USS CONCORD (AFS/TAFS-5) Veterans Association

DOC HARRIS (LT 71 - 72) VIGNETTES (SHORT STORIES)

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LT Rob Harris, Concord Doc in the early 70's contacted our association and said he had some memories to share. He had read in our "sea-stories page" a mention of an officer who willingly stood mail buoy watch to ensure the quality of our shipmates lives by grabbing their letters from wives, kids, girlfriends etc and safely bringing them to the security of his shipmates hands. He even provided photographic proof of his dedication to duty and willingly wished to share his endvour with all of us. I really appreciated his willingness to contribute to our site and asked him to send in as much as he wished and I would share it with all hands. Below you will find his (as he calls them vignettes), and I will update this page as he submits his thoughts. Thanks Doc on behalf of the crew.   Good Stuff!
 
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Ent Vignette #1 Reporting aboard (1971 - 1972)

 Reporting aboard in August 1971 relieving Barry Shultz, who I came to
appreciate was a superb physician and planning his post Navy career
training as a urologist. The Concord had sailed for Glasgow the day before
and we both anticipated we could do a turnover in Glasgow. The Navy said
no. We could wait for the return to NOB in 3 weeks. I was assigned to the
Vulcan, a WWII repair ship in the interval. My family had not yet arrived, so I
lived aboard Vulcan in the MO’s SR. He had been a couple of years ahead of
me in Med School and we knew each other, making the transition from intern
at Oakland Naval Hospital to operational duty smoother.
During my free time, I walked the piers, trying to learn everything I could
about ships, the sea, and the Navy. I had always loved ships and the sea,
having lived in South America growing up. In those days we traveled by ship,
not airplanes.
I especially enjoyed harbor Ops. They took me on their wing when I had the
time, teaching me about the various ships, ship handling, and tug operations.
When CONCORD returned, they took me out to meet her with the Thimble
Shoal pilots aboard a Navy YTB (tug). Climbing up a Jacob’s ladder to the
weather deck, I landed on the Concord for the first time. Everyone was
surprised the new doc reported aboard by sea and thought I must be really
gung ho! On the signal bridge, as we entered Norfolk harbor, I was
introduced to CAPT Stilwell CO, CDR Dewey XO, and LT Barry Shultz for the
first time.
Thus began one of the happiest, exciting, instructional years of my life. I grew
to admire and respect the CONCORD crew and officers, who patiently showed
me the ropes of a Navy ship at sea. I determined to learn just about
everything about you, your jobs, your concerns that I could. It set the stage
for a subsequent 23-year career in the Navy.
H Division consisted of HMC Ed Lloyd of Baltimore (a master of Navy
Bureaucracy and paperwork), HM2 Ron Dods (a Viet Nam veteran and
former policeman in St. Louis, with an amazing sense of recognizing serious
illnesses), HM3 Larry Callison (a thoughtful, perceptive well -read Corpsman
from TX, and HM3 Chuck Kyle (a remarkable X-ray Tech at Oakland Naval
Hospital when I was an intern. He had to do sea duty next, so he came with
me from Oak Knoll). We transiently had a striker or two, whose names I
regrettably can’t remember. Together, despite limited capabilities of a
shipboard medical operation, we practiced some of the best medicine of my
career (which included training at the Mayo Clinic and the University of
Minnesota). It was a remarkable group, and those of you aboard in those
days, were fortunate to have them care for you.

Barry was an amazing physician . . . mellow, knowledgeable, capable. After
orientation to the medical facilities and H Division Staff, we checked supplies,
inspected the medical spaces, and reviewed the medical logs beginning in
1968, when the ship was commissioned. There had been only one tragic
traumatic death a couple of years previously, reported in this website
previously. A sailor became trapped in a chain attached to a huge hatch
cover, which subsequently came down and killed him as we understood it.
The most common severe illness was coronary artery disease with heart
attacks. No big surgery had ever been performed, as patients who required it
were often aerovaced ashore or to carriers with complete surgical
capabilities. Turnover complete, we began preparations for our upcoming 6
month Med Deployment.
I have prepared some of the most memorable events and people of my
deployment here for your interest and amusement. Almost 50 years have
elapsed since that year, so some recollections may be flawed or distorted by
the prism of my memory. Nevertheless, the memories remain vivid to me,
and hopefully these will trigger your own memories. Please feel free to
correct or edit as appropriate!
 
