Spanish Map 1939.PNG
Spain after the conclusion of the Catalonia Offensive. Nationalist Spain is in gray and Republican Spain is in white.

With the fall of Catalonia, the Republic lost the second largest city of the country, the Catalan war industry and a large part of its army (more than 200,000 soldiers). [38] On February 27, Azaña resigned and the same day France and the United Kingdom recognized the Francoist government. [39] Further military resistance became impossible and the war was lost for the Republic, despite the fact that 30% of Spain was still under Republican control after the offensive and Prime Minister Juan Negrín insisted that the Republic could continue to resist. [40]

The Catalonia autonomy was abolished. The Catalan language, the Sardana and Catalan Christian names were forbidden. All Catalan newspapers were requisitioned and the forbidden books retired and burned. [41] Even the inscriptions on tombs in the Montjuïc Cemetery commemorating Durruti, Ascaso and Ferrer i Guardia were removed. [42]

Fate of the Republican refugees

The Republican exiles were interned in fifteen improvised camps (mostly barbed-wire enclosures on the sand, without basic shelter, sanitary or cooking facilities) [43] by the French government in places such as Argelès, Gurs, Rivesaltes and Vernet. [44] The living conditions in the camps were very harsh: in the first six months, 14,672 refugees died from malnutrition or dysentery. [45] The French government encouraged the refugees to return and, by the end of 1939, between 70,000 [46] and 180,000 refugees returned to Spain. However, 300,000 never returned. [47] Many sought asylum in other countries: the Soviet Union (between 3,000 [47] and 5,000), [48] USA and Canada (about 1,000), Great Britain, Belgium and other European countries (between 3,000 [49] and 5,000) [47] and Latin America (30,000 to Mexico, 10,000 to Argentina, 5,000 to Venezuela, 5,000 to Dominican Republic, 3,500 to Chile, etc.). [49] [50] Nevertheless, at least 140,000 refugees remained in France while 19,000 went to the French colonies of North Africa. [49] After the fall of France 10,000 [51] –15,000 [52] refugees were detained by the Nazis and deported to concentration camps. Another 10,000 joined the French Resistance [53] and more than 2,000 joined the Free French Forces. [48]

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2001. London. p. 844
  2. 1 2 3 4 Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. p. 373
  3. Jackson, Gabriel. The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, 1931–1939. Princeton University Press. Princenton. 1967. p. 463
  4. 1 2 3 Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2001. London. p. 845
  5. 1 2 3 Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. p. 368
  6. Jackson, Gabriel. The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, 1931–1939. Princeton University Press. Princeton. 1967. p. 463
  7. 1 2 3 4 Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. p. 372
  8. 1 2 Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2001. London. p.844
  9. 1 2 3 4 Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. p. 382
  10. Thomas, p. 877
  11. Graham, Helen. The Spanish Civil War. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. 2005. p. 102
  12. 1 2 Preston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, Revolution & Revenge. Harper Perennial. London. 2006. p. 292
  13. Preston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, Revolution & Revenge. Harper Perennial. London. 2006. pp. 292–293
  14. Preston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, Revolution & Revenge. Harper Perennial. London. 2006. p. 294
  15. Graham, Helen. The Spanish Civil War. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. 2005. p. 99
  16. Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. p. 372
  17. Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2001. London. pp. 372–373
  18. Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. p. 373
  19. Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2001. London. p. 847
  20. Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. p. 488
  21. Graham, Helen. The Spanish Civil War. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. 2005. p. 111
  22. Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. p. 374
  23. Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. pp. 375–376
  24. Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. pp. 374–376
  25. Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2001. London. p. 848
  26. Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. pages 376 and 484
  27. Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. p. 376
  28. 1 2 Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. p. 377
  29. Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2001. London. p. 845
  30. 1 2 Preston, Paul. Doves of War. Four women of Spain. Harper Collins. London. 2002. p. 374
  31. Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. p. 378
  32. Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. London. 2001. p. 850
  33. Beevor, Antony. The battle for Spain. The Spanish civil war. Penguin Books. 2006. London. pp. 380–381
  34. Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. p. 379
  35. 1 2 Preston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, Revolution & Revenge. Harper Perennial. London. 2006. p. 295
  36. Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2001. London. p. 854
  37. Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2001. London. p. 860
  38. Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2001. London. p. 854
  39. Graham, Helen. The Spanish Civil War. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. 2005. p. 165
  40. Preston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, Revolution & Revenge. Harper Perennial. London. 2006. p. 296
  41. Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. London 2006. pp. 378–379
  42. Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2001. London. pp. 850–851
  43. Preston, Paul. Doves of War. Four women of Spain. Harper Collins. 2002. London. p. 180
  44. Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. London 2006. pp. 411–412
  45. Preston, Paul. Doves of War. Four women of Spain. Harper Collins. 2002. London. p. 180.
  46. Graham, Helen. The Spanish Civil War. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. 2005. p. 117
  47. 1 2 3 Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. p. 412
  48. 1 2 Graham, Helen. The Spanish Civil War. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. 2005. p. 120
  49. 1 2 3 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-05-08. Retrieved 2011-11-25.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  50. Graham, Helen. The Spanish Civil War. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. 2005. p. 115
  51. Graham, Helen. The Spanish Civil War. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. 2005. p. 126
  52. Preston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, Revolution & Revenge. Harper Perennial. London. 2006. p. 315
  53. Graham, Helen. The Spanish Civil War. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. 2005. p. 125

Sources

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