JANUARY 07 - TODAY IN MILITARY HISTORY
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7 JANUARY/ TODAY IN MILITARY HISTORY:
◆49 BCE The Roman Senate orders Caesar to disband his army or be declared a public enemy, thereby heading off a compromise by Cicero, and insuring civil war.
◆1558 The French take Calais, the last English enclave on the Continent.
◆1601 Robert, Earl of Essex leads revolt in London against Queen Elizabeth.
◆1608 Disaster strikes Jamestown.★
◆1699 Hostilities end in King William's War, with the signing of a treaty at Casco, Maine.
◆1709 Siege of Verpik: Russians use boiling porridge to help defeat the Swedes.
◆1718 Israel Putnam, American Revolutionary War hero, was born. He planned the fortifications at the Battle of Bunker Hill and told his men, "don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes."
◆1781 Battle of Mobile.★
◆1807 In the Napoleonic Wars, a British order in council bars all commercial shipping in the coastal waters of France and her allies. This order is in response to Napoleon's Berlin Decree of November 21, 1806, which ordered a naval blockade around the British Isles.
◆1863 Confederate Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke's expedition into Missouri reached Ozark, where it destroyed the Union post, and then approached Springfield on the morning of January 8.★
◆1865 Cheyenne, Arapaho and Sioux warriors attack Julesburg, CO, in retaliation for the Sand Creek Massacre.★
◆1914 The first ship, the Alexander la Valley, crossed the Panama Canal.
◆1916 In response to pressure from the Wilson administration, Germany notifies the US of its intention to abide by international rules of naval warfare.
◆1918 Germans move 75,000 troops from the Eastern Front to the Western Front.
◆1942 Siege of Bataan by Japanese began in the Philippines.
◆1943 On Guadalcanal, fresh American troops mount an assault on Mount Austen.
◆1943 A Japanese convoy lands supplies and reinforcements at Lea, New Guinea despite air attacks.
◆1944 The U.S. Air Force announces the production of the first jet-fighter, Bell P-59 Airacomet.★
◆1944 British and American elements of the US 5th Army capture Monte Chiaia and Monte Porchia. San Vittore is also taken.
◆1945 U.S. air ace Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. is killed in the Pacific.
◆1945 Hitler withdraws forces from Ardennes.★
◆1945 Montgomery claims he won the Battle of the Bulge.★
◆1945 The attacks of the US 8th Corps of US 1st Army, along the line of the Ourthe west of Houffalize, record progress around Laroche. German attacks in Alsace also continue with some success south of Strasbourg in the area around Erstein.
◆1948 Mantell UFO incident.★
◆1953 In his final State of the Union address before Congress, President Harry S. Truman tells the world that that the United States has developed a hydrogen bomb. It was just three years earlier on January 31, 1950, that Truman publicly announced that had directed the Atomic Energy Commission to proceed with the development of the hydrogen bomb. Truman’s directive came in responds to evidence of an atomic explosion occurring within USSR in 1949.
◆1959 US officially recognizes Castro regime.★
◆1960 Launch of the first fully-guided flight of a Polaris missile at Cape Canaveral (flew 900 miles).
◆1960 A small submarine, the Trieste, sets a new record for depth when it descends 24,000 feet into the Pacific off Guam.
◆1967 The first elements of the Mobile Riverine Force reached Vietnam on when the USS Whitfield County (LST 1169) docked at Vung Tau.
◆1975 Vietnamese troops take Phuoc Binh in new full-scale offensive.
◆1993 Largest military confrontation of Restore Hope. 500 Marines engage in a shoot-out with Warlord Aidid's forces in Mogadishu. 15 Somalis are taken POW, no US casualties.
◆1999 A US jet fired on an air defense station in Iraq after it was targeted on radar.
◆2003 Creation of the Select Committee on Homeland Security to help Congress coordinate oversight of the new Department of Homeland Security and to ensure implementation of the Homeland Security Act of 2002.
◆2007 President George W. Bush announces that he will send an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq as part of a shift in American military strategy. Under this new strategy, labeled “the surge,” American troops will pacify and protect individual neighborhoods rather than combat sectarian violence through mobile patrols.
Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day
*SHOUP, CURTIS F
Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company I, 346th Infantry, 87th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Tillet, Belgium, 7 January 1945. Entered service at: Buffalo, N.Y. Birth: Napenoch, N.Y. G.0. No.: 60, 25 July 1945. Citation: On 7 January 1945, near Tillet, Belgium, his company attacked German troops on rising ground. Intense hostile machinegun fire pinned down and threatened to annihilate the American unit in an exposed position where frozen ground made it impossible to dig in for protection. Heavy mortar and artillery fire from enemy batteries was added to the storm of destruction falling on the Americans. Realizing that the machinegun must be silenced at all costs, S/Sgt. Shoup, armed with an automatic rifle, crawled to within 75 yards of the enemy emplacement. He found that his fire was ineffective from this position, and completely disregarding his own safety, stood up and grimly strode ahead into the murderous stream of bullets, firing his low-held weapon as he went. He was hit several times and finally was knocked to the ground. But he struggled to his feet and staggered forward until close enough to hurl a grenade, wiping out the enemy machinegun nest with his dying action. By his heroism, fearless determination, and supreme sacrifice, S/Sgt. Shoup eliminated a hostile weapon which threatened to destroy his company and turned a desperate situation into victory.
*SPECKER, JOE C.
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, 48th Engineer Combat Battalion. Place and date: At Mount Porchia, Italy, 7 January 1944. Entered service at: Odessa, Mo. Birth: Odessa, Mo. G.O. No.. 56, 12 July 1944. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, in action involving actual conflict. On the night of 7 January 1944, Sgt. Specker, with his company, was advancing up the slope of Mount Porchia, Italy. He was sent forward on reconnaissance and on his return he reported to his company commander the fact that there was an enemy machinegun nest and several well-placed snipers directly in the path and awaiting the company. Sgt. Specker requested and was granted permission to place 1 of his machineguns in a position near the enemy machinegun. Voluntarily and alone he made his way up the mountain with a machinegun and a box of ammunition. He was observed by the enemy as he walked along and was severely wounded by the deadly fire directed at him. Though so seriously wounded that he was unable to walk, he continued to drag himself over the jagged edges of rock and rough terrain until he reached the position at which he desired to set up his machinegun. He set up the gun so well and fired so accurately that the enemy machine-gun nest was silenced and the remainder of the snipers forced to retire, enabling his platoon to obtain their objective. Sgt. Specker was found dead at his gun. His personal bravery, self-sacrifice, and determination were an inspiration to his officers and fellow soldiers.
7 JANUARY 1608
DISASTER STRIKES JAMESTOWN. The fort burns and leaves the colonists vulnerable to attack by Indians and the Spanish. Jamestown was the first settlement of the Virginia Colony, founded in 1607, and served as capital of Virginia until 1699, when the seat of government was moved to Williamsburg.
Virginia Company of London sent an expedition to establish a settlement in the Virginia Colony in December 1606. The expedition consisted of three ships, the Susan Constant (sometimes known as the Sarah Constant), the Godspeed, and the Discovery. The Discovery was the smallest ship; the largest ship, the Susan Constant, was captained by Christopher Newport. The ships left Blackwall, now part of London, with 105 men and boys and 39 crew-members.
By April 6, 1607, the Godspeed, Susan Constant and the Discovery arrived at the Spanish colony of Puerto Rico, where they stopped for provisions before continuing their journey. In April 1607, the expedition reached the southern edge of the mouth of what is now known as the Chesapeake Bay. After an unusually long journey of more than four months, the 104 men and boys (one passenger of the original 105 died during the journey) arrived at their chosen settlement spot in Virginia. There were no women on the first ships.
Arriving at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay in late April, they named the Virginia capes after the sons of their king, the southern Cape Henry, for Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, and the northern Cape Charles, for his younger brother, Charles, Duke of York. On April 26, 1607, upon landing at Cape Henry, Chaplain Robert Hunt offered a prayer, and they set up a cross near the site of the current Cape Henry Memorial. This site came to be known as the "first landing." A party of the men explored the area and had a minor conflict with some Virginia Indians.
