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tv   Oral Histories  CSPAN  February 17, 2015 9:50pm-10:46pm EST

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your parents and your siblings. >> we were obviously counsel thrill folk. >> okay. >> they were farmers. my dad was. >> um-hmm. were farmers. my dad was. he also spent 45 years in the coal mines. he was a coal miner as well as a farmer. i have nine or had nine brothers and sisters. >> nine brothers. you are? >> i'm number four. >> wow. >> two of the oldest boys have passed on. my mom abdomen dad have passed on. they are scattered all over the stats of kentucky as ohio as well as texas. i've adopted that as my home. i really enjoy living there.
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it's a beautiful country. beautiful state. yng a lot of people there. all my interests are there. i stay there. >> tell me about the school you went to. was it in kentucky? >> the primary and secondary school were in kentucky. i did get a high school diploma from kentucky. >> what school in. >> whit lee county high school. >> when did you graduate? >> i got my diploma in 1959. >> 1959. >> i left that school i guess 1948. >> '48. you joined the army?
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>> joined the army. went to japan in june of 1948. >> wow. i joined the first cavalry division. >> you're the first cavalry? >> yeah. that's a little west of yokahama. stayed there for about a year. when the 7th infantry moved out of korea in 1949 i joined the 7th infantry division. i think they had been in korea for an extended period of time.
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>> you joined the 7th? >> yes. >> what was your specialty? were you infantry? >> infantry. >> and just rifleman or heavy machine gun? >> rifle man. i was a squad leader and part-time platoon sergeant. >> i see. >> that's about the extent of it. >> tell me about the first cavalry. this is kind of well known unit, right? >> yes. we had no mission as such in the first. we were primarily a show off division. we did lot of parade practice and stuff like that. >> i see. >> i've had five parades in downtown tokyo in the 48 early
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49. it was a good outfit if you enjoy parades. we didn't have a lot of extra work as such. we spent a lot of time on the parade field and a lot of guard duty and stuff like that. after i joined the 7th we had a field training. a lot of maneuvers. live firing squad practice platoon practice stuff like that. >> so when did you go to korea? i made the landing. >> you did? >> yes. >> on the 17th of september. >> yeah. >> 1950. >> yep. >> the marines went in on one beach and the 7th infantry went
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in on another beach. i don't remember if it's red or blue beach or what. we fought our way into seoul and i got wounded in seoul. >> oh. >> got a head wound. head and ear, my left ear. thought i was going to plead to death. they were able to pull me out. i had a blood transfusion on that hospital shield that were docked outside of seoul. i had a blood transfusion there. they shipped me back to japan. i had additional blood infused
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into me. i stayed there for 35 40 days, something like that in that area. at the end of that part i boarded a japanese luxury liner. that was in october. we made another landing at amhong. it was in late november.
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we were still in summer wear. the temperature was something like 46, 47 degrees below zero. had a hand grenade from the chinese. then someone placed me in a ammunition carrier with a tank of sorts. a convoy on the back of the tank. they put any in there. i was passed out then. i don't know how long i stayed there. that's where the chinese found me. that's when they took me out of
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tank and i was almost frozen. i couldn't ambulate with any degree of satisfaction or efficiency. >> when was it? >> on the second day of december, 1951. >> 1950. >> excuse me 1950. yes. they kept us. we were separated the three of us. for what reason i have no clue. i suppose since we were wounded we couldn't keep up with the march going north. right.
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we spent three or four days there. >> with the chinese? >> with the chinese? >> yeah. >> they didn't kill you. >> no. we got the same food they consume consumed. we moved at night four or five or six miles into another community. spent two or three weeks in that area. no one cared or asked me. i don't know if they cared or not. we stayed there about two or three weeks. then we attempted go someplace. i'm not sure where. we walked for two or three days and came back to the same house.
