1941: What if Germany refuses troops for North Africa

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kfbr392
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1941: What if Germany refuses troops for North Africa

Post by kfbr392 » 25 Nov 2010 09:18

When the guns fell silent in Tunisia in May 1943, three years of fighting on African soil ended with large losses for the Axis:
620,000–950,000 casualties
8,000 aircraft destroyed
6,200 guns, 2,500 tanks, and 70,000 trucks destroyed or captured
source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_African_Campaign

Also, the fighting in North Africa did much to teach the British and Americans about modern warfare. How well would they have fared in their invasion of Europe with their last fighting encounters with the Germans having been Dunkirk 1940 and Greece 1941 for the UK, and ZERO for the Americans...

It should have been in the Axis interest in 1940 to seal off the Med on both ends and keep out the Allied navies and armies.
That was not possible because
1) the Italians were a total disappointment
2) Rommel could not get to Suez because of insufficient supplies making the trip from Italy (ULTRA was an decisive factor)
3) the Allies won the Battle of the Atlantic (ULTRA again decisive), thereby ensuring their quantitative superiority in all theaters and in the air war
4) The Axis could not project power to Gibraltar/ Marocco

Hence, having destroyed the Panzerarmee Afrika, the Allies proceeded to invade Sicily and mainland Italy, in early 1944 tying down 55 German divisions in the Med TOO for their own 21, thereby providing relief to Stalin and Operation Overlord.
Unfortunate, but since Gibraltar and Suez could not have been held (even if taken), the Axis needed to place troops from Perpignan to Rhodes, conserve forces, and wait for the Allies' move.


Germany could and should yet have provided radar and day and night fighters als well as bombers to be based in Sicily, as happened in OTL in early 1941.
But, what if no Rommel, no DAK, and none of these German troops would have been sent to Africa in 1941 or later?
What would have happened with regards to
- German-Italian relations
- Italy holding onto Lybia
- Greece and Yugoslavia
- Allied shipping between Gibraltar and Suez (stopping it would be my minimalist objective; it is an important one)
- Italy being exposed to aerial bombing from Lybia
- Italian morale and Italy remaining in the Axis
- Timeline for the Allies landing in Southern Europe (where?)
- NOTE: the word "Malta" is forbidden in this thread :-)


My opinion:
With hindsight, Germany should not have sent troops to Africa. These thousands of Axis tanks, guns, and vehicles and hundreds of thousands of lives killed and captured were wasted there. The Third Reich's empire in WW II was a continental one, and it should have been defended on the continent of Europe and the skies above it. The war against the Western Allies needed to be won in the Atlantic.

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Re: 1941: What if Germany refuses troops for North Africa

Post by Markus Becker » 25 Nov 2010 11:57

- Italy holding onto Lybia: No chance of that happening.
- Greece and Yugoslavia: Probably no change from OTL. Italy way already at war with Greece.
- Allied shipping between Gibraltar and Suez: Has a safe passage along the southern shores of the Med
- Italy being exposed to aerial bombing from Lybia: Hmm, was there much worth bombing?
- Italian morale and Italy remaining in the Axis: Their morale would have dropped.
- Timeline for the Allies landing in Southern Europe (where?): Sicily, Crete, Greece could all be targets from late 42 onwards


And now comes the Big One:

You listed the losses the Axis suffered in the Med BUT the number of allied assets tied down there was even larger. Take a look at what it took to get just one convoy to a small island-that-shall-not-be-named. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Pedestal#Allied

If the Germans send no support to Libya the Italians would loose it sometime in 1941. Given the German Balkans offensive, probably at the end of the year because said offensive would distract the Brits but the one thing I can not see happening ITTL is an Italian counteroffensive that pushs the Brits back beyond Tobruk. With the situation in North Africa under control the Brits could significantly reinforce their units in the Far East. Given how small the Japanese´s margin of error/superiority was, it would have taken very little to defeat their offensive. If that had happened Japan would have never gotten access to the resurces it needed to last until 1945.

