Short_J

Sgt. John Lawrence Short


    Sergeant John L. Short  was born on May 23, 1917, to John and Leah Short.  The family resided at 907 State Street, Port Clinton, Ohio,  where he attended both grade school and high school.  After high school, he worked for U.S. Gypsum.

   John joined Company H of the Ohio National Guard in Port Clinton in 1939.  This unit was federalized on November 5, 1940 and designated C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  On November 25, the company joined other tank companies, from Illinois, Kentucky, and Wisconsin, at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and formed the 192nd GHQ Light Tank Battalion. 
    During the winter of 1940 and into the summer of 1941, the battalion continued their training at Ft. Knox.  A typical day for the soldiers started in 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress.  Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics at 8:00 to 8:30.  Afterwards, the tankers went to various schools within the company.  The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics.
    At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M.  Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13, such as: mechanics, tank driving, radio operating.   At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat and followed by dinner at 5:30.  After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played.  At some point, John was made a tank commander.
    From September 1 through 30, the battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox, as had been expected.  The members of battalion, on the the side of a hill, learned that they were being sent overseas.  Men 29 years old or older were given the chance to resign from federal service.

    The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude - noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance.  He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island that a large radio transmitter.  The island was hundred of miles away.  The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field.  When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
    The next day, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat that was seen making its way to shore.  Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat escaped.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
    After the companies were brought up to full strength with replacements, the battalion was equipped with new tanks and half-tracks which came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion traveled, over different train routes, to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, where they were taken by the ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Angel Island.  At Ft. McDowell, on the island, they received physicals and inoculations from the battalion's medical detachment.  Men found with minor medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.  
    The 192nd boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.   The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2 and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Dateline.  On Saturday, November 15, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
    At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner - which was "slumgullion" a stew which was slung into their mess kits - before he went to have his own.  Some men didn't even get this.  Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.

    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.     
    For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance as they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.

    The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1st to guard against paratroopers.  Two members of each tank remained with their tank at all times. On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, John lived the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  He recalled, "This sergeant, Morine, ran through the tank park and yelled, 'They bombed Pearl Harbor! They bombed Pearl Harbor!'  And just about that time we saw 54 Japanese bombers come over us, open up their bomb-bay doors, and drop bombs on the airfield." During the attack, John and the other tankers could do very little since they did not have the proper weapons to fight aircraft.
    The tank battalion received orders on December 21 that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening.  They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.     
    At Cebu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese.  The main Japanese line was south of Santa Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.
  The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them for three hours without knowing that they were there.  While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing.  It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered.  The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese.  They then fell back to Cabanatuan. 
    C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks.  It was at Baluiag that Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War II against enemy tanks.       
    After this battle, C Company made its way south.  When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment.  The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.
    On December 31, 1941,  Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag.  The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way.  Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, Lt. Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.       

    Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge.  The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks.  A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.
    By the afternoon, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in a rice field on the north end of the barrio.  One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge.  Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag.  2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.       
    Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag.  He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple.  The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off.  Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.          
    When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge.  The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks.  Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.
    Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt.  The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them.  By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
    During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan. 

    It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver, "Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal.  If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
    Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare.  The tank battalions , on January 28, were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.  
    C Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
    To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole.  The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.   The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.

    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3 against the defenders and broke through the east side of the main line of defense on April 7.   C Company was pulled out of their position along the west side of the line.  They were ordered to reinforce the eastern portion of the line.  Traveling south to Mariveles, the tankers started up the eastern road but were unable to reach their assigned area due to the roads being blocked by retreating Filipino and American forces.  The tanks were a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle where they could not fight back.  The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
    It was the evening of April 8 that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day.  In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be massacred.  At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
    Tank battalion commanders received this order, "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished."

    On April 9, 1942, John became a Prisoner Of War and took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernando.  From there, the POWs were put in small wooden boxcars that hauled sugarcane.  They left the cars at Capas and walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino training base pressed into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942.  When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had and refused to return it to them.  They searched the POWs and if a man was found to have Japanese money on them, they were taken to the guardhouse.  Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the camp.  These POWs had been executed for looting.
    There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to eight hours waiting for a drink.  The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again.  This situation improved when a second faucet was added.
    There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when it had been soiled.  In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp and mess kits could not be washed.  The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing since most of the POWs had dysentery.  The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the POW kitchens and in the food.
    The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant.  When the ranking American doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he was told never to write another letter.  When the Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, Tsuneyoshi refused to allow the truck into the camp.  When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies to the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
    The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them.  When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150 bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a Japanese lieutenant.
    Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to the hospital and placed underneath it.  The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria.  To clean the ground under the hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it.  The bodies of the dead were placed in the area, and the area they had been laying was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
    Work details were sent out on a daily basis.  Each day, the American doctors gave a list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work.  If the quota of POWs needed to work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick, but could walk, to work.  The death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day.
    John volunteered, or was selected, to go out on a bridge building detail.  Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, of the 192nd, was one of the two token American commanders of the detail and attempted to fill it with members of his own battalion.
  The POWs on this detail rebuilt the bridges that they had destroyed as they retreated just weeks before.  

