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June 21st, 2004

Gunnery Sergeant F. M. Hooper, from Brooklyn, New York, joined the Corps in 1948. He served as a military policeman both shipboard and in Korea and Japan. In Vietnam, he served in an aviation supply unit and participated in the Tet Offensive campaign. He retired in 1971 and resides in Wilmington, North Carolina.

INTERVIEWER: What I'd like to do to sort of start this off here is have you, if you would please. (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) Okay if you would please, repeat your name and spell your name and give me today's date, just for the record?

MR. HOOPER: Okay my name is Gunnery Sergeant FM Hooper Junior. Today is June the 21st, 2004.

INTERVIEWER: Thank you very much Mr. Hooper, now you know what we're trying to do is get as many memories about the Montford Point experience. The entire experience as we can from the people who lived that experience. So I'd like you to tell me a little bit about your background, before you joined the Marines. Tell me where you were from, tell me about your family, who your mom and dad were.

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) Or, or what that family situation was like, did you have brothers and sisters, maybe a little bit about your work, uh, before you went into the Marines, and what level of education you, you had before you went into the Marines?

MR. HOOPER: I was raised in Brooklyn, New York, my mother and father (COUGH) migrated from the state of North Carolina and four children, myself, I am the oldest, and I have one brother and two sisters. I'm a graduate of Boy's High School, Brooklyn, New York. I played, I like to play in the streets of Brooklyn we played soldier, cowboys and Indians, I attended movies, and I loved to watch Marine Corps movie, especially during World War II.

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) And during the war I observed the battleship U.S.S. North Carolina being constructed, as well as U.S. Marines guarding the ship at the Brooklyn Navy yard.

INTERVIEWER: Could you tell me what your mother and father did what their occupations were?

MR. HOOPER: My mother was a former school teacher, but she, at the time raising four children she was just a housewife. My father was a laborer, he did work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard also during World War II.

INTERVIEWER: Um, now did you work in Brooklyn after you got out of high school, or did, tell me a little bit about what you did before you graduated?

MR. HOOPER: Well you mean, before while I was in school I worked part times jobs and also summer jobs in the, uh, garment section of Manhattan. As well as, uh, stores, downtown in Brooklyn, grocery stores, and I did a lot of work on my own. I worked in local candy stores and selling newspapers, did a lot of odd jobs, you know, so, just went around the city and tried to, uh, like people's homes.

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) I used to go in and the lady would ask me to, uh, to do some windows for her, which I did.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, well I'd like to ask you this, I want you to tell me when you joined the Marines, if you can remember the year in which you joined the Marines. And I want you to tell me why you decided you wanted to join the Marine Corps, this was after the Second World War, so tell me why you decided you wanted to go in?

MR. HOOPER: Uh, in 1948 I, uh, joined the Marine Corps because, uh, a recruiter had already visited me and I got a lot of pamphlets through the school system. And, uh, I went to the recruiting station and my heart really was open to the Marine Corps because of the sight of, looking at Marines. I just, the red, white and blue just seemed to open my heart, so I just joined the Marine Corps. I said this is the branch of service I want to go into.

INTERVIEWER: So you, you liked that dress blue uniform?

MR. HOOPER: Yes I did love it.

INTERVIEWER: Now what was it you liked?

MR. HOOPER: The colors, the red, white and blue and it was sort of a big advertisement for my heart and my eyes.

INTERVIEWER: Now what, what was red, white and blue that you really liked?

MR. HOOPER: The uniform of the Marines. (TECHNICAL)

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) The dress blue uniform right. (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: Did the recruiter when he talked with you answer me back like I say the recruiter said this or the recruiter said that, or did say this or that. Did the recruiter say anything about racial divisions in the Marine Corps. Or, or the fact that you would be trained at a separate facility. What, what did the recruiter day about the Marine Corps, in regards to race if, if anything?

MR. HOOPER: There wasn't anything stated to me in those terms as far as racial segregation in, in the military at that time. And for serving, so, I was unaware of anything and I, because raised in New York, uh, everything mostly was integration anyway.

