1941 Events  
  January 1941 Events  
  Soviet General Georgy Zhukov was appointed Chief of General Staff of the Red Army over several senior generals. In Japan, American ambassador Grew wrote in his diary: "Japan . . . is on the warpath . . . If . . . Americans . . . could read . . . articles by leading Japanese . . . they . . . would realize the utter hopelessness of a policy of appeasement."  Scotland Yard arrested the Free French naval forces Vice-Admiral Émile Muselier. They had documents allegedly proving that Muselier had betrayed the plans of the Dakar expedition and was plotting against the Free French naval forces.  At a press conference U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the first steps toward a program of building about 200 merchant ships.  The Luftwaffe bombed Dublin for three straight days.  The Italian counteroffensive along Albanian Front ended in disaster.  Australian troops of XIII Corps (the re-designated Western Desert Force) completed the capture of Italian-held Bardia. They captured 45,000 troops, 129 tanks, 400 guns, and 706 trucks.  Due to the inability to stop Major-General Richard O'Connor's offensive, Italian General Rodolfo Graziani made the decision to completely abandon the region of Cyrenaica and ordered the Tenth Army to fall back through Beda Fomm.  Roosevelt gave his eighth annual message to Congress which is now known as the Four Freedoms speech in which he proposed four fundamental freedoms humans "everywhere in the world" ought to enjoy.  Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto presented his ideas for a war with the United States in a memorandum to the Navy Minister, Oikawa Koshiro and proposed a crippling first blow at America's main battle force in the first few hours of the war.  Just as Charles de Gaulle was about to give the British an ultimatum to free Émile Muselier, commander of the Free French naval forces, he is informed that the whole affair was a mistake.  Roosevelt’s close advisor Harry Hopkins departed for Britain for a one month visit as Roosevelt’s special envoy.  Germany and the Soviet Union signed an agreement setting several ongoing issues.  British and Australian troops of XIII Corps surrounded Tobruk and prepared for the assault on this Italian-held strategic port.  Romanian Prime Minister General Ion Antonescu met with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler at Salzburg. They discussed the question of Romanian participation in the eventuality of a war with the Soviet Union.  U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull addressed the House of Representatives' Committee on Foreign Affairs during its hearings on House Resolution 1776, the Lend-Lease Bill.  The War Department announced the formation of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, an African-American flying unit, to be trained at Tuskegee, Alabama, the home of the Tuskegee Institute.  The Turner-McNulty Report was discussed at a White House conference. As a result of the meeting Roosevelt authorized exploratory talks with the British.  The British launched an attack against the Italians in Eritea, Somaliland, and Ethiopia.  Hitler and Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini met at Berchtesgaden, Germany. Hitler agreed to provide aid in North Africa.  Roosevelt was inaugurated for an unprecedented third term.  The Australian 9th Division completed the capture of Tobruk from the Italian Tenth Army.  Romanian General Antonescu successfully suppressed a Iron Guard inspired military coup.  Ambassador Grew warned U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull of a possible attack on Pearl Harbor.  A formal armistice was signed between France and Thailand aboard a Japanese warship in Saigon, ending their border dispute of four months.  The Italians evacuated Derna, Libya, which was subsequently occupied by units of the 6th Australian Division. The Italians continued their westward retreat across North Africa in the face of the Allied advance.  15 ships (99,050 tons) were sunk by U-boats.  