    During John's time on this detail, he worked near the barrio of Calaun.  The people of the town showed great generosity to the POWs.  They shared food and provided medical attention to the POWs.  When the people heard that the detail was leaving, they held a great feast.  To get the Japanese to allow the prisoners to attend, the townspeople convinced the Japanese that the feast was to thank them for the bridge.  

    The detail next was sent to Batangas where the POWs were given clothing by Irish Catholic nuns.  From Batangas, they were sent to Candelura where they lived in an old coconut mill.  Again, the Filipino people shared their food with the POWs.

    When the detail ended in September, 1942, John was sent to Mindinao.  It is not known what type of work he did there.  After this detail ended, he was sent to Cabanatuan, which was actually three camps.  Camp 1 was where the men who captured on Bataan and taken part in the death march where held.  Camp 2 did not have an adequate water supply and was closed.  It later reopened and housed Naval POWs.  Camp 3 was where those men captured when Corregidor surrender were taken.  In addition, men from Bataan who had been hospitalized when the surrender came were sent to the camp.  Camp 3 was later consolidated into Camp 1.
    Once in the camp, the POWs were allowed to run the camp.  The Japanese only entered if they had an issue they wanted to deal with.  To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that patrolled the fence of the camp.  The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed, while the other POWs were made to watch.  It is believed that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.
    In the camp, the Japanese instituted the "Blood Brother" rule.  If one man escaped the other nine men in his group would be executed.  POWs caught trying to escape were beaten.  Those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed.  It is not known if any POW successfully escaped from the camp.  John was assigned to Barracks 10.
    The barracks in the camp were built to house 50 POWs, but most had between 60 to 120 POWs in them.  The POWs slept on bamboo slats, without mattresses, bedding, or mosquito netting.  Many quickly became ill.  The POWs were assigned to barracks which meant that the members of their group lived together, went out on work details together, and would be executed together since they were Blood Brothers.
    The POWs were sent out on work details one was to cut wood for the POW kitchens.  The two major details were the farm detail and the airfield detail which lasted for years.  A typical day on any detail lasted from 7:00 A.M. until  5:00 P.M.  The POWs on the farm detail would have to go to a shed each morning to get tools.  As they left the shed, the Japanese guards thought it was great fun to hit them over their heads.
    The detail was under the command of "Big Speedo" who spoke very little English.  When he wanted the POWs to work faster, he told the POWs "speedo."  Although he was known to have a temper, the POWs thought he was fair.  Another guard was "Little Speedo" who was smaller and also used "speedo" when he wanted the POWs to work faster.  The POWs also felt he was pretty fair in his treatment of them.  "Smiley" was another guard who always had a smile on his face but could not be trusted.  He was the meanest of the guards and beat men up for no reason.  He liked to hit the POWs with the club.  Any prisoner who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked over with it.  Any prisoner who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked over with it.  Each morning, after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools.  As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads.
    Other POWs worked in rice paddies.  While working in the fields, the favorite punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a guard to drive their faces deeper into the mud.  Returning from a detail the POWs bought, or were given, medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when they returned.
    Rice was the main food given to the POWs fed to them as "lugow" which meant "wet rice."  During their time in the camp, they received few vegetables and almost no fruit.  Once in awhile, they received bread.
    The camp hospital was known as "Zero Ward" because it was missed by the Japanese when they counted barracks.  The sickest POWs were sent there to die.  The Japanese put a fence up around the building to protect themselves, and they would not go into the building.  There were two rolls of wooden platforms around the perimeter of the building.  The sickest POWs were put on the lower platform which had holes cut into it so the they could relieve themselves.  Most of those who entered the ward died.
    The POWs had the job of burying the dead.  To do this, they worked in teams of four men.  Each team carried a litter of four to six dead men to the cemetery where they were buried in graves containing 15 to 20 bodies.  Into December, as many as 9 POWs died each day.  The death rate only dropped when Red Cross Packages were issued to the POWs for Christmas.  Changes in the latrines also slowed the spread of disease.
    After his return to Cabanatuan, his family received a postcard from him.  In it he said:
"Was sure glad to hear from you. I am in good health and shape. Hope you are getting along fine.  Give my regards to the rest of the family." 