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i never could figure that one out. we were kept separate from the main body of pows until the 15th of april, 1951. we want back and jumped on them. i stayed there until august of '53. i don't remember the exact dates, 8th 9th 10th somewhere in there. >> did you know anything about korea before you go to korea? >> only hearsay. i had no first hand information at all. the people who came back from korea in 1950 with the 7th
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division division. soldiers talk a lot. some grumble and complain about this and that. i really didn't know a lot about korea or the korean people for that matter. all i heard was complaining. >> about what? >> nothing in particular. the duty primarily. no one that i talked with of course they were privates and stuff like that. really didn't have a good handle on the situation and they, by nature doesn't have anything good to say about anything in
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korea. i had been in japan for 27 months when korea started. i went to we moved down to mt. fuji in preparation for the move. i was ready to come back to the states. in fact, my first sergeant called me into his office. i don't remember. 1950, must have been early september. advised me that i was going home. handed me my orders or attempted to. then he took them back and tore them up. i was hurt by that. i wanted the go home. he told me that all the orders
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had been riscinded and we were going to korea. as far as duty was concerned they decided that i was fully recovered. >> okay. >> you are in a country you never knew before. there's nothing good at the time in korea. you are captured. what were you thinking? >> i think primarily that's the opinion of all young soldiers. when they are faced with something that they have no knowledge of have no dlu clue what they're going to do or why they're going to do it. i'm sure i had the same opinion.clue what they're going to do or why they're going to do it. i'm sure i had the same opinion. why not turn me loose? why not send me home? such is not the case. i took my medicine and joined my
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unit. went with them north. >> how many meals did you have on the way? once a day or twice day? >> it's kind of hard to say. we ate the same thing the chinese soldiers were eating. >> you were lucky? >> i was. there's no question about it. we had ground up peanuts. we would mix water with the concoction and drink it. that's the only sun stance webstance we had. >> you mean something chinese
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had? >> little sock type things. >> that's a grindsed core edgrinded core. >> yeah. we did not get rice or very little vegetables of any kind because it's the dead of winter. they didn't have fresh vegetables. we were lucky to get anything. >> what was your outfit? was it your summer outfit or ready for winter? >> summer. we were dressed in fatigues with a pair of field trousers. no long johns. no underwear or anything like that and a field jacket.
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that does very little to hold out the bitter cold. we were nearly froze, frozen in the division. they had shipped stuff up there but it didn't get to us. we were still with our field jackets and two pairs of trousers. they gave us a pair of padded pants and the padded jacket.
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>> how would you describe it? try. >> miserable at best. i mean being a southern boy to begin and not used to real cold weather and then spent my time in japan of course it was cold in the winter time in japan but not like in siberia and along the reservoir, that area was in siberia as far as i'm concerned. it was just as cold there as inside area, i think. it was miserable. it was miserable at best.
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i any further did adapt to that lifestyle. just couldn't do it. it's just that simple. >> when you arrived how was your wounds in your face? did it heal? >> pretty much. i got hit on the bridge of any noise with a piece of shrapnal. there was fragments from it. i got knocked out with that stuff. it had one small area on the bridge of my nose. >> so amazing.
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every kind of medicines injections. your face clearly healed without anything. >> really. >> amazing, isn't it? >> it really is. i got my first wound was going to do me in. i got shot through the ear. had a bullet to go through my ear. it shot the name out of my helmet. i had shrapnel all up in this area. i got two or three small fragments. i got all of it out except one small piece. two years later it worked its way out. it was like a kitchen match head, if you know what i'm talking about. >> yeah. >> it final lyly worked out.
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as far as i know, that's the only thing that remained for any length of time. i had three or four pieces of shrapnel in my head. they managed to cut those out. >> how was it? >> miserable at best. >> tell me the details. talk to young kids there and what you went through detail. >> actually, we didn't have enough firewood to keep us warm. as you know the korean homes are have a flu that goes under the floor that keeps the house warm.
