What might a US-Japanese war look like without a war in Europe?

After the end of WW1 American planners generally viewed a war with Japan to be somewhere on the horizon. Of course, I'm assuming they didn't see it coinciding with a massive war in Europe. So, without a major war breaking out in Europe (let's just say Weimar Germany somehow survives and gets most of its claims without war -- maybe a small war with Poland, but nothing more), what are some ways in which you see Japan and the US going to war? I don't think Japan would be so bold as to attack Indochina or Indonesia without France and the Netherlands falling respectively. So without OTLs path, what other avenues exist?

As an aside, in the event of war would the US still aim for unconditional surrender and occupation without an event as drastic as Pearl Harbor?
 
In any case, Japan will lose. How much Japan loses depends on the way the war is initiated on Japan's side, and how determined the US is to win/Japan is to stand to the end. If Japan still attacks Western colonies to acquire oil after they get their supplies cut, perhaps because of their actions in China, then you can expect the war to go more or less as OTL.
 
America and presumably its allies will be able to free up resources that were otherwise needed for Europe in OTL. It would still be bloody, but possibly shorter as a result. You might also have Russia getting involved earlier (in OTL they didn't declare war on Japan until 1945 as they had to fight the Germans).
 
Japan could win, by attaining a fair settlement.

Since the 1850's, the US and Japan only clashed when their policies on China came into disagreement. The US learnt from the economic difficulties of the late 1800's that it needed access to global markets so sell it's excess production. This was underpinned by a proper navy and China was seen as a potential market and the US Open Door policy. From Japan's perspective, it resented the US's ability to impose it's will and policies on Asia with next to no risks. It couldn't see itself competing in China against US market dominance.

WW1 showed Japan that total war meant total annihilation and they worked at a emergency command economy as a defence even running a week long trail in the late 20's. Japan signed up to the 9 and 5 Power pacts that were underpinned by the US dollar only to have that collapse in the late 1920's. Even the architect of the agreements, Charles Evan Hughes said that the good work of the treaty was undone as early as 1924 with the US exclusion acts.

With regards to Plan Orange (it dated from before WW1), as time drew on, US planners doubted the American people's commitment in blood and treasure to a long duration war. It would take 3 years to build the fleet to the necessary size to support operations on the far side of the Pacific. For doing a stint in planning, it risked your career to suggest the heresy of coalition warfare. In a purely US-Japan war the rest of the world would have to sit back and let the US starve millions through a naval blockade. It's the same template like the North did with the Confederate states but would probably have to have a stoked up racial aspect to carry it through to a brutal conclusion that would shock the world, and probably alot of Americans too.
 

DougM

Donor
Japan would get Curb Stomped.

First off with the war in Europe even Japan is not insane enough to try what it did and head south, If you tgink about it what Japan did in 1941 would see Great Britain/The British Commonwealth , France , and the Netherlands and if course the USA ALL declair war on Japan. Even Japan in WW2 was not THAT insane. And if the US embargos them they still face the issues that caused them to go south and that caused the was with the US. Without going south they dint have ANY reason to attack the US and thus i realky dont think it would hapoen. That being said.

They (Japan) are still going to have the military issues (assuming they are insane and start a war). So being as they would have the same needs (such as oil) and the same military issues the reality is you probably DO get Peril Harbor. If so then the US still goes in its crusade and Japan is NOT getting a negotiated peace treaty.

The one plus(for Japan) is that with no war in Europe then the US naval build up and the military industrial build up doesxnot get the jump start.
One HUGE downside is that nothing is differting US attention. And on Dec 8th (or its equivalent) will see ythe entire US navy heading into the Pacific.
So ultimately these two kind of form a wash (short term.). Ultimatly that the US is not distracted by Germany means that Japan is even more screwed.

As for the USSR i think it stays out permanently and just sits back with its popcorn. It has no reason to get involved. And a lot