INTERVIEWER: Um, did you know when joining the Marine Corps that Marines had not been allowed to join the Corps before 1942. Did you have any awareness of the racial history of the Marine Corps?

MR. HOOPER: When I joined the Marine Corps I was not informed of any, uh, differences or segregation or on racial difference whatsoever. I was unaware of anything, uh, as far as segregation goes.

INTERVIEWER: So when you joined the Corps you just thought you were joining the regular Marine Corps, right?

MR. HOOPER: I, enlisted to be a Marine and, uh, that's the main purpose why I joined the Marine Corps. I did not believe or think of anything other than, then the difference of the color of our skin or anything like that. I just wanted to be a U.S. Marine.

INTERVIEWER: Um, now you grew up in the north as you said, you grew up in the north, you grew up in an integrated society. Obviously when you came south to Montford Point you came into a segregated society. Uh, would you tell us just a little bit about your first trip south. And, um, how that impressed you what you remember about it, uh, how you felt about it. I'd like you to be as open as you possibly can about your first trip.

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) And tell me how you came, did you come by train, by bus, how did you get to Montford Point. Just tell me, just in your own words?

MR. HOOPER: Okay the morning after we were sworn in there was nine (STAMMERS) enlisted men and we were all enlisted the same time, the same morning. And, uh, of those nine two of us were Black. And, uh, after breakfast we went to, uh, we boarded a van and we rode over to the ferry. And we boarded a ferry went across the Hudson River and boarded a train, uh, in New Jersey, and we road the Erie Railroad, which took us to Warsaw, North Carolina.

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) It took us as far as, we, we rode as far D.C., all of us together, there's seven Whites and the two Blacks, I was one of the Blacks, and got in Washington D.C., we met up with another Black man from, uh, Massachusetts. And, after we got our tickets, checked in at the station in Washington. And they, at that time it was when they were telling us when we board the train.

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) We would board the train again so we went back to the station, uh, we boarded the train and I did not see the White Marines since the, uh, we, uh, in the Pullman and also in the dining cars is where I first noticed segregation. Because there were curtains dividing the dining cars as well as the Pullman. And arriving at Warsaw, North Carolina, the pull, they woke us up, and, uh, we got off the train.

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) Wee hours of the morning, dark, and, uh, we stood on the corner waiting for the bus to come. And finally we board the bus which took us to Jacksonville, North Carolina. And in Jacksonville we arrived there.

INTERVIEWER: Can I stop you just a minute, when you're boarding the bus were there Black and White Marines there or was this just the Black contingents?

MR. HOOPER: At the morning we got aboard the bus it was just three of us Black Marines, but there was other White civilians who were standing, a few of them on the corner, to, to board the bus along with us and they were going in the same direction.

INTERVIEWER: When you got on the bus did you think about where you had to sit on the bus?

MR. HOOPER: Well I did, uh, we did, uh, move to the rear of the bus because, uh, we've heard of segregation but I, we never did witness it. So we moved to the rear of the bus, and we sat quietly until the bus arrived in Jacksonville.

INTERVIEWER: Now you, were you hungry by this time?

MR. HOOPER: Yes we were quite hungry and we, uh, stopped, when the bus stopped in, uh, Jacksonville we had some meal tickets and we went to a, the restaurant there adjacent to the bus station. And we were refused, uh, to be, uh, to getting breakfast, they said our meal tickets could not be accepted.

INTERVIEWER: Were you told any reason why they couldn't take your meal tickets?

MR. HOOPER: They did not say any reason they just said we cannot accept these meal tickets. So we went and purchased breakfast, paid cash at a Black restaurant, which was a little further down the street there in Jacksonville.

INTERVIEWER: Um, so how did you get from Jacksonville to Montford Point?

MR. HOOPER: At the time the bus was ready to depart the (STAMMERS) the Trail Way bus we boarded the Trail Way bus, but we still had military, uh, vouchers and, and tickets. So we rode the bus from, uh, Jacksonville to Camp Lejeune. And we arrived, uh, at Hadnot Point the bus driver let us off right in front of building one. And we departed, and, uh, he carried and turned our record books over to the first sergeant.