  February 1941 Events  
  Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel was appointed Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet and Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and promoted to the rank of four-star admiral.  Rear Admiral Ernest J. King was appointed Commander in Chief, the U.S. Atlantic Fleet and promoted to the rank of four-star admiral.  The United Service Organizations, popularly known as the USO, was chartered on in order to provide recreation for on-leave members of the U.S. armed forces and their families.  Admiral Harold R. Stark sent a memorandum to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt where he concluded that Japan desired to move against the British, the Dutch, and the United States in succession and did not want to go to war with the United States at all.  The Italian 10th Army surrendered in Libya.  German Chancellor Adolf Hitler put Major General Erwin Rommel in command of the new German Afrika Corps to rescue the Italians in North Africa.  Hitler issued War Directive No. 23 - Bombing is to be intensified on shipping and the ports to inflict the greatest possible damage on the British economy "and also to give the impression that an invasion is planned for this year."  General of the Army George C. Marshall, in a letter to Lt. General Walter C. Short, stressed that “the risk of sabotage and the risk involved in a surprise raid by air and submarine constitute the real perils of the Hawaiian situation.”  In a BBC radio broadcast British Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed Roosevelt: “Give us the tools and we will finish the job.”  The new Japanese ambassador to the United States, Admiral Kichisaburō Nomura, arrived in Washington D.C.  A proposal the financial attaché of the Japanese embassy in Washington D.C., for a "commercial understanding" was flatly rejected by Roosevelt.  Mogadishu, the capital of Italian Somaliland, was captured by British forces.  The anti-Nazi “Februari Strike” in Amsterdam began.  44 ships (213,941 tons) were sunk and 3 ships (28,340 tons) were damaged by U-boats.  
  March 1941 Events  
  Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria signed the Tripartite Pact, officially entering the Axis with Germany, Japan, and Italy.  British commandos raided the Norwegian Lofoten Islands in an undertaking codenamed Operation Claymore.  The first soldiers of a British expeditionary force from North Africa arrived in Greece.  On March 7 U-boats sank 2 and damaged 4 merchant ships in Convoy OB-293 in the northern Atlantic Ocean. On March 8 U-boats sank 5 merchant ships in Convoy SL-67 off the western coast of Africa in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. The U-124, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Georg-Wilhelm Schulz, sank 4 of the ships.  Italy launched a full-scale counterattack across the entire Greek front.  Rear Admiral Takijirō Ōnishi presented Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto with a preliminary study for the attack on Pearl Harbor, based on Commander Minoru Genda's plan but with some modifications.  The U.S. Congress passed and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Lend-Lease Act.  The final elements of the 5th Light Division of the Afrika Korps arrived in North Africa.  Nagao Kita, the coordinator of espionage in Hawaii, arrived in Honolulu.  On March 16 U-boats sank 6 merchant ships and damaged another in Convoy HX-112 in the northern Atlantic Ocean. The U-99, commanded by Korvettenkapitän Otto Kretschmer, was responsible for all of the ships that sank.  Major General Erwin Rommel attacked and reoccupied El Agheila, Libya in his first offensive.  Yugoslavia joined the Axis Tripartite Pact.  The heavy cruiser HMS York was badly damaged by 2 Italian explosive motor boats in a dawn attack at Suda Bay.  Two Serbian generals led a British-assisted coup against the Cvetkovic government.  The first of the RAF's Eagle squadrons, No. 71 Squadron, composed of volunteer American pilots operating under the British flag, became fully operational.  American and British military officials concluded a secret set of meetings in Washington, D.C. that developed the ABC-1 plan, outlining a common Anglo-American strategy for World War 2.  On March 29 the U-48, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Herbert Schultze, sank 3 merchant ships in Convoy HX-115 in the northern Atlantic Ocean.  The Afrika Korps began an offensive in Libya.  Crown Prince and Regent of Iraq Abd al-Ilāh learned of a plot to assassinate him and fled the country to Jordon. 40 ships (234,847 tons) were sunk and 10 ships (98,329 tons) were damaged by U-boats during March 1941.  