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if you have enough wood to put in there and warm the place up. in the winter of -- 1950 '51, they didn't stockpile the wood. they took what they needed when they left their homes. we had no wood to heat the place up with. we slept 10 to 12 to 15 people per room. that's cozy if you know what i'm saying. you get close. of course, lice warere bad. >> oh, yeah. >> everyone was lousy. we picked lice off each other as
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best as we could. you can't get rid of those thinks. we finally, those that were able would go into the fields or forest, if you will and gather firewood and we were able to gather enough wood to heat the floors in the homes. i think that was the saving promise there. things did get better. the reservoir was frozen. we had to walk across the ice into the field side. after the chinese were able to
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get boats in there. it came later, early in the year next to march, april, may or somewhere like that. they were able to haul in boat loads of wood. we gathered most of our firewood from force from the hills. food was a premium at that time. we were using millet, cracked corn. i'm not sure if it was maize or real fine grain. >> do they actual give you grains so you cook it? >> yes. >> you cooked it? >> yes. >> how?
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did you have tooltools appliances? >> we had large pots, large vats. we would build a fire under the pots and boil the water and had the grain of whatever we had. it's very little substance in cracked corn. diarrhea was bad. >> how many times a day, twice? >> constantly. >> i mean the food, meal? >> twice. >> you ate twice a day? >> yeah. of course it was limited, a amount. they didn't have stuff and they couldn't cook it if they didn't have it. it was very, strictly rationed.
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we would get maybe a cup or cup and a half of cracked corn or millet or whatever we had. our systems weren't just adopted to that type food. diarrhea was rampant. in late 52'51 before the winter set in we did get an increase in our rations. we got pork. >> really? >> yeah. >> are you sure? >> i'm positive. >> the meat. >> meat yeah. >> they gave you meat?
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>> yeah. >> oh. >> we had to pick the hair out of it. it wasn't thoroughly cleaned. >> i see. >> wasn't appetizing at all but if you're hungry, you'll eat. we did start getting a little pork. i think they began to issue rice at that time. we didn't get rice for the first several months of year. we ate a will the of peanuts. ground up peanuts. the rations did improve and
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dissentary slowed down. we were getting used to that type food. i don't recall ever getting beef beef, but we did get pork, quite a lot of pork. bring in whole hogs that were frozen. they had been cleaned outside. most of the hair had been removed and the innards had been removed. we just got pork as you see it there. >> how did you cook? >> we had pots that we cooked it in. >> boil? >> boiled. we did get a few potatoes. we did get some turnips. that was about the extent of it. >> very good. >> we thought it was excellent
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after having pure cracked corn and millet. we survived. can't put a lot of emphasis on that. i'm here. >> what was the most difficult thing in the camp? what really bothers you and you craved for? >> heat in the winter. >> heat? >> yeah. of course, food. that was a constant thing. we just didn't have enough to fill our desires or needs really. when we had no fishing gear, we
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couldn't catch fish. had no hooks or lines or anything like that. a little ingenuity on the part of some of our troops. they were able to make musical instruments. one guy made a guitar. had no guitar strings. we used wire from whatever. it didn't sound like a guitar but it was something to make noise, to make what they called music. things did improve in late '51, early '52 we we began to adapt, if you might say. we knew what we had to endure to
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survive. we did the best we could do. >> what made you get through it? what was it hope god, whatever? >> my faith in god. >> were you christian at the time? >> not as such, no. i did attend church services regularly. >> when in. >> before i got into korea. i did go to chapel.? in. >> before i got into korea. i did go to >> before i got into korea. i did go to chapel.n. >> before i got into korea. i did go to chapel.. >> before i got into korea. i did go to chapel. >> before i got into korea. i did go to chapel. i did attend a lot of church when i was a child growing up. i had the basic knowledge of the supreme being. it did sound good to me at that
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time. i had a lot of faith in the supreming with. we had norman hale. he was a spiritual leader. richard basset. they were both young., as young as me. they delivered a good service as well as they knew how. the good thing about it they still embrace, till this day what they taught back in those days. i'm now an ordained deacon of a church. i go regularly every time the
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doors open doors open, i go. my wife is an inspiration to me. she's a big influence. i know she's a big influence on me. i did get saved. i did get baptized. as i said, i am an ordained deacon of the church, and i enjoy that. >> did you pray at the time in the camp? >> absolutely. absolutely. >> what did you pray? can you share? >> yes. for the ability to with stand the rough winter, the rough life we were living at that time. we always prayed for more food heat. we always prayed the lord would
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come to our rescue. and provide us or give us the abilities ability to provide for ourselves. i think that was a big thing. i really do believe that. i try to live by that today. >> were you able to write a letter back to your family at the camp? >> yes. i think i had four or five letters that my mom did get from me. >> did get from you? >> yes. >> okay. you were allowed to write? >> yes. >> did they gave you the paper and pencil? >> yes. we would get paper in large sheets like this.