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) Who met us at the front door of building one and at that time he had told us to go to the rear of the building and wait for a truck to carry us to the training area, which we did.

INTERVIEWER: Now the training area was Montford Point, is that correct?

MR. HOOPER: The training area was Montford Point and about an hour later a truck did arrive and we boarded the truck, we entered the truck, there's three of us, and, uh, the truck proceeded on to Montford Point, which was about, I presume about five miles from Hadnot Point. And, uh, went through the gate at Montford Point and the truck stopped at the Administration Building and we got off the truck and went inside the administration building.

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) And that's when I met the, uh, Sergeant Major who at that time was, uh, sergeant Major, (STAMMERS) Hashmark Johnson.

INTERVIEWER: Now did you know, I'd like you to talk a little bit about this, just how do you want to answer this question. Did you know that you were gonna end up in a segregated training facility in, in, uh, Montford Point, in, North Carolina?

MR. HOOPER: Well the morning that I left home it was still, according to the literature I got, uh, I was going to Parris Island. The, I did not ever see anything stating, uh, segregation for training. I didn't realize it until I, we were sworn in and that's when we were informed in the recruiting station. So, but when I got to Montford Point I knew at that time what was beginning to feel what was happening.

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) So, then from the, uh, from the Administration Building Hashmark Johnson sent us over, had us escorted by another marine to the training area. Where we met the first sergeant, Sergeant Major Edgar Huff, and he appointed us to a training platoon. And that day on was the start of my military training in the Marine Corps.

INTERVIEWER: All right now I'd like you to tell me a little bit about, uh, your basic training, and, and more than the rigors of the training. I would like you to comment on the rigors on whether you start you got a rigorous professional training or not. But I'd also like you to comment secondly on what did it feel like, what as the camaraderie like with your fellow, uh, Black Marines? Just, just how did it feel.

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) So first tell me about the rigors of training, whether you thought it was really rigorous, really professional. And then comment more on the, the just being with the other guys in, in that training, uh, exercise?

MR. HOOPER: Okay well the beginning of my training, uh, at Montford Point I had begin to really begin to enjoy being a Marine. When they first issued all our training gear, 782 gear which we call it. Pack and cartridge belt and all that, and a new rifle, and, uh, I was taught by another Marine how to, uh, clean the rifle. How to tear it down and reassemble it and everything, and I learned to do that, that same evening.

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) And, uh, of course the, the hours of the training is what got to me for awhile because we were already tired and then reveille went early that next morning about 4:30. We were up and, uh, marching in fact the marching part is what I, I kind of enjoyed because I was already learning to march from being in the boy scouts. Because I had other assistant scout master was a former, uh, Army sergeant.

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) So, uh, he taught us drill mostly, 'cause I did even when I was in the boy scouts going back some, I marched some in parades as well, so. But the, uh, the training itself was kind of rugged, the DI's seemed to stayed on us continuously, we had to run everywhere we went and salute everybody whether they were, uh, officers or not all the drill instructors. All the other Marines that were already you know not in basic training.

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) Everybody we had to salute them, and, and we had to run on the double continuously throughout our training, until the final days of training at Montford Point.

INTERVIEWER: Let me ask you a question and I'd like you answer this and again remember you're talking to the camera, not to, I need you to say these things out loud. Um, when you got there, you got there in '48 you mentioned this, this was '48 next to the last year. Um, the entire D.I. Corps was White. All the White GIs were gone I assume by that time is that correct, as far as you know? (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) So there were White officers there and the question I'm really asking is in your training, your basic training, while you were in boot camp did you really foresee any racial hostilities in the camp. Anything that you saw as racial hostilities involving the White officers vis-a-vis the White recruits, what was that process like, just give me, just anything you want to say?

MR. HOOPER: Well during when I was training at Montford Point, all the drill instructors were Black. The first sergeant was Black, the sergeant major was Black. The only White that I can remember seeing was, uh, a warrant officer and he was like over the, uh, training, uh, section. And there was a colonel, a lieutenant colonel in the Administration Building who worked with the sergeant major and he was white.