  April 1941 Events  
  Four Iraqi nationalist army colonels, known as "the Golden Square" staged a military coup in Iraq that overthrew the regime of Regent 'Abd al-Ilah.  British troops defeated Italian forces and captured Asmara, the capital of Eritrea.  On April 3rd and 4th, 1941 German U-boats sank 9 merchant ships and damaged 3 other ships in Convoy SC-26.  The pro-Axis Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani returned to power as Prime Minister of Iraq.  Operation Punishment began with the Luftwaffe opening the assault on Yugoslavia by conducting a saturation-type bombing raid on the capital city of Belgrade. The 2nd Panzer Division entered Yugoslavia from the east.  Germany began Operation Marita when the XL Panzer Corps crossed Greece’s border with Bulgaria.  During a night reconnaissance mission British Generals Richard O’Connor and Phillip Neame were spotted by a German patrol and taken prisoner.  The Luftwaffe conducted a large air raid using 237 bombers on Coventry, England dropping 315 high explosive bombs and 710 incendiary canisters.  The United States and Danish governments signed an agreement whereby the American government agreed to take over the defense of Greenland.  The Afrika Korps encircled the port of Tobruk, Libya beginning the siege of the port city.  The Office of Price Administration (OPA) was established to control and stabilize prices during wartime.  The Germans captured Belgrade.  Japan and the Soviet Union signed a five-year non-aggression pact.  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt officially authorized military service personnel of the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps officers to participate in the war in China as volunteers of the American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers.)  Approximately 200 bombers from the Luftwaffe dropped bombs on Belfast in Northern Ireland.  German forces captured the supreme command of the Royal Yugoslav Army at Sarajevo and Yugoslavia formally surrendered to Axis forces.  Britain landed the first elements of Iraqforce, the Indian 20th Infantry Brigade, at Basra.  The final decision for the evacuation of the Commonwealth forces from Greece to Crete and Egypt was taken.  American, British, and Dutch military officials began a meeting in Singapore to develop a strategic plan for combined operations against Japan.  King George II and his government left the Greek mainland for Crete.  German troops entered Athens.  44 ships (247,758 tons) were sunk and 4 ships (28,792 tons) were damaged by U-boats during April 1941.  
  May 1941 Events  
The May Blitz of Liverpool began.  The Iraqi Army marched against, and attacked, the Royal Air Force base at Habbaniyah near Baghdad.  Germany and Italy divided and annexed Slovenia.  Major General Erwin Rommel halted his attack on Tobruk.  German Chancellor Adolf Hitler gave a speech to the Reichstag which covered the actions being taken against Germany by Great Britain, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Germany's military campaigns in the Balkans and Yugoslavia.  With an army of British, South African, African, and Ethiopian soldiers, Haile Selassie triumphantly returned to his capital to Addis Ababa to reclaim his throne.  In a radio address U.S. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson advocated the use of the U.S. Navy to convoy merchant ships to Britain.  British Commandos captured a German weather ship, the trawler Munchen, northeast of Iceland and captured cipher equipment and secret papers relating to the Enigma coding machine.  A Japanese-imposed treaty between Vichy and Thailand was signed in Tokyo.  The German Deputy Fuhrer, Rudolf Hess, flew from Augsburg, Germany to Scotland in an attempt to personally negotiate a peace settlement with the British.  The exiled Mufti of Jerusalem broadcasted from Baghdad urging all Islamic countries to rise up against Great Britain.  The British began Operation Brevity in Libya.  Dr. Sigmund Rascher requested permission to use Dachau prisoners as test subjects for his medical experiments.  The Luftwaffe conducted the last great night air attack on Great Britain with 111 Luftwaffe aircraft striking Birmingham and West Midlands.  The Icelandic Parliament issued a formal declaration of independence from Denmark.  The Germans launched a surprise attack and captured the important British position of Sidi Azeiz. Without pausing they also overran Capuzzo.  The Duke of Aosta surrendered with the 7,000 remaining Italian troops at Amba Alagi in eastern Africa.  The RAF evacuated the remnants of its forces from Crete to Egypt.  Operation Mercur began as German gliders and paratroopers landed near the principal airports on Crete.  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8757 creating the Office of Civilian Defense.  King George II of Greece and the Greek political leadership were evacuated from Crete.  The Battle of the Denmark Strait occurred when the German battleship Bismarck engaged the Royal Navy with the HMS Hood being sunk.  The evacuation of Crete was authorized by the Commander-in-chief of the Middle East, General Archibald Wavell, after he consulted with London.  The Bismarck was sunk in action with the Royal Navy.  In a Fireside Chat radio broadcast Roosevelt proclaimed an "unlimited national emergency."  Iraq Premier Rashid Ali fled to Iran as British troops reached the outskirts of Baghdad.  Great Britain and Iraq signed an armistice at Baghdad.  63 ships (351,294 tons) were sunk and 3 ships (23,992 tons) were damaged by U-boats during May 1941.