After the expedition arrived in what is now Virginia, sealed orders from the Virginia Company were opened. These orders named Captain John Smith as a member of the governing Council. Smith had been arrested for mutiny during the voyage and was incarcerated aboard one of the ships. He had been scheduled to be hanged upon arrival, but was freed by Captain Newport after the opening of the orders. The same orders also directed the expedition to seek an inland site for their settlement, which would afford protection from enemy ships.
Obedient to their orders, the settlers and crewmembers re-boarded their three ships and proceeded into the Chesapeake Bay. They landed again at what is now called Old Point Comfort in the City of Hampton. In the following days, seeking a suitable location for their settlement, the ships ventured upstream along the James River. Both the James River and the settlement they sought to establish, Jamestown (originally called "James His Towne") were named in honor of King James I.
On May 14, 1607, the colonists chose Jamestown Island for their settlement largely because the Virginia Company advised them to select a location that could be easily defended from attacks by other European states that were also establishing New World colonies and were periodically at war with England, notably the Dutch Republic, France, and Spain.
The island fit the criteria as it had excellent visibility up and down the James River, and it was far enough inland to minimize the potential of contact and conflict with enemy ships. The water immediately adjacent to the land was deep enough to permit the colonists to anchor their ships, yet have an easy and quick departure if necessary.
An additional benefit of the site was that the land was not occupied by the Virginia Indians, most of whom were affiliated with the Powhatan Confederacy. Largely cut off from the mainland, the shallow harbor afforded the earliest settlers docking of their ships. This was its greatest attraction, but it also created a number of challenging problems for the settlers.
The settlers came ashore and quickly set about constructing their initial fort. Within a month, the James Fort covered an acre on Jamestown Island. The wooden palisaded walls formed a triangle around a storehouse, church, and a number of houses. The fort burned down the following year.
It soon became apparent why the Virginia Indians did not occupy the site: Jamestown Island is a swampy area, and its isolation from the mainland meant that there was limited hunting available, as most game animals required larger foraging areas. The settlers quickly hunted and killed off all the large and smaller game animals that were found on the tiny peninsula.
In addition, the low, marshy area was infested with airborne pests, including mosquitoes, which carried malaria, and the brackish water of the tidal James River was not a good source of water. Over 135 settlers died from malaria, and drinking the salinated and contaminated water caused many to suffer from saltwater poisoning, fevers, and dysentery.
Despite the immediate area of Jamestown being uninhabited, the settlers were attacked less than two weeks after their arrival on May 14, by Paspahegh Indians who succeeded in killing one of the settlers and wounding eleven more. The "First Supply" arrived on January 2, 1608. It contained insufficient provisions and more than 70 new colonists. Despite original intentions to grow food and trade with the Virginia Indians, the barely surviving colonists became dependent upon supply missions.
The fort was destroyed by a fire, but was quickly rebuilt. This set back was only the beginning of a number of disasters to follow in Jamestown in the coming years.
7 JANUARY 1863
ATTACK ON SPRINGFIELD, MO. Confederate Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke's expedition into Missouri reached Ozark, where it destroyed the Union post, and then approached Springfield on the morning of January 8.Springfield was an important Federal communications center and supply depot so the Rebels wished to destroy it.
The Union army had constructed fortifications to defend the town. Their ranks, however, were depleted because Francis J. Herron's two divisions had not yet returned from their victory at Prairie Grove on December 7. After receiving a report on January 7 of the Rebels' approach, Brig. Gen. Egbert B. Brown set about preparing for the attack and rounding up additional troops.
Around 10:00 am, the Confederates advanced in battle line to the attack. The day included desperate fighting with attacks and counterattacks until after dark, but the Federal troops held and the Rebels withdrew during the night. Brown had been wounded during the day.
The Confederates appeared in force the next morning but retired without attacking. The Federal depot was successfully defended, and Union strength in the area continued. [pictured: General Marmaduke]
7 JANUARY 1865
ATTACK ON JULESBURG, CO. Cheyenne, Arapaho and Sioux warriors attack Julesburg, CO, in retaliation for the Sand Creek Massacre. After the massacre, the survivors had fled north to the Republican River where the main body of Cheyenne were camped. The Cheyennes sent a messenger to the Sioux and Arapaho inviting them to join them in a war on the whites.