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) Those were the only two White officers that I saw at the time I was going through training and there was no racial, didn't see no racial hatred whatsoever amongst the, uh, from the White officers towards the Black enlisted men whatsoever.

INTERVIEWER: Um, now you get through boot camp you were glad to get through boot camp I assume. Do you want to comment on how you felt when you got through boot camp?

MR. HOOPER: Well the day, the day we (CLEARS THROAT) graduated from boot camp we were issued our emblems. Uh, the first sergeant passed our emblems out to us and then we put them on our caps. When you're going through training you don't wear an emblem. I can remember that much anyway, we were issued our emblems we put them on our caps and, and we were released at that time, and we, said, liberty call, which was an enjoyable sound for the ears.

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) So I knew that the nearest town was right down the road I originally came in from on a, on the bus. So we went to Jacksonville, and, uh, we had a pretty good time, in fact, uh, Jacksonville is a, is walking distance to Montford point. I think it was about three miles but, uh, after spit shining my shoes, you know, and we walked, and then most of the streets in Jacksonville, especially at that time you had to go across the tracks.

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) Which was in the Black neighborhood and of course on my (STAMMERS) spit shine shoes were all dusty and dirty at the time, when we returned, so.

INTERVIEWER: Why were you spit shining shoes dusty and dirty in, in the Black section of Jacksonville?

MR. HOOPER: Okay our shoes got dirty because we did not, at that time, the city of Jacksonville did not have paved streets or sidewalks. And ...

INTERVIEWER: Is that true of all of Jacksonville?

MR. HOOPER: Well the downtown, the town section of Jacksonville was paved, but, when we went across the tracks it was all dirt.

INTERVIEWER: Now obviously you're in a segregated town, in the segregated south, tell us what you remember about how that felt, what that was like, what you thought about that, that aspect of, of Jacksonville. And also tell us if you recall any, um, relationships or with Whites in the civilian world when you came out for liberty, what was that like. Do you remember anything about that?

MR. HOOPER: I can remember going on liberty in town there's the only Whites that we came in contact with was the Whites that may have boarded the bus that we, we left into town, and some of them maybe felt a little different towards the Black Marines with us on the bus because once we got aboard the bus and, uh, we didn't feel it though because it was all Marines that we had to, uh, sit anyplace other than where there was a seat.

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) But some of the, the White Marines, uh, I noticed gave us the impression that they didn't appreciate us taking up seats in front of them.

INTERVIEWER: You were still, were these civilian buses, how did you get back and forth from Jacksonville to, to, uh, to Montford Point?

MR. HOOPER: Okay traveling from Montford Point to Jacksonville was mostly, we either walked or it was by taxi. Okay, but, the bus part was like if you had to go over to Hadnot Point for something that you wanted to. But that's when all the, uh, the difference you saw between the, the other White Marines at that time.

INTERVIEWER: Could you go to Hadnot Point at any time or did you need a pass to go to Hadnot Point?

MR. HOOPER: We, we traveled to Hadnot Point whenever, uh, whenever we wanted to go over there at times, uh, no there was no pass needed at that time. We, you could catch the, uh, you could go into Jacksonville, catch a bus and ride into Mainside as we called it.

INTERVIEWER: Now as Mainside Hadnot Point?

MR. HOOPER: Right.

INTERVIEWER: Or Camp Lejeune.

MR. HOOPER: Camp Lejeune.

INTERVIEWER: What about troops from Camp Lejeune, did, did troops from Camp Lejeune ever come into Montford Point?

MR. HOOPER: I never did see any, uh, Marines from, uh, Mainside come into Montford Point, any White Marines, no. I left, we used to go from Montford Point to Mainside, yes that's when we were, would see more because um, see the had the, um, the hospital, the main hospital was on, is at Mainside, and, uh, the movie theater as well was larger. So we could visit there you know, but, even though the duties were at the Point.

INTERVIEWER: Well when you went to a movie theater at Mainside or Camp Hadnot was there any segregated seating or was the seating open to any Marine?