A quick glance shows they tied down ~30 western allied divisions in 1944, plus a powerful amphibious fleet, lot´s of carriers and so on. With these assets the Allies could do anything in Europe.

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Re: 1941: What if Germany refuses troops for North Africa

Post by Tim Smith » 25 Nov 2010 12:23

sturmfxr wrote: But, what no Rommel, no DAK, and none of these German troops would have been sent to Africa in 1941 or later?
What would have happened with regards to
- German-Italian relations
- Italy holding onto Lybia
- Greece and Yugoslavia
- Allied shipping between Gibraltar and Suez (stopping it would be my minimalist objective; it is an important one)
- Italy being exposed to aerial bombing from Lybia
- Italian morale and Italy remaining in the Axis
- Timeline for the Allies landing in Southern Europe (where?)
- NOTE: the word "Malta" is forbidden in this thread :-)
German - Italian relations: Will get worse rapidly. The Italian people will not understand why their army is fighting (and losing) against the British in Africa in early-mid 1941 and yet Germany has 'done nothing' since the conquest of France. Hitler promised to invade England and then changed his mind! Italy, as a loyal ally, has helped Germany defeat France in 1940, helped the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain, helped the German Navy by sending Italian submarines into the Atlantic, and yet Germany's not doing a thing to help Italy in return - why, why, WHY?

The Italian King and the Italian Army generals may not be so eager to contribute any forces to Operation Barbarossa, if the Germans aren't helping Italy in Africa. So no German troops in Africa could mean no Italian troops in Russia. And the Italian troops did perform useful service in Russia historically, even if only to help guard millions of Soviet prisoners and secure supply routes. As America is finding today in Afghanistan, any 'boots on the ground' from a weak ally is better than no boots at all!

Italy holding on to Libya:
British Western Desert Force stops at El Agheilia just as it did historically in February 1941. Churchill is more interested in sending troops to help Greece than in pressing on the Tripoli. So the British simply sit tight in Cyrenaica until the Greek campaign is over. Then, in mid-May 1941, the British offensive resumes. They defeat the Italians (though not as easily as in 1940, due to better Italian M13/40 tanks and long supply lines.) 'Operation Brevity' results in the British breaking the Italian lines and taking Sirte before the end of May. After a month's pause to bring up supplies, the British attack again in 'Operation Battleaxe' and take Tripoli at the end of June 1941. The routed Italians attempt to flee into Tunisia, but the Vichy French won't let them. Mussolini begs Hitler to help him invade Tunisia and save his shattered army, but Hitler refuses. The Italians are pinned against the Mareth Line and forced to surrender on 5th July 1941. The North African Campaign is over.

Greece and Yugoslavia - initial conquest, probably no different to historically, since Mussolini spread the war to the Balkans, not Hitler. However, if Italy leaves the war early, that creates problems for Germany in garrisoning them.

Italy would suffer more bombing than historically, but the RAF commanders remain more interested in bombing Germany.
- NOTE: the word "Malta" is forbidden in this thread :-)
Malta remains in British hands, obviously. ;)

There may be no anti-British rebellion in Iraq - the Iraqis don't dare risk it without a German presence in North Africa. And without the Iraqi rebellion, the British invasion of Vichy Syria may not be necessary either.

Now - what next?

Invasion of Southern Europe? I think Crete is likely to be the first target - Churchill always wanted to return to the Balkan theatre, and this time, the Americans won't be able to prevent it. So Crete in, say, October 1941, which may be a harder fight than anticipated, taking several months. Then a campaign among the Greek islands. And finally, in mid-late 1942, a British invasion of Greece itself. Which will likely bog down and get nowhere fast, similiar to the historic Italian campaign.

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Re: 1941: What if Germany refuses troops for North Africa

Post by Sunbury » 25 Nov 2010 12:24

Germany would have done better to force Vichy France to allow Germany to position troops and aircraft in Morocco opposite Gilbraltar in mid 1940. Positioning a few Sturzkampfgeschwaders to dominate the Straits, with Fighter Jagdgeschwaders to protect them. A Kampfgeschwader or two for attacking the naval Base, day and night. The Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe providing anti aircraft Units and ground troops for security.