In early January 1865, as many as 2000 Cheyenne, Sioux and Arapaho warriors shifted their camps closer to the South Platte Trail where it cut through the northeast corner of Colorado. On January 6, a small party hit a wagon train and killed twelve men.
Just before sunrise the following day, the majority of the Dog Soldiers and their allies concealed themselves in some sand hills a short distance from Fort Rankin and Julesburg, one mile up the Platte River, while the Cheyenne chief Big Crow slipped up to the fort.
At first light he rushed the sentries stationed outside the walls. A sixty man cavalry troop quickly emerged from the gates to give chase and as soon as they were clear of the fort they were cut off from their base as more than a thousand warriors dashed from the sand hills and began to empty the cavalry saddles.
All but a few were killed. As the remaining garrison prepared to defend the fort, the Indians raced up the Platte to the undefended Julesburg where they plundered at will while the soldiers at Fort Rankin could only watch and harmlessly fire their howitzers.
7 JANUARY 1944
THE P-59 AIRACOMET ENTERS PRODUCTION. The U.S. Air Force announces the production of the first jet-fighter, Bell P-59 Airacomet. Development of the P-59, America’s first jet-propelled airplane, was ordered personally by General H. H. Arnold on September 4, 1941. The project was conducted under the utmost secrecy, with Bell building the airplane and General Electric the engine.
The first P-59 was completed in mid-1942 and on October 1, 1942, it made its initial flight at Muroc Dry Lake (now Edwards Air Force Base), California. One year later, the airplane was ordered into production, to be powered by I-14 and I-16 engines, improved versions of the original I-A. Bell will produce 66 P-59s. Although the airplane’s performance was not spectacular and it never got into combat, the P-59 provided training for AAF personnel and invaluable data for subsequent development of higher performance jet airplanes.
HITLER WITHDRAWS FROM THE ARDENNES. While the German offensive had ground to a halt, they still controlled a dangerous salient in the Allied line. Patton’s Third Army in the south, centered around Bastogne, would attack north, Montgomery’s forces in the north would strike south, and the two forces planned to meet at Houffalize.
The temperature during January 1945 was extremely low. Trucks had to be run every half hour or the oil in them would freeze, and weapons would freeze. The offensive went forward regardless.
Erasing the Bulge—The Allied counterattack, 26 December – 25 January
Eisenhower wanted Montgomery to go on the counter offensive on 1 January, with the aim of meeting up with Patton’s advancing Third Army and cutting off most of the attacking Germans, trapping them in a pocket.
However, refusing to risk underprepared infantry in a snowstorm for a strategically unimportant area, Montgomery did not launch the attack until 3 January, by which time substantial numbers of German troops had already managed to successfully disengage, albeit with the loss of their heavy equipment.
At the start of the offensive, the two armies were separated by about 25 miles (40 km). American progress in the south was also restricted to about a kilometer a day. The majority of the German force executed a successful fighting withdrawal and escaped the battle area, although the fuel situation had become so dire that most of the German armor had to be abandoned.
On 7 January 1945, Hitler agreed to withdraw forces from the Ardennes, including the SS panzer divisions, thus ending all offensive operations.
Winston Churchill, addressing the House of Commons following the Battle of the Bulge said, "This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever-famous American victory".
7 JANUARY 1945
MONTGOMERY CLAIMS IT WAS HIS VICTORY. British Gen. Bernard Montgomery gives a press conference in which he all but claims complete credit for saving the Allied cause in the Battle of the Bulge. He was almost removed from his command because of the resulting American outcry.
On December 16, 1944, the Germans attempted to push the Allied front line west from northern France to northwestern Belgium. The Battle of the Bulge (so-called because the Germans, in pushing through the American defensive line, created a “bulge” around the area of the Ardennes forest) was the largest battle fought on the Western front.
The German assault came in early morning at the weakest part of the Allied line, an 80-mile stretch of poorly protected, hilly forest that the Allies believed was too difficult to traverse, and therefore an unlikely location for a German offensive. Between the vulnerability of the thin, isolated American units and the thick fog that prevented Allied air cover from discovering German movement, the Germans were able to push the Americans into retreat.