DOC-SPOTLIGHT/OR-IN-PROGRESS.jpg.w300h388.jpg

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Vignette #2 Doc vs Doctor
Doc vs. Doctor
Around the second day after returning from Glasgow, Barry took me up to
formally meet CAPT Stilwell. Barry gave us a brief introduction and departed
to help with his family at home for the remainder of the day.
I thought the Captain was impressive as we discussed my new assignment
aboard CONCORD. It was mostly about me . . . who were my parents? Did I get
married and medical school and how old was our daughter? Where did I go
to College and Medical School? Where did I intern and how was the call
schedule? Did I learn a lot? What were my hobbies and interests? What kind
of medical training was I pursuing after the year at sea? Had I considered
pursuing medical education in the Navy? If not, how did I plan to spend the 3
years of payback obligation in the Navy? Could he do anything to make my
time in the Navy worthwhile? He encouraged me to take advantage of all
opportunities this year with him at sea would offer, and he’d help me do that
if he could.
Then he briefly reviewed his 40 year career in the Navy, beginning with
graduation from King’s Point, and then going to sea aboard destroyers. He
grew to love the Navy and remained a WestPac sailor the bulk of his career.
He pointed out the cornea of his right eye which was cloudy and opacified
and asked me what I thought that was. I said I couldn’t be sure but likely to

be traumatic or infectious. He smiled and said it was traumatic and he’d tell
me the story one day. He had the distinction of being the only one-eyed
Captain in the Navy.
Then I got “The Lecture”. “Doc,“ he said, “until you and Barry Schultz, I’d
never had a medical officer on any of my ships.” He had to rely on his
Corpsmen and self-education to handle medical conditions and emergencies.
This had served him and his men well for 40 years and he couldn’t
understand why this ship had a requirement for a medical officer as he could
do as he always did.
That being said, he thought he was glad to have me aboard and looked
forward to a fruitful year at sea for the two of us and the ship’s company. His
door was always open. He concluded reviewing a little history. He said the
term “Doc” was reserved for all aboard for the medical leader, be he enlisted
or officer. It was a term of affection and respect. He’d heard from his
colleagues that many medical officers did not like the term Doc, preferring
the more formal Doctor.
“Well, Doc, on this ship while I am in command, Doc means you’re doing your
job right, which is what I expect. If the crew is calling you “Doctor,” that
means you are losing their respect and affection. And if I call you, “Doctor,”
that means it’s something very serious or your ass is in trouble! Is that
understood? Unless you have anything further at this time, you are dismissed
to go back to learning about CONCORD, her crew, our jobs, and what
everyone expects of us. Nice to meet you!’
And that was that!Enter content here

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 Vignette #3  Mail Buoy Watch
 
 
Trans- Atlantic Mail Buoy Watch
We had only been a few days out of Norfolk, when one early afternoon the
word was passed to all hands to station the “Special Mail Buoy Watch.”
Having no idea what that even was, I proceeded to the Bridge to make an
inquiry. There, I saw the CO, XO, Officers of the Watch, and others on the port
wing of the bridge looking down on an amazing site. Here was this sailor
standing there, gaff pole and canvas bag in hand in a life jacket and a helmet
on. “What was going on?” I asked.