  June 1941 Events  
  The British evacuation of Crete was completed.  British forces entered Baghdad and a pro-British government was put back in place.  British forces seized control of Mosul and the oil rich region of Iraq.  Wilhelm II, the former Kaiser of imperial Germany, died.  British, Australian, and Free French forces invaded Syria.  RAF Bomber Command launched a series of 20 consecutive night raids on the Ruhr industrial area, the Rhineland, Hamburg, and Bremen.  From St. James's Place in London fourteen Allies vowed to fight until victory was won.  The Vichy government alleged Jewish interference with Franco-German relations and deported 13,000 Jews to concentration camps.  The United States froze German and Italian assets.  British and Commonwealth desert forces launched Operation Battleaxe, an attempt to relieve Tobruk.  Operation Battleaxe was a failure and the British withdrew.  After the failure of Operation Battleaxe to relieve Tobruk, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided to replace General Archibald P. Wavell with General Claude J. E. Auchinleck as Commander-in-Chief, Middle East.  Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, invading the Soviet Union along an 1,100-mile front, with three million soldiers.  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced at a press conference that he intended to send aid to the Soviet Union in response to the German invasion.  Finland joined the Axis nations by declaring war on the Soviet Union.  The Japanese government demanded that the French allow the landing of Japanese troops in French Indo-China.  The Germans captured Minsk.  After heavy fighting, the Germans captured Lvov.  Soviet Marshal Josef Stalin ordered the execution of the military leadership on the Soviet Union's western front.  66 ships (302,032 tons) were sunk and 5 ships (40,482 tons) were damaged by U-boats during June 1941.  
  July 1941 Events  
  Germany, Italy, and the other Axis states recognized the Wang Chingwei regime in Japanese occupied China.  The decision to attack the European territories in Southeast Asia and the Pacific was made at an Imperial Conference in Tokyo.  Army Group Center eliminated the resistance of Soviet forces trapped in the Bialystok pocket.  7,000 Italians and their allies surrendered to Allied forces in southern Abyssinia.  Soviet Marshal Josef Stalin made a radio broadcast calling for patriotic fervor, fanatic resistance and reiterating the "Scorched Earth" policy.  General Claude J. E. Auchinleck took over as Commander-in-Chief, Middle East from General Archibald P. Wavell.  Yugoslavia was dissolved by the Axis into separate parts.  The Minsk and Vitebsk pockets that were surrounded by Army Group Center were declared officially eliminated.  Soviet Marshal Josef Stalin demoted Marshal SemyonTimoshenko, the Red Army commander-in-chief, and assumed the position himself.  The French agreed to an armistice in Syria.  The final aims of the attack on the Soviet Union were formulated at a conference in Berlin.  After heavy city fighting Smolensk fell to Army Group Center.  The Japanese cabinet with the exception of pro-Hitler Foreign Minister Yōsuke Matsuoka formed a new government.  Under Secretary of State Summer Welles told Japanese Ambassador to the United States, Admiral Kichisaburō Nomura there was no basis for pursuing further the conversations between Japan and the United States.  The United States and Great Britain froze Japanese and Chinese assets.  General Douglas A. MacArthur was named commander of U.S. forces in the Philippines.  Japanese troops began occupying southern French Indochina.  Japan froze all U.S. and British assets.  A mutual defense agreement regarding Indochina was signed in Tokyo between Japan and Vichy France.  During a bombing raid on Chungking Japanese aircraft damaged the U.S. Navy Gunboat Tutuila.  Reinhard Heydrich was ordered to find a "final solution of the Jewish question."  18 ships (61,676 tons) were sunk and 3 ships (18,845 tons) were damaged by U-boats during July 1941.  