MR. HOOPER: The, the movies were not segregated on base at that time. I can't remember any time when they were it may have been in some places where somebody didn't want you to sit, uh, you know, where you wanted to sit. But I can't remember being told that I had to sit someplace else.

INTERVIEWER: Um, what did you do, what kind of MOS or occupation were you assigned when you left boot camp and went into the Corps?

MR. HOOPER: Originally I had several MOS's.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me what you got first after you left?

MR. HOOPER: The first MOS is one field I don't even like to, uh, talk about.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, okay.

MR. HOOPER: But the MOS's I do enjoy working in was military police and the supply field.

INTERVIEWER: Um, where did you first get into the military police unit, do you remember?

MR. HOOPER: In, uh, military police I received that occupation field, uh, it was during the Korean War, when the Armed Forces became integrated. The Marine Corps became integrated and I was able to go into the military police field, it was in 1950, '51 I forget. (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: Let me ask you this is off camera, okay, and I respect your not wanting to talk about it, do you want to talk about it or you don't want to talk about it. But I would like to know was this in the service area. Was this something like munitions handler. (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) Now Mr. Hooper, when you completed your training at Montford Point would you tell me if you were assigned, at that time as I understand the Marine Corps was still segregated. And you would have been assigned to a segregated unit at the completion of your training, is that correct, and if so, can you tell me just, just say that, can you say that back?

MR. HOOPER: After, uh, basic training, uh, all the Black Marines at Montford Point and we were assigned to segregated units.

INTERVIEWER: Now you served in segregated units for some time and then I'd, I'd like you to tell me, when and how that segregation broke down for you. What was your experience of moving into an integrated Marine Corps, just tell me whatever you want to tell me?

MR. HOOPER: When the Korean War broke out and the President had already signed the law into law that the Armed Forces would be integrated. When I reenlisted I went into an integrated unit and I became a military policeman, which is one MOS I really enjoyed.

INTERVIEWER: And how long did you serve as a military policeman, roughly?

MR. HOOPER: I went into the military police company shortly after the Korean War, after I reenlisted and I served until 1950, about four, about four or five years as an MP. And then I phased in, they phased out the military police company and I went into the supply field after that. And I stayed in the supply field until I retired.

INTERVIEWER: When did you retire?

MR. HOOPER: I retired in 1971.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, so you were in, you reenlisted immediately after the Korean War so you were not technically in the Korean Conflict, is that correct, o, could you comment on that?

MR. HOOPER: When the Korean War broke out I reenlisted and I was sent overseas for security forces Far East. And I served aboard ship and also in Japan, and while I served in Japan as military police I worked with the Japanese police and I learned to read and write Japanese fluently.

INTERVIEWER: Uh, can you tell me some of the other places you served, uh, in your career. For example you said you were in Japan, were you in any other Far Eastern Duty Station?

MR. HOOPER: Uh, serving in the Far East I served in Japan, I served in Okinawa and I served in, uh, Vietnam.

INTERVIEWER: Now tell me a little bit about your service in Vietnam were you still with supplies, just tell me about what you, what you did in Vietnam?

MR. HOOPER: I received orders to go to Vietnam and I went to Vietnam and I was attached to the Marine Corps Air Wing and I served in South Vietnam in the supply field doing aviation supply.

INTERVIEWER: Uh, could you tell me where you were serving in Vietnam?

MR. HOOPER: From I was dispatched from Danang, and I, we went, I went to Mag 12, Marine Corps Air Group number 12 which was stationed at, in South Vietnam, I'm trying to think.

INTERVIEWER: That's okay, I can, I can look that up, and then you came, did you come back to Danang at any time?

MR. HOOPER: Yes I went to the, uh, had to go to Danang for schooling, certain classes, I went to Danang for certain classes periodically. A one day, two day course.

INTERVIEWER: And how long did you serve in Vietnam total, do you recall?

MR. HOOPER: I, from the time I arrived in Vietnam to the time we, I was dispatched it was a total of exactly 13 months from the day I arrived to the day the plane left.

INTERVIEWER: You sound pretty specific about that, uh, were you glad to get, get out of Vietnam?