The XO explained that there had been a special mail pouch drop at sea with
mail destined for CONCORD in it, and now we must retrieve it. I thought that
was a bit strange not hearing anything about approaching aircraft or
anything else. He pointed to the SA standing at attention while others
scanned the horizon for the mail bag. So . . . what happens when you see it, I
asked. Why the SA will lean over and attempt to retrieve it with the gaffe. But
we are 50 feet above the water and the pole is only 10 feet long.
In that case, the Captain and XO responded in all seriousness, we might have
to launch the helos or a motor whale boat to retrieve it. The first order of
business was to find it, floating on the water far out in the Atlantic. They
gave me a pair of binoculars and told me to help out in the search. I bit, and
started looking for a mail pouch. Then I started thinking . . . . this is crazy and
I scanned the decks and saw everybody laughing and suspected something
was up.
Finally, after pestering them, they came clean and told me the truth.
Meanwhile the Mail Buoy Watchstander had been relieved several times by
other SA’s. They were starting to get suspicious, volunteers were dwindling
to assume the watch. So the XO suggested that I go up there and assume the
watch as well to show that even first-time officers had to stand the watch. I
felt bad these SA’s might be annoyed at the prank, so I agreed to share in the
fun (and the pain). While standing there the Bos’n peppered me with
questions about the location of the relative bearing grease, and several other
items of interest. I thought there actually might be some of these items, but
found it strange. When the affair was over, everyone had a good laugh, I had
participated in one of the traditional “hazing” adventures of a newbie. 
 
 
 
 
SPOTLIGHT/mailbuoy.jpg      SPOTLIGHT/mailbuoycertificate.jpg

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Vignette # 4 (honory enlisted Doc)
 
The H Division wanted me to chow down with them one evening. On account of me being an officer, they decided to “smuggle” me in as enlisted-man to keep the Chiefs off our backs��!

They created a special rank, HM1 S (as in super!������, since we had no first class Corpsmen aboard). Our LPO, Ron Dods got me a special Chambray shirt with a custom designed insignia, befitting my new rank and someone lent me their dungarees for the evening. And off we went. No one was put on report nor went to the brig! A good time was had by all! And .... my disguise fooled all the Ciefs����������
 
SPOTLIGHT/messdecksrob.jpg 

Enter content here

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Vignette # 5 The Blue Flame of H-Division
 
When Barry was orienting me to the Department and my new
responsibilities, he opened the large closet of medical supplies and there . . .
he proudly showed me, were boxes of good European Wine he collected on
the cruise to take home. In addition he had a full pallet down in one of the
holds. I’d never seen so much vino. He was a serious student of fine wine and
could never find these at an affordable price back in the States. He joked, “If
CONCORD ever gets torpedoed and explodes, H Division would burn with a
giant blue flame, like a big crepe suzette.”
As we all know, our beloved ship was torpedoed and exploded . . . but there
was no blue flame. I took comfort that none of his fine collection was left
behind. And the image that persists to this day is of all our fellow CONCORD
veterans up in heaven sitting around, sipping Barry’s fine wine, toasting the
      memory of our great ship.
Enter
                                           webassets/Concordsinking.jpg content here

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Vignette # 6 Movie Call
 
Two Movie Calls for the 16mm movies shown nightly at sea are memorable.
The first was for Henry the Eighth and the second was Road to Salina.

The call by the BM reading the exact label on the cover of the movie went out:
“Now the movie in the Crew’s Mess this evening will be “Henry the VIII, by
Shakespeare, starring Richard Burton.” We figured it must be an Aviation BM
on the mic, as he read it: “Henry the VEEE One Eleven!” Took us a while to
grasp that . . . and thank you HC6 for the memory!
The second was Road to Salina, starring Mimsy Farmer. She was an actress
whose first role was at age 11 in Spencer’s Mountain. By the time she made
this one she had transited puberty and was a beautiful grown woman. I don’t
remember the plot (if there was one). It was one of the early soft core porn
movies trying to go mainstream and was remarkable for one scene of Mimsy
in full frontal nudity. It had three reels, but all the action was in reel 2.
The call always went out for this movie (shown repeatedly on our Med
Cruise): “Now the movie in the wardroom this evening will be the second reel
of Road to Salina!”
CONCORD was the movie ship for the 6 th Fleet in those days, distributing all
the flicks to others. The second reel of Road to Salina NEVER left the ship!
Too bad, you other ships!Enter supporting content here