    In January, 1943, John went out on a work detail to Lipa Batangas.  The POWs on the detail built runways and revetments at Lipa Airfield.  Every other day, they worked on a local farm.  On February 16, 1943, John was sent to the medical ward of Bilibid Prison.  Records kept by the medical staff show that he had dysentery and that he was discharged, to Cabanatuan, on Febraury 21, 1943.
    Medical
records kept by the medical staff at the Cabanatuan hospital show that John was admitted on March 17, 1943.  No reason for his being admitted was given nor was a date of discharge given.

    John was next selected to go to Japan and sent to Manila.  On July 2, 1944, he was boarded onto the Canadian Inventor.  The ship departed Manila on July 4, 1944. The ship sailed but returned to Manila because of boiler problems.  During the repairs, the POWs were kept in its holds.  The floors of the holds were covered with human waste.  On July 16th, the ship sailed again but was extremely slow and given the name, "Mati Mati Maru."  It finally arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 23rd.  It sailed on August 4th, and arrived at Keelung, Formosa, the same day.  It remained in harbor for twelve days sailing again on August 17th for Naha, Okinawa.  It attempted to sail several times but because of American submarines returned to Naha.  It finally sailed on August 23rd before arriving at Moji, Japan on September 1st.  By the time the ship arrived in Moji on September 4, 1944, John had spent almost 60 days in the hold of the ship.

    In Japan, John was sent to Omine Machi.  It appears that his time at the camp was short, and he was sent to Fukuoka #17.  The POWs there were used to work in a coal mine that had previously been condemned by the Japanese as being unsafe.  To  mine the coal, the POWs worked bent down since the mine was too low for many of them to work in standing up.  At the mine, each prisoner was expected to load three cars of coal a day.  The POWs worked 12 hour work days in areas of the mine which had cracks in the ceiling indicating a cave-in might take place.  One was known as the "hotbox" because of its temperatures.  To get out of working, the POWs would intentionally have their arms broken by another POW.
    Daily meals consisted of seven spoonfuls of water and one fourth a cup of very poor quality watery rice a day.  To supplement their diets, the prisoners also ate dog meat, radishes, potato greens and seaweed.  To get a meal, when entering the food line, the POWs had to shout out there number, in Japanese, and another man would put a nail in a hole opposite the man's number on a board.  The nails remained in the board until all the POWs had been fed.
    Corporal punishment was an everyday occurrence at the camp.  The guards beat the POWs for slightest reason and continued until the POW was unconscious.  The man was then taken to the guardhouse and put in solitary confinement without food or water for a long period of time.
    On one occasion in November 1944, shirts had been stolen from a bundle, sent by the British Red Cross, from a building.  The Japanese ordered all the POWs to assemble and told them that they would not be fed until the shirts were returned.  The men who stole the shirts returned the shirts anonymously, and the POWs received their meal at 10:00 P.M.
    During the winter, the POWs, being punished, were made to stand at attention and had water thrown on them as they stood in the cold, or they were forced to knee on bamboo poles.  It is known that the POWs were made to stand in water and shocked with electrical current.  At some point, two POWs were tied to a post and left to die.  This was done they had violated a camp rule.
    Life at Fukuoka #17 was hard and there were prisoners who would steal from other prisoners, especially clothing.  To prevent this from happening, the POWs would "buddy up" with each other.  While one man was working in the mine, the POW who was not working would watch the possessions of the other man.
    In addition, the sick were forced to work.  The Japanese camp doctor allowed the sick, who could walk, to be sent into the mine.  Men who had one good arm were made to lift heavy loads.   He also took the Red Cross medical supplies meant for the POWs for his own use and failed to provide adequate medical treatment.  Food that came in the packages was eaten by the guards.

   John would remain in this camp until he was sent to Fukuoka #9 near the end of the war.  There, John also worked in a coal mine owned by the Kajima Tanko Mining Company.  The Japanese practiced collective punishment on the POWs holding all the POWs responsible when a few POWs were guilty of breaking a rule.  The Japanese also withheld Red Cross packages from the POWs and misappropriated the food, clothing, and medicine for their own use.

    After the the war ended, a Japanese plane flew over the camp and dropped leaflets telling the guards to continue their brutal treatment of the POWs.  The Japanese officers actually told the POWs that the war had resumed. 
    Recalling his time in the camp, he said, "Towards the end, I didn't have the energy to get up in the morning anymore.  If things had gone on that way for another month, I wouldn't have made it."  He was liberated in September 1945, and returned to the Philippines after being treated for his illnesses sent home.

    John Short returned to Port Clinton and was discharged, from the army, on May 8, 1946.  He married Sally Custer on June 3, 1946, and became the father of one child, Leah.  John spent the rest of his life in Port Clinton and worked for Ford Motors in Sandusky, Ohio.  He passed away on July 24, 1994.


 

 

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