Fresh from commanding the 21st Army group during the Normandy invasion, and having suffered an awful defeat in September as his troops attempted to cross the Rhine, Montgomery took temporary command of the northern shoulder of American and British troops in the Ardennes. He immediately fell into a familiar pattern, failing to act spontaneously for fear of not being sufficiently prepared.
Montgomery was afraid to move before the German army had fully exhausted itself, finally making what American commanders saw as only a belated counterattack against the enemy. As the weather improved, American air cover raided German targets on the ground, which proved the turning point in the Allied victory.
Monty eventually cut across northern Germany all the way to the Baltic and accepted the German surrender in May. Montgomery had already earned the ire of many American officers because of his cautiousness in the field, arrogance off the field, and willingness to disparage his American counterparts.
The last straw was Montgomery’s whitewashing of the Battle of the Bulge facts to assembled reporters in his battlefield headquarters-he made his performance in the Ardennes sound not only more heroic but decisive, which necessarily underplayed the Americans’ performance.
Since the loss of American life in the battle was tremendous and the surrender of 7,500 members of the 106th Infantry humiliating, Gen. Omar Bradley complained loudly to Dwight D. Eisenhower, who passed the complaints on to Churchill. On January 18, Churchill addressed Parliament and announced in no uncertain terms that the “Bulge” was an American battle-and an American victory.
7 JANUARY 1948
THE MANTELL U.F.O. INCIDENT was among the most publicized early UFO reports. The incident resulted in the crash and death of 25-year-old Kentucky Air National Guard pilot, Captain Thomas F. Mantell while in pursuit of a UFO. Historian David M. Jacobs argues the Mantell case marked a sharp shift in both public and governmental perceptions of UFOs.
Previously, the news media often treated UFO reports with a whimsical or glib attitude reserved for silly season news. Following Mantell's death, however, Jacobs notes "the fact that a person had died in an encounter with an alleged flying saucer dramatically increased public concern about the phenomenon.
Now a dramatic new prospect entered thought about UFOs: they might be not only extraterrestrial but potentially hostile as well." However, later investigation by the US Air Force's Project Blue Book indicated that Mantell may have died chasing a Skyhook balloon, which in 1948 was a top-secret project that Mantell would not have known about.
Mantell was an experienced pilot; his flight history consisted of 2,167 hours in the air, and he had been honored for his part in the Battle of Normandy during World War II. On 7 January 1948, Godman Field at Fort Knox, Kentucky, received a report from the Kentucky Highway Patrol of an unusual aerial object near Maysville, Kentucky. Reports of a westbound circular object, 250–300 feet (80–90 m) in diameter, were received from Owensboro and Irvington.
At about 1:45 p.m., Sergeant Quinton Blackwell saw an object from his position in the control tower at Fort Knox. Two other witnesses in the tower also reported a white object in the distance. Colonel Guy Hix, the base commander, reported an object he described as "very white," and "about one fourth the size of the full moon ... Through binoculars it appeared to have a red border at the bottom ... It remained stationary, seemingly, for one and a half hours."
Observers at Clinton County Army Air Field in Ohio described the object "as having the appearance of a flaming red cone trailing a gaseous green mist" and observed the object for around 35 minutes. Another observer at Lockbourne Army Air Field in Ohio noted, "Just before leaving it came to very near the ground, staying down for about ten seconds, then climbed at a very fast rate back to its original altitude, 10,000 feet, leveling off and disappearing into the overcast heading 120 degrees. Its speed was greater than 500 mph (800 km/h) in level flight."
Four P-51 Mustangs of C Flight, 165th Fighter Squadron Kentucky Air National Guard already in the air—one piloted by Mantell—were told to approach the object. Blackwell was in radio communication with the pilots throughout the event. One pilot's Mustang was low on fuel, and he quickly abandoned his efforts.
Air Force Captain Edward J. Ruppelt (the first head of Project Blue Book) notes that there was some disagreement amongst the air traffic controllers as to Mantell's words as he communicated with the tower: some sources reported that Mantell had described an object "[which] looks metallic and of tremendous size," but according to Ruppelt, others disputed whether or not Mantell actually said this.