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Vignette # 7 Filler Up 
 
 Several times the ships of SERVRON FOUR tried to jazz up unrepping.
CONCORD had a big flag we flew on occasion. It had the logo of Super
Giant, the big grocery store.But the best of all was one of the AOE’s
(can’t remember which one, maybe DETROIT). As we came alongside
they were blasting the Tia Juana Brass’s “The Lonely Bull” on their
1MC. 
“Good morning on CONCORD from DETROIT, the fastest, best-looking
filling station and ship in the Navy! Stand by to receive shot lines!” The
hoses were attached and refueling began.
Then they announced they were sending a helo over with important
material for the Captain. The helo landed and this dude in white
coveralls and a funny looking hat proceeds to the bridge on the
weather deck in full view of everyone. He was carrying a big white
plastic bucket with a stick pointing up.

As he ascended the ladder to the starboard wing of the bridge, a big
flag unfurled from their mast to the tune of the now defunct oil
company’s jingle on TV at the time. It was a huge Texaco flag and the
jingle was “You can trust your car to the man who wears the star, the
big bright Texaco star.”
He reported to the Captain in his white coveralls with a big Texaco
badge on the left and “Jimmy “ or some name embroidered on the
right. He was carrying window cleaner and a squeegee and rags. He
requested, and was granted, permission to clean the bridge windows.
He did and took out a little whiskbroom to sweep around the helm
station.
After insuring we were happy with the service, he requested
permission to return to the gas station and took off back to DETROIT.
When refueling was completed, we broke away to the coda of Flatt
and Scruggs Dueling Banjos as they hauled the big Texaco flag down.
And, as they turned to starboard, the music volume decreased and a
southern drawl voice yells out, “Y’all come back now . . . YA
HEAAAHH!?”


 

Click Here To relive the Texaco Jingle

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Vignette # 8 You have to learn to talk Navy 
 
The Captain was a stickler for proper shipboard terms while sailing on his
ships. I wasn’t when I first got there. After one early evening in his big Port
Cabin, I finished whatever the business was and asked if it was ok to go
downstairs to my bedroom . . . .
“What did you say????,” he asked with dismay. DOCTOR . . . you must learn to
talk Navy. There are no stairs on a ship, only ladders. You do not go “down”
(unless it’s with your ship), you go down below. You never go up, you go
topside, left is port, right is starboard, and your “bedroom” is a stateroom.
You never go to the front, you go forward, and back is aft. You really have to
learn how to talk!

“Capice????” If not, I may have to get the Bos’n to come here and stuff your
through that little round window over there,” pointing to a porthole to his
left. Never forgot that!

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Vignette #9 Malaga first visit.....Doctor haven't you heard The song......
 
 
 
I always enjoyed coming into and leaving a port on the bridge, observing
shiphandling, listening to the commands, learning to read the water,
watching the wind, etc. And my nautical vocabulary improved.
Very few people aboard were fluent in Spanish in those days. Once the
Captain realized I spoke the language, he wanted me to be on the bridge to
translate what was going on with the informal conversations between the
pilot and the tugs. Pretty soon I was relaying the orders from the Spanish
pilots. Really cool. A real sense of power as I passed on the commands and
observed what happen with this big ship.
He wanted to know what all the chatter was on the pilot and tug walkie talkie
was. The pilot was animatedly shouting into his hand held to the tug skipper,
“mira, Francisco, cuando llegamos al muelle vamos a pasar por la bodega y
tomar una cervecita!” The conversation was animated.
‘What’s he saying,? our Captain asked.
Not much . . . He’s just asking to go out for a beer with the tug skipper, when
we get all tied up at the dock. A sigh of relief!
In Malaga harbor, we would drop the forward starboard anchor until it
grabbed and then pay out the chain as the tugs maneuvered us to the dock.
Then when we left, we only needed one tug as the forward anchor chain was
pulled and the bow of CONCORD moved towards the anchor. Saved money!
I was coming to learn the chants accompanying this maneuver, which are
used the world over since folks first put to sea, I suppose. The Spanish tug
would cry out, “Queda la cadena arriba y abajo con mucha fuerza” the chain is
up and down with lots of strain. “Ahora, queda el ancla libre, the anchor is
free!”
I turned to the Captain and told him they were saying the anchor was free,
you know what I mean Captain? It’s not stuck in the mud anymore. Sir, isn’t
there a term in the Navy when the anchor isn’t stuck anymore?