  August 1941 Events  
  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced an embargo on the export of oil and aviation fuel that was aimed at Japan.  The Japanese began to occupy Saigon in French Indochina.  The first mass-produced Jeep rolled off an assembly line.  The Germans encircled the Soviet 6th and 12th Armies near Uman.  The United States added the Soviet Union to the Lend Lease program.  Soviet resistance in the Smolensk pocket ended with the surrender of the remaining troops.  Romanian and German forces began the 73 day siege of Odessa.  Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and their military staffs held meetings aboard warships at Placentia Bay, Newfoundland.  By one vote the U.S. House of Representatives passed an extension of the draft period from one year to thirty months.  The United States and Great Britain issued as a joint declaration of principles that became known as "The Atlantic Charter."  The United States warned the Japanese that it would protect its interests in Asia and the Pacific against Japanese aggression.  The Germans captured Novgorod.  German armored formations of Army Group North cut the main rail link between Leningrad and Moscow.  German Chancellor Adolf Hitler publicly announced the suspension of the euthanasia program.  British, Indian, and Soviet forces invaded Iran to secure the oil fields and lines of communications.  Premier Konoye, leader of the Japanese government, personally invited Roosevelt to meet with him.  A new government under Mohammad Ali Khan Forughi was formed in Iran.  German forces captured Mga, 10 miles from Leningrad, cutting the last railroad link between Leningrad and the rest of the Soviet Union.  The Finn’s stopped their advance when reached the 1939 border with the Soviet Union.  31 ships (81,838 tons) were sunk and 1 ship (10,917 tons) was damaged by U-boats during August 1941.  
  September 1941 Events  
  The U.S. Navy assumed the responsibility of transatlantic convoys from Newfoundland to Iceland.  All German Jews were ordered to wear the yellow Star of David.  Zyklon B was first used at Auschwitz.  The destroyer USS Greer and the U-652 exchanged fire at one another.  In a conference with his military and civilian leaders, Emperor Hirohito agreed to prepare for war if no agreement was reached with the U.S.  Leningrad was completely surrounded by the Germans.  Iran accepted the British-Soviet armistice terms.  German authorities in Norway declared martial law to prevent a general strike.  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced a shoot on sight order for the U.S. Navy in American defense waters.  The first snowfall of the year was reported on the Eastern Front.  Riza Shah Pahlevi of Iran was arrested and forced to abdicate by the Allies.  U.S. Navy ships escorted an east bound British transatlantic convoy for the first time.  Kiev was captured by the Germans.  Italian midget subs sank ships at Gibraltar.  German armies completed the isolation of Soviet forces in the Crimea.  The first Liberty ships were launched.  An Allied planning conference began in Moscow.  German authorities declared a state of emergency in Bohemia-Moravia.  34,000 Jews were massacred by German SS troops at Babi Yar Bulka on the outskirts of Kiev.  Operation Typhoon, the attack on Moscow, began.  56 ships (209,835 tons) were sunk and 4 ships (14,132 tons) were damaged by U-boats during September 1941.  