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>> that long? >> yeah. >> wow. >> we would, bend it or fold it and dampen the seam and would be able to take it straight and make sheet size. if memory serves me correctly, my mom kept the three or four letters that she got from me and i read those many times after i came home. yes, she got them. i got three or four letters from home. my sister wrote to me every three or four days. we didn't get all the mail that was sent to us. i know that for sure because my
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family members a lot of them wrote letters to me but i didn't get that many. i got a few. >> you still keep the letter? >> when did your family and parents know that you are in the camp? >> as you may know we were carried as mia for a long time. they had no confirmation of my status until about august or september of '51. there was an exchange of information between the chinese and our government. they did have large number of
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pows. i don't know when this information was passed or when either side honored what the other side said. as far as the status of the troops, i don't know. i believe that my mom and dad got word that we were no longer mia that we were pow. >> pow. >> they didn't know where. they knew it was in north korea or someplace.
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mom didn't really believe that information until she got a letter from me which was in late 1951. i don't recall the exact date that she got it but it was confirmed. she knew for fact that i was not dead. >> what did your parents say to you when you returned home? >> thank god. pardon me. very hard. >> looking back all those years how do you put all those things,
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all the suffering, unbelievable coldness, everything into a perspective? how do you do that? >> i try my best not to think about it. >> not to think about it? >> not to think about it. there are times when -- i used to do a lot of hunting and i would go out into the field and freeze my backside off. during some of those times i would think, man, i've endured this stuff in korea in 1951 1950 1952 2 and 3. it got to a point where i quit hunting because i didn't want to be reminded of it. it did remind me. when you get out there and
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you're freezing and raining and you're cold and miserable and hungry. i told myself i do not need this. i quit hunting. today i eat when i'm hungry. i get warm when i'm cold. i get cold when i'm hot. i get cooled off. i'm living now like it i want to. i go where i want when i want. do what i want to do.
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and money is not a problem. i still love the army and would go back today if i could and i'm 83 years old. i would still go back but i know i can't. i've had 100% disability for 25 years. ill give that up if i could go back in the military. puts me closer to god. i don't know how i could get much closer than i am now. i'm an early riser. i get up sometimes 3:00 in morning. i retire to my back patio.
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turn the lights out, drink my coffee. i have a cup of coffee with me and i talk to the lord every day. >> are you still thankful? >> yes. yes. i thank him every day. i never eat a meal without saying thank you. regardless of where i am what restaurant i'm in the wife and i always say a table grace and people have commented on that. >> what is your message to the people who are in trouble like you? somebody who are really sick, somebody really in need of help, somebody going through
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unbelievable sufferings and ordeals and difficulties. what is your message to them? >> lay your burdens at feet of jesus. pray. it's good therapy. people say i don't know how to pray. you don't have to know how to pray. talk to the lord in the language you understand. >> right. >> lay your burdens at feet of jesus. pray hard. never forget. that's good therapy. >> have you been back to korea? >> no. i got back to japan in 1991.
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the wife said to me would you consider going to korea? i said no. i would not consider going back to korea. i've since changed my mind. i carried a chip on my shoulder for a long time against the north koreans. then, you pardon me for saying this but i had in my mind a thought that korea was and is korea. the same breed of people who have gone through so much turmoil with the japanese that
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they became hardened and brutal like the japanese were. i do know that some of the some of the north korean soldiers were brutal. they many atrocityies that i know about and i will never forgive those guys for that. i've been in therapy for 16 years. >> interesting. >> therapy. >> ptsd therapy? >> yes. i finally found it in my heart that all people are not the same. they're not all brutal. they're not all sadistic.