“Doctor, it’s Anchors Aweigh, it’s Anchors Aweigh!” throwing up his hands in
dismay (or disgust, not sure which). “Haven’t you heard the song, haven’t you
heard the song????

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Vignette # 10 Formal INCHOP Rota
 
After several trans-Med runs, all the ships leaving and those relieving,
gathered Bay of Cadiz. I went up to the Bridge and looked all around. I had
never seen so many ships in one place. It was at the height of the cold war. It
was disturbing.
I asked, “Have we learned nothing since Pearl Harbor?” All our assets in one
place . . . one well-placed missile could take all the ships out, both incoming
and outgoing. Never got an answer.
Here, I finished another goal when I went aboard SAN DIEGO (AFS-7) to visit
their Medical Officer and look around. With this visit, I had now been aboard
all seven AFS’s, both West Pac and Atlantic. I have no idea why that was so
important to me. The conclusion: CONCORD was the best!

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Vignette # 11 Tiny's Toothache
 
Tiny (Musselman, if I recall his last name correctly) was the biggest bearded
Bos’ns mate I’d ever seen. He was hard-working and had no patience for
nonsense. He worked all over the ship, seemingly all the time, never
complaining.
He presented to Sick Call one afternoon with a monstrous toothache. The
Corpsmen screened him, and because his jaw was so swollen and he was in
misery, they wanted me to check him out. It was a big abscessed tooth. We
were due to rendezvous with a carrier the next day, with full dental
capability. So I elected to treat him with pain pills and antibiotics until the
morning. He was not happy. He wanted his tooth out right now.
I explained I had no dental training, and arranged for a flight over to the
carrier the first thing in the a.m. He was upset. I told him to return later if
things got worse.Tiny came back to sick bay as described. He asked Dodd’s to yank his tooth and Dodd declined. Tiny then said, “Well if you won’t do it, and Doc won’t do it, I’ll just have to do it myself. Then he leaned over, and with a big huge big filthy Bos’ns pliers, reached in his mouth and extracted his own tooth!”
About an hour later, Ron Dods called me down to see something. There on
Dods’ desk was a tooth! He couldn’t believe what just happened. Tiny came
back to Sick Bay after I left and wanted a Corpsman to pull his tooth. They
declined, and he then leaned over the desk, reached in his leather tool pouch,
grabbed a big pair of pliers and . . . . pulled his own tooth! So we gave a gauze
bite block to use until the bleeding stopped, iced his jaw, and sent him over to
the carrier the next morning. The carrier dentists cleaned it up and
complimented him on his dental skills and sent him back!
23 years later, I was making rounds with the neurosurgery residents at
Bethesda, and lo . . . who had been admitted for a lumbar laminectomy for
herniated disc????!!!! Tiny!!! He was now a BMC, big kahuna with a job at the
Navy annex, sans beard, still huge. We reminisced about that incident. The
neurosurgery residents couldn’t believe it. His back surgery went fine and he
went back to full duty.

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Vignette # 12 Appendicitis at sea
 