The other two pilots accompanied Mantell in steep pursuit of the object. They later reported they saw an object, but described it as so small and indistinct that they could not identify it. Mantell ignored suggestions that the pilots should level their altitude and try to more clearly see the object.
Only one of Mantell's wingmen, Lt. Albert Clements, had an oxygen mask, and his oxygen was in low supply. Clements and the third pilot, Lt. Hammond, called off their pursuit at 22,500 feet (6,900 m). Mantell continued to climb, however. According to the Air Force, once Mantell passed 25,000 feet (7,600 m) he blacked out from the lack of oxygen (hypoxia), and his plane began spiraling back towards the ground. A witness later reported Mantell's Mustang in a circling descent. His plane crashed on a farm south of Franklin, Kentucky, on the Kentucky–Tennessee state line.
Firemen later pulled Mantell's body from the Mustang's wreckage. His seat belt was shredded, and his wristwatch had stopped at 3:18 p.m., the time of his crash. Meanwhile, by 3:50 p.m. the UFO was no longer visible to observers at Godman Field. The Mantell incident was reported by newspapers around the nation, and received significant news media attention.
A number of sensational rumors were also circulated about Mantell's crash. According to UFO historian Curtis Peebles, among the rumors were claims that "the flying saucer was a Soviet missile; it was [an alien] spacecraft that shot down [Mantell's fighter] when it got too close; Captain Mantell's body was found riddled with bullets; the body was missing; the plane had completely disintegrated in the air; [and] the wreckage was radioactive."
However, no evidence has ever surfaced to substantiate any of these claims, and Air Force investigation specifically refuted some claims, such as the supposedly radioactive wreckage. Captain Ruppelt wrote that "I had always heard a lot of wild speculation about the condition of Mantell's crashed F-51, so I wired for a copy of the accident report. [It] said that...Mantell's body had not burned, not disintegrated, and was not full of holes; the wreck was not radioactive, nor was it magnetized."
Mantell was the first member of the Kentucky Air National Guard to die in flight. According to John Trowbridge, historian of the Kentucky National Guard, "There is a real X-Files twist to this, too. Mantell lived almost his entire life in Louisville. But he was born in a hospital in Franklin, only a few miles from where he was killed."
In 1956, Ruppelt wrote that the Mantell crash was one of three "classic" UFO cases in 1948 that would help to define the UFO phenomenon in the public mind, and would help convince some Air Force intelligence specialists that UFOs were a "real", physical phenomenon. The other two "classic" sightings in 1948 were the Chiles-Whitted UFO encounter and the Gorman dogfight.
7 JANUARY 1959
U.S. RECOGNIZES CASTRO REGIME. Just six days after the fall of the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship in Cuba, U.S. officials recognize the new provisional government of the island nation. Despite fears that Fidel Castro, whose rebel army helped to overthrow Batista, might have communist leanings, the U.S. government believed that it could work with the new regime and protect American interests in Cuba.
The fall of the pro-American government of Batista was cause for grave concern among U.S. officials. The new government, temporarily headed by provisional president Manuel Urrutia, initially seemed chilly toward U.S. diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador Earl E. T. Smith. Smith, in particular, was wary of the politics of the new regime.
He and other Americans in Cuba were suspicious of the motives and goals of the charismatic rebel leader Fidel Castro. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles overrode Smith’s concerns. The secretary counseled President Dwight D. Eisenhower to recognize the Urrutia government, since it seemed to be “free from Communist taint” and interested in “friendly relations with the United States.”
Dulles and other U.S. officials may have viewed recognition of the new Cuban government as a way to forestall the ascension to power of more radical elements in the Cuban revolution. In addition, several other nations, including a number of Latin American countries, had already extended recognition.
Despite this promising beginning, relations between Cuba and the United States almost immediately deteriorated. U.S. officials realized that Castro, who was sworn in as the premier of Cuba in February 1959, wielded the real power in Cuba. His policies concerning the nationalization of American-owned properties and closer economic and political relations with communist countries convinced U.S. officials that Castro’s regime needed to be removed.
Less than two years later, the United States severed diplomatic relations, and in April 1961, unleashed a disastrous–and ineffectual–attack by Cuban exile forces against the Castro government (the Bay of Pigs invasion).
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