The Straits are 28 miles wide, Britian has limited airfields at Gilbraltar from which to defend shipping and the naval base itself. Malta is cut off, the 8th Army is cutoff, all supplies for them both must come around the Cape of Good Hope to the Suez Canal.

Heavy bombing would force the Royal Navy to withdraw, the only options would be to withdraw to Britian itself . The Italian Navy would dominate the middle of the Mediterrian sea, an attack on Malta would become a real option.
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Re: 1941: What if Germany refuses troops for North Africa

Post by Tim Smith » 25 Nov 2010 12:31

Sunbury wrote:Germany would have done better to force Vichy France to allow Germany to position troops and aircraft in Morocco opposite Gilbraltar in mid 1940.
Vichy will say 'Non'.

Germany can then invade Vichy France as punishment, but that means the large Vichy army in North Africa declaring for the Free French - an Allied propaganda triumph, and one that puts Sicily at risk of invasion.

Not a good idea - there's too much to lose and too little to gain.

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Re: 1941: What if Germany refuses troops for North Africa

Post by Markus Becker » 25 Nov 2010 12:39

Sunbury wrote:Germany would have done better to force Vichy France to allow Germany to position troops and aircraft in Morocco opposite Gilbraltar in mid 1940.


That part of Morocco was Spanish not French and Franco had declined to get involved in WW2.

Malta is cut off, the 8th Army is cutoff, all supplies for them both must come around the Cape of Good Hope to the Suez Canal.
Once the supplies come via the Red Sea, neither Malta not the 8th Army would be cut off.

The Italian Navy would dominate the middle of the Mediterrian sea, an attack on Malta would become a real option.
Not with the 8th Army sitting in the Cyrenaika because the RAF could fly in fighters from Bengazhi.

To do what you propose Hitler would have to focus even more than IOTL which is the opposite of what the OP asked us to speculate about.

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Re: 1941: What if Germany refuses troops for North Africa

Post by kfbr392 » 25 Nov 2010 12:42

Well I don't need to pile on Sunbury on top of this.
Please lets not make this a Vichy, Franco or M-island what if.

Markus, Tim, excellent projections of the scenario put in front of you!

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Re: 1941: What if Germany refuses troops for North Africa

Post by kfbr392 » 25 Nov 2010 13:47

Markus Becker wrote:- Italy holding onto Lybia: No chance of that happening.
Agreed, I was hesitating to even post that one
Markus Becker wrote:- Greece and Yugoslavia: Probably no change from OTL. Italy way already at war with Greece.
Agreed
Markus Becker wrote:- Allied shipping between Gibraltar and Suez: Has a safe passage along the southern shores of the Med
Agreed, except for being subjected to some aerial bombing in the Strait of Tunisia, but with fighter cover from the-island-not-to-be-named, they would have made it. Thats not good.
Markus Becker wrote:- Italy being exposed to aerial bombing from Lybia: Hmm, was there much worth bombing?
"Moral bombing", causing Italy to fall quicker
Markus Becker wrote:- Italian morale and Italy remaining in the Axis: Their morale would have dropped.
Agreed, causing Italy to fall quicker
Markus Becker wrote:- Timeline for the Allies landing in Southern Europe (where?): Sicily, Crete, Greece could all be targets from late 42 onwards
Maybe Sicily in November 1942 ("Torch to Sicily"), Greece via Crete beforehand, then bogged down in Greece as Tim wrote.
Markus Becker wrote: And now comes the Big One:

You listed the losses the Axis suffered in the Med BUT the number of allied assets tied down there was even larger. Take a look at what it took to get just one convoy to a small island-that-shall-not-be-named. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Pedestal#Allied