We had been steaming independently for several days and not due to
rendezvous with another ship for several more. We were miles from
anywhere. It was in the wee hours of the morning when the Corpsmen called
me down to sickbay to evaluate a sailor with acute severe right lower
quadrant pain. I checked him out and agreed it was probably appendicitis.
We did a white blood cell count which was only mildly elevated.
I thought it best to alert the Captain. He had already warned me at the
beginning of the cruise, only he makes the decision where to go in the event
of a medical emergency. My job was solely to inform him of the issue and he
would take it from there.
Climbing up the ladder to the bridge deck, I knocked on his sea cabin door
behind the bridge and entered. He had been sound asleep and groggily
checked his watch as he awoke. “What’s happening?” he asked.
Sir, I believe we have a case of appendicitis in sickbay. Really? How do you
know that? The dialogue that followed made me think I was talking to my
Chief Resident in surgery, not a line Captain.
“What does he have?” he asked. “Probably appendicitis, “ I replied. “No Doc,
you already told me that. What are his signs and symptoms? I want to know
what symptoms he has and how you arrived at your conclusion.”
“Well he has right lower quadrant pain,” I replied. “Is that all, Doc? You mean
to tell me you woke me up at 0200 to tell me you have someone in sickbay
with RLQ pain? I mean give me a break! If you wake me up at 0200 again, you
better come equipped with better information than that.”
I was starting to get nervous. Well, Sir, he has the symptoms of early
appendicitis. “Is there tenderness in the RLQ,” he queried, rubbing his tired
eyes. “ Yes Sir.” Does he have rebound? A little, I said.   
        
Rebound tenderness is a very sensitive sign in his experience, he mentioned.
Does he have a fever?
No. Does he have bowel sounds? Yes. What’s his white count? 9600. Is he
hungry? No sir. What’s his urinalysis show? I didn’t get one. How about his
rectal exam? Did that confirm the tenderness on his abdominal wall? I didn’t
do a rectal.
He sat bolt upright in his bunk and yelled, “Doc, so you wake me up at two to
report a case of belly pain with minimal laboratory support and an

incomplete physical examination. Surely you can do better than that! I
suggest you go back down to sickbay, complete your workup and read up on
diagnosing appendicitis. Then call me. Is that clear? Yes Sir.
I scurried down below to determine how to proceed next, finished my exam,
and started reading my Surgery textbooks again. Not 15 minutes after I left
him, the phone rang. “Doc, this is the Captain.” I know, I recognize your voice.
“Doc did I yank your chain?”
You sure did. “Well, I just wanted you to know I know a little bit about
appendicitis from all those years being alone without a medical officer. I read
a lot and learned a lot from the corpsmen. But, if you say he has appendicitis,
that’s good enough for me. I’ve instructed the bridge to determine the
nearest carrier or shore facility nearby and hopefully have him off the ship in
18 hours where he’ll get an appy if they concur with your diagnosis. And in
the morning I’m going to bring you a little book to read.”
That morning he showed up in sickbay with a well-worn copy of a medical
classic, “The Early Diagnosis of the Acute Abdomen” by Sir Zackary Cope, an
early English surgeon, with more pearls of wisdom than have ever been
published since. “I found this book in an old bookstore somewhere and I’ve
been reading it when necessary for my 40 year career. You might find it
useful and you’re welcome to borrow it if you want. Anyway, just wanted you
to know I know a little bit about acute abdomens!”

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Vignette # 13 Trans-Atlantic with Adams' Physical Diagnosis 
 
 
There was a famous textbook (and Bible for Medical Students) called Adams
Physical Diagnosis, An Introduction to Clinical Medicine, which presented
performance of a physical examination in great, understandable detail. I
brought my copy aboard for our Med Cruise and divided up the chapters for
each Corpsman. They reviewed their assigned chapter and presented a
summary to the H Division every day of our Trans-Atlantic crossing. We
discussed the chapter and demonstrate the techniques discussed.
They learned to inspect, palpate, percuss, and auscultate (Look, Feel, Tap,
and Listen). They learned how to take a good history from a patient,
remembering . . . the patient is always telling you the diagnosis. They were
quick studies and I was impressed with the remarkable skills developed in
the span of a couple of weeks.
They then ran sick call unsupervised in the morning, with a joint review for
each patient when they had completed their assessment. The rules were that
they could admit anyone to sickbay, but I had to review anyone they
discharged from sick call. This insured independence and supervision.
As later vignettes will reveal, their skills saved a couple of lives, and also
made sure the ship’s company received remarkable medical care for our
deployment. It was an honor to work with them.
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 "Twenty years from now you will be more disppointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

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