  October 1941 Events  
  A British-American Mission signed a treaty with the Soviets to provide materials critical to the Soviet war effort.  The main thrust of Operation Typhoon began as the 3 Panzer armies began an assault on Moscow.  The U.S. reiterated its requirement that Japan withdraw its forces from China and Indochina before any peace talks could take place.  The Germans surrounded the Soviet 9th and 18th Armies north of the Sea Azov, trapping more than 100,000 soldiers.  German armored forces broke through the Vyazma Defense Line and trapped 4 armies of the Soviet West Front.  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked the U.S. Congress to modify the Neutrality Act to allow American merchant ships to be armed and to allow their passage through combat zones.  Colonel General Georgy Zhukov was called to Moscow from Leningrad to take command of the West Front and the defense of Moscow.  The mass evacuation of women and children from Moscow began.  The first substantial snow of the season fell at Leningrad. Temperatures in the Moscow area fell and hovered around freezing.  German authorities announced that any Jews found outside of the ghetto walls in Poland would be executed on sight.  The Japanese Government of Prime Minister Prince Fumimaro Konoye collapsed and was replaced by one headed by General Hideki Tōjō.  The destroyer USS Kearny was torpedoed and damaged by the U-568.  The Ukrainian city of Kharkov fell to the Germans.  The USS Reuben James was the first sinking an American warship in the undeclared war against the Germans in the Atlantic.  45 ships (176,876 tons) were sunk and 6 ships (45,773 tons) were damaged by U-boats during October 1941.  
  November 1941 Events  
  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt placed the U.S. Coast Guard under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy.  Kursk fell to German units at the junction of Army Group Center and Army Group South.  The Imperial Japanese Navy high command approved Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s plan for the attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor.  The U.S. Congress amended the Neutrality act to allow the arming of merchants and transporting war goods to warring nations.  The British naval Force K attacked an Italian convoy bound for North Africa and sank 7 merchant ships and the destroyer Fulmine.  The German 11th Army captured Yalta.  British Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced that Britain would declare war on Japan if it went to war with the United States.  Winter came to the Eastern Front as no German units anywhere recorded a temperature higher than 5°F.  The aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal was torpedoed and sunk by the U-81 east of Gibraltar in the western Mediterranean Sea.  U.S. Marines were ordered withdrawn from Japanese occupied China.  The British 8th Army began Operation Crusader and crossed over the Egyptian border into Libya.  The Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney and the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran sank each off the coast of Western Australia.  Japanese envoys to Washington presented Japan's Proposal "B" to U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull.  German forces under Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt's seized Rostov on the Don River.  A Japanese task force under command of Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo began sailing from northern Japan to Hawaii.  Hull submitted a counterproposal to Japan's Proposal "B.  The U.S. issued a war warning to its overseas commanders.  17 ships (120,541 tons) were sunk by U-boats during November 1941.  
  December 1941 Events  
  With Emperor Hirohito in attendance at a meeting of the Imperial Conference Japan unanimously voted to go to war with the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands.  Great Britain declared war on Finland, Hungary, and Rumania.  Japan invaded Thailand and British Malaya.  Japanese forces launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor.  German Chancellor Adolf Hitler issued the “Night and Fog Decree” which called for the arrest and/or execution of people who “endanger German security.”  War was declared upon Japan by the United States, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the Free French, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, and Panama.  Japanese forces occupied Bangkok, Thailand.  Japanese forces landed at Tarawa and Makin in the Gilbert Islands.  Hitler suspended his ban on U-boat operations and extended unlimited submarine warfare into U.S. territorial waters.  The siege of Tobruk ended as Lt. General Erwin Rommel withdrew the Afrika Korps to Gazala.  The 500 man American garrison at Guam surrendered to the 6,000 man Japanese landing force.  The U.S. naval base at Cavite in the Philippines was destroyed by Japanese bombers.  The Japanese began the invasion of the Philippines.  Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.  Permission was given for the few remaining Army B-17s in the Philippines to withdraw to Darwin, Australia.  The Japanese landed on Sarawak and Brunei in Borneo.  Italian midget submarines sank two British battleships at Alexandria, Egypt.  Hitler took over as Commander in Chief of the German Army.  The Arcadia Conference began between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and their staffs.  Japanese forces overwhelmed U.S. forces on Wake Island.  British forces entered Benghazi, Libya as the Afrika Korps continued its retreat to El Agheila.  The 11,000-man British and Canadian garrison at Hong Kong surrendered to the Japanese.  Winston Churchill became the first British Prime Minister to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress, warning that the Axis would "stop at nothing."  27 ships (111,551 tons) were sunk and 1 ship (3,560 tons) was damaged by U-boats during December 1941.  
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