If the Germans send no support to Libya the Italians would loose it sometime in 1941. Given the German Balkans offensive, probably at the end of the year because said offensive would distract the Brits but the one thing I can not see happening ITTL is an Italian counteroffensive that pushs the Brits back beyond Tobruk. With the situation in North Africa under control the Brits could significantly reinforce their units in the Far East. Given how small the Japanese´s margin of error/superiority was, it would have taken very little to defeat their offensive. If that had happened Japan would have never gotten access to the resurces it needed to last until 1945.
Very interesting point...
Markus Becker wrote:A quick glance shows they tied down ~30 western allied divisions in 1944, plus a powerful amphibious fleet, lot´s of carriers and so on. With these assets the Allies could do anything in Europe.
You mean Norway or the Med? These surface fleet assests would do them little good from France to Denmark IMHO. And the Allies had the ressources anyway.
Better fight them here (on European soil) than over there, I say.

Tim Smith wrote:German - Italian relations: Will get worse rapidly. The Italian people will not understand why their army is fighting (and losing) against the British in Africa in early-mid 1941 and yet Germany has 'done nothing' since the conquest of France. Hitler promised to invade England and then changed his mind! Italy, as a loyal ally, has helped Germany defeat France in 1940, helped the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain, helped the German Navy by sending Italian submarines into the Atlantic, and yet Germany's not doing a thing to help Italy in return - why, why, WHY?

The Italian King and the Italian Army generals may not be so eager to contribute any forces to Operation Barbarossa, if the Germans aren't helping Italy in Africa. So no German troops in Africa could mean no Italian troops in Russia. And the Italian troops did perform useful service in Russia historically, even if only to help guard millions of Soviet prisoners and secure supply routes. As America is finding today in Afghanistan, any 'boots on the ground' from a weak ally is better than no boots at all!
Interesting, and agreed! And maybe the Italians should have been relegated to second line duties in the Soviet Union by the summer of 1942.

Tim Smith wrote:Italy holding on to Libya:
British Western Desert Force stops at El Agheilia just as it did historically in February 1941. Churchill is more interested in sending troops to help Greece than in pressing on the Tripoli. So the British simply sit tight in Cyrenaica until the Greek campaign is over. Then, in mid-May 1941, the British offensive resumes. They defeat the Italians (though not as easily as in 1940, due to better Italian M13/40 tanks and long supply lines.) 'Operation Brevity' results in the British breaking the Italian lines and taking Sirte before the end of May. After a month's pause to bring up supplies, the British attack again in 'Operation Battleaxe' and take Tripoli at the end of June 1941. The routed Italians attempt to flee into Tunisia, but the Vichy French won't let them. Mussolini begs Hitler to help him invade Tunisia and save his shattered army, but Hitler refuses. The Italians are pinned against the Mareth Line and forced to surrender on 5th July 1941. The North African Campaign is over.
Agreed!
Tim Smith wrote:Greece and Yugoslavia - initial conquest, probably no different to historically, since Mussolini spread the war to the Balkans, not Hitler. However, if Italy leaves the war early, that creates problems for Germany in garrisoning them.
Agreed!

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Re: 1941: What if Germany refuses troops for North Africa

Post by Markus Becker » 25 Nov 2010 14:21

sturmfxr wrote:
Markus Becker wrote:A quick glance shows they tied down ~30 western allied divisions in 1944, plus a powerful amphibious fleet, lot´s of carriers and so on. With these assets the Allies could do anything in Europe.
You mean Norway or the Med? These surface fleet assests would do them little good from France to Denmark IMHO. And the Allies had the ressources anyway.
Better fight them here (on European soil) than over there, I say.
The Allies were short of merchant/transport ships and to a certain degree of troops. They had enough to invade northern France but the forces that landed in the south came from Italy with the result of the allied offensive there slowing down to a standstill. The British Empire had ~20 division in the Far East and Pacific. That´s enough to more than compensate for what the French and Americans withdrew to southern France. The shipping shortage had also shown its effect in Italy. At Anzio that was what prevented the Allies from building up their forces fast enoug to break out of the bridgehead before Kesselring´s reserves arrived. Admiral Turner´s amphibious fleet would have come in handy here, Halsey´s carriers too.