MR. HOOPER: From the time that I arrived in Vietnam all I could hear was shelling and planes taking off. And I didn't hardly sleep one night when I was able to rest it was only when the planes stopped flying.

INTERVIEWER: Um, so was that in about '68 or '69 can you remember what year?

MR. HOOPER: It was in 19 I arrived in Vietnam in 1967 and I did not leave until after the Tet Offensive '68.

INTERVIEWER: Did you recall what the Tet Offensive was like just for you, I mean was there an obvious increase in activity or what was it like?

MR. HOOPER: The day that we, uh, received word through communication that our base would be hit tonight we had made preparations all day and all that evening. And we even had skirmishes, outposts I was involved. And finally we got an all clear signal so we returned to our base camp area and at the time, just about the time I was ready to jump in a bunk and pull the cover up, all hell seemed to break loose.

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) And that was really, uh, the most outrageous time of combat because I jumped up grabbed my helmet and jumped into a bunker. Damaged my shoulder, but I survived, even though, uh, rockets and mortars and were falling all around, uh, I was able to survive.

INTERVIEWER: So Tet was not a good experience for you, um, and you left Vietnam right after Tet?

MR. HOOPER: Well the, the time that we departed, that I departed like I said was 13 months later, there, the offensive, the Tet Offensive it was over, but it was still a lot of fighting going on.

INTERVIEWER: Um, and then what was your duty from the time you left Vietnam you're getting pretty close to retirement, you retired in '71. What did you do the final days that you were in the, the Marine Corps?

MR. HOOPER: After, uh, I left Vietnam we, got stationed at Camp Lejeune, and I stayed there and I was still in the supply field, and I stayed there until I retired.

INTERVIEWER: Would you care to comment on the difference between the Camp Lejeune you saw in 1971 and the Camp Lejeune you saw in 1948 as a young man coming in there?

MR. HOOPER: In 1971 I arrived back, in 1968 after I left Vietnam I arrived at Camp Lejeune, Camp Lejeune was a different place altogether, in comparison to when it was when I first entered the Marine Corps and we had to go through training at Montford Point.

INTERVIEWER: Would you care to comment on why it was a different place, that's okay if you don't, just leave it at that, leave it at that, would you tell me what do you feel now about having been a Montford Point Marine. When you think back on it, you think that you really were part of something special, I mean just tell me how you feel?

MR. HOOPER: Well the way I feel about the, uh, Marine Corps as a whole, number one I really fell in love with the Marine Corps and I've always really loved the Marine Corps. But what I look at today is what the, uh, the world is all about because I feel as though what I had gone through is also history in our country to what had been going on for centuries in the United States.

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) And you look back in the sports world and you saw integration in baseball, and it's a game that I really love, and I look at myself and I say well, I came a long way. And segregation was in the military which I was unaware of, but today it's fully integrated which is enjoyable. I enjoyed my last days and I'm sure all young Marines today Black and White are enjoying the military service.

INTERVIEWER: So give me your absolute last word do you have any comment, anything you want to talk about, anything you want to say to an audience out there about your service as a Marine. Or any aspect of, of your career as a Marine or what the Corps means to you today, just whatever you'd like to say to wrap it up, all yours?

MR. HOOPER: The day that I first looked at my recruiter, God bless his soul if he's still here and I became a U.S. Marine and I taught any young man or lady the Marine Corps is really one of the best branches of the military service. (TECHNICAL)

MR. HOOPER: (CONTINUED) In, in Vietnam, I'm trying to remember the location.

INTERVIEWER: But you gave me the Mag 12.

MR. HOOPER: It was, it was South of Danang I can't remember the name of the, uh, city. (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: One question I'd like to ask you when you were in that attack at the Mag 12 base, um, you were not overrun, this was, this was mortar and small arms fire and just constant, but they, they never burst the perimeter and came onto the base is that correct?

MR. HOOPER: They were, we did not get overrun it was just, um, bombardment of mortar and rocket attacks. And maybe some small arm too, but mostly mortar and rocket, a few planes were destroyed and a few, uh, shelters that we had were destroyed. (TECHNICAL)

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