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i had it bad. i really had a chip on my shoulder. i could think of nothing good to say about korea, north or south. i started reading different articles that i seen published of the progress that the souts is making. i read and listen to the news media about how back ward the north still is. i know how, it's tough for me to
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understand how an individual like that bunch in north could be as unconcerned about their nation, about the people of their nation they're starving to death. how a president or whomsoever could disregard the condition of their country. and spend all their money on war material rather than feed the population. i finally came to the conclusion that some of those people in charge of the nation are only in it for what they can get.
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as long as they are surviving fat and sassy got everything they could possibly want and they are depriveing the population of the meager stuff it's not the people. it's the people in charge. i still departments want to go back to kree yea. i can see from everything i read the south are doing the things that, everything they can do for their people. i can see that. i can believe that. they've got a road system that second to none.
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they have a transportation system that's second to none. they no longer, well i'm sure that they still have a lot of the older folks that are going to stay with what served them best. the things they want to do. where as in the north the people are still starving. they've got a bunch of idiots up there who want only for themselves. that has changed my total outlook. they're all not the same. >> do you forgive? >> i have. there are some things that you cannot forgive. when i see souldiers with his iersoulds
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soldiers with his penis cut off and stuck in his mouth and his mouth with wire, you can't forgive that. that's brutal. that's sadistic. i've seen that. in one side of my mouth i can say some soldiers will do anything if it will relieve him of the stress that he is enduring at that time. i know that our soldiers did some brutal things. i know that. i didn't see it but i know in my
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heart that they did. yes, i have forgiven a lot of things. forget, no. i will never forget. i have forgiven the chinese. they did some things that i'm not pleased with at all. i suffered from them and by their hand i suffered. i don't think what they did was called for. i know it wasn't called for. i survived it and i prayed a lot then. i've been thinking a lot about returning to korea. i can't compare the north with the south. it's no way i can do that.
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>> yeah. >> in my wildest dream i can't do that. i can see and i can read and i can hear. nothing good is coming out of the north. on the other hand, what i read, see and hear about the south, i'm impressed. i really am impressed. i think my guard is just about down. i do believe that one day i will go back to korea. after months and months of
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cleaning the house, charles halipurn was making one more walk through. he saw an envelope with green seal and noticed the date was an 1832 document. he removed a single nail from a panel in an upstairs attic room and discovered a trunk and books and portraits stuffed up under the eves and this was this treasure of dolly madison's things. we've had this story available to the public displaying different items from time to time but trying to include her life story from her birth to her death in 1849. some of the items that we currently have on display, a card ivory calling card case that has a card enclosed with dolly's sigtsnature as well as that of her niece anna.
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some small cut glass perfume bolts and pair of silk slippers that have tiny little ribbons that tie across the arch of her foot. the two dresses are reproductions of a silk gown that she wore earliest in life and a red velvet gown which is intrigued both that it lasted and was part of this collection and there's also a legend that is now accompanies this dress. the political landscape has changed with the 114th congress. now only are there 43 new republicans and 15 new democrats and 12 new democrats and one new democrat in the senate. there's also 108 women in congress including first
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african-american republican in the house and the first woman veteran in the senate. keep track of the members of congress using congressional chronical on c-span. new congress best access on c-span, c-span2 c-span radio and you're watching a special presentation. the korean war credit ranveterans digital memory s an archive of the soldiers who fought what's sometimes called the forgotten war. the archive includes a collection of oral history interviews that provide
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eyewitness accounts of the korean war. we'll hear from salvatore conte and was forced to live in solitary confinement for eight months. he'll also talk about how he survived as a pow for two years. this program is about 50 minutes. >> where were you born? >> new york city. >> when? >> december 1th 19st 1930. >> 1st. >> no way. that's day i got captioned. december 24th 1929. >> christmas eve? >> yeah. it's an interesting story that goes with that. i was delivered by a midwife and the midwife of my mother conspired instead of registering me december 249th


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