Imagine the Allies reaching the Po Valley in the late summer/autumn of 1944. Instead of one 200 km frontline the Wehrmacht suddenly would have to cover two with a combined lenght of over 500 km. With what? The Germans did barely have enough troops for the actual Italian front.

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German siege of Gibraltar

Post by BDV » 25 Nov 2010 14:29

I expect the RN squadron based in Gibraltar to have a word to say about any german attempt to lay siege to Gibraltar. Even if Petain and Franco are made to acquiesce by some carrot and stick combination.

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Re: German siege of Gibraltar

Post by Markus Becker » 25 Nov 2010 14:46

BDV wrote:I expect the RN squadron based in Gibraltar to have a word to say about any german attempt to lay siege to Gibraltar. Even if Petain and Franco are made to acquiesce by some carrot and stick combination.
With Germans air bases in Spainish Morocco the only thing the RN can say is: "Godbye!" The distance Ceuta-Gibralta is much smaller than Calais-Dover and Dover had to be abandoned by the RN as a base in 1940.

BUT ... who says the Brits will stop their advance at the Tunesian border? The UK and Vichy were de facto at war. Why not push into French North Africa and secure the entire southern coast of the Med? That would make the Med almost and allied lake, deny the Germans any chance of getting back into North Africa, deter Franco, open bases in west Africa for ASW and the Vichy French would IMO sooner than later turn into Free French.

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Re: German siege of Gibraltar

Post by kfbr392 » 25 Nov 2010 15:02

Markus Becker wrote: BUT ... who says the Brits will stop their advance at the Tunesian border? The UK and Vichy were de facto at war. Why not push into French North Africa and secure the entire southern coast of the Med? That would make the Med almost and allied lake, deny the Germans any chance of getting back into North Africa, deter Franco, open bases in west Africa for ASW and the Vichy French would IMO sooner than later turn into Free French.
Agreed!
In this what if, it would only be a matter of time until the Allies controlled all coastal areas south and east of the Med from Casablanca to Syria.
Gibraltar and Morocco for the Axis are non starters. Could not get there, could not bring supplies there.

My contention here is:
- lets preserve the equipment and men historically shipped to North Africa from January 1941,
- send 15. PD and 21. PD to the Eastern Front in 1941
- fight Allies on the beaches and bridgheads of Europe once they get there,
- use airpower and some naval forces only, try to hit Allied shipping, contributing thus to the tonnage war, the only way to not lose against the Western Allies

Most things that historically happened will happen here, too, only faster than in OTL:
- loss of Lybia and likely all other NA coastline
- defection of Italy,
- Allied invasion of Sicily and mainland Italy, maybe Sardinia, Corsica, Southern France, Greece, Yugoslavia
- etc.

But:
- Germany preserved materiel and men
- Allies without vital ground fighting experience and victories (other than routing Italians and possibly Vichy French) prior to setting foot in Europe. This is IMHO the greatest benefit!

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Re: 1941: What if Germany refuses troops for North Africa

Post by Sunbury » 25 Nov 2010 16:31

I dont need to be whaled on :lol: Not all of the Moroccon coast was Spanish, I'm surprised that fact wasn't known here. Tangiers and its surrounds were French Terrority that Spain seized in 1940 after the fall of France. Vichy France could let Germany reoccupy it, bluffing Franco to pull out and save face. Offering Franco Gibraltar as an exchange would also be a powerful incentive for him to withdraw from Tangiers.

Secondly if the Luftwaffe had arrived in strength in Tangiers prior to Oran, the British could be forced to not intervene. Franco saw Oran as a major indicator that Britian meant war and it helped his decision to stay neutral. If it never happened he may well have negotiated more German bases in Morocco. Outside playing armchair warriors, politics, morale, realistic supply timetables etc need to be considered if these exercises are to be realistic.

BDV how exactly will a fleet of ships attack land based bombers? They will merely present themselves as targets to be sunk. The airfields can be a mere 25 miles inland, out of effective range of naval guns.

Marcus how long does it take a WW2 merchant ship to sail from Britian to the Suez canal? Say an average speed of 8 knots? Please give details. Whatever the answer, the 8th Army has a significant supply problem. A simple staff officer exercise is. will the British use more fuel transporting fuel to their army than they actually deliver? The more they advance, the greater the supply problem. The Benghazi handicap will continue as always. And the fighters who are going to attack the Italian Navy in mid 1940? The planes themselves, fuel, spare parts, weapons, ammunition, how do they magically appear? It will take months.

Tim again refuses to see Vichy France was held in thrall. They allowed German advisors into Syria, they kowtowed to the Japanese in Vietnam, giving them the bases they needed to attack Malay. Also I said negotiated, not invaded and the Germans are reclaiming French terriorty from the Spanish.

The massive French Army did nothing when German advisors went into Syria. Most of them fought for the Vichy French when the Australian 7th Divison and the Indian 4th Divison undertook the Syrian Campaign. A "hidden" Campaign to most in here. Neither Britian or France post war wanted to talk of it, but it is well remembered here.

So simply saying "non" is meaningless, 3 million French troops were POW's and in 1940 Germany looked truimphent everywhere. The large French Army in Africa suddenly deciding to fight, lol, they wouldn't. The Germans only have to hint at a political solution of giving "autonomy" to the locals to scuttle that idea. Ideas are always stronger than bullets, and breaking colonial chains of oppression are a powerful tool to manipulate. Remember Mohammad Amin al-Husayni the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem? His visit to Adolf Hitler in 1941 to back Arab independence? That technique was a real possibility, Nassar the post war Eygptian President was a Nazi supporter during the early part of WW2.

Of course blocking the entrance to Med to the British, scuttles all plans here of armies advancing victorously in linked arms singing bravely. There is one small British army at the other end of the Med with obsolete armour and aircraft twiddling its thumbs. The Battle of Britian is raging, so the expectation of receiving modern aircraft is unlikely. Malta had four Gladitors for its early defence. Faith, Hope, Charity and Chastity. Chastity was shot down quickly (an omen). The Royal Navy has to get to Malta via the Suez Canal. The Luftwaffe can help the Regia Aeronautica Italiana from Sicily and force the Royal Navy out of Malta. What aircraft are the British going to send to Malta from Egypt? The ability for the British to influence the fighting in Greece is also gone, Italy and Greece can fight it out undisturbed.

Just to add to the mix, the Australian Divisons were initially banned from being in Eygpt in 1940, they were forced to be based in Palestine. Why Egypt banned them was because of the Australian LightHorse celebrations at the end of WW1. Again would Eygpt allow what became crack Divisons into its country if they saw the real possibilty of the British losing? Would Britian invade Egypt in effect?
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Re: 1941: What if Germany refuses troops for North Africa

Post by BDV » 25 Nov 2010 16:49

I did not make my point clear.

RN would say a few things to RegiaM and the germans about 'the getting' there and 'the keeping supplied' parts.

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Re: German siege of Gibraltar

Post by Tim Smith » 25 Nov 2010 18:37

Markus Becker wrote: BUT ... who says the Brits will stop their advance at the Tunesian border? The UK and Vichy were de facto at war. Why not push into French North Africa and secure the entire southern coast of the Med? That would make the Med almost and allied lake, deny the Germans any chance of getting back into North Africa, deter Franco, open bases in west Africa for ASW and the Vichy French would IMO sooner than later turn into Free French.
Deny the Axis any chance of getting back into North Africa, you mean. In this timeline, the Germans hadn't been there.

Quite possibly Churchill might want to try for French North Africa for the reasons stated. However, in July 1941, Britain is in no condition to mount an amphibious operation on the scale of Operation Torch - which means the Eighth Army has to do it alone, invading from Libya. And that means punching through a heavily defended Mareth Line, not an easy job. And we're talking about an Eighth Army much weaker than the one that assaulted the German-held Mareth Line in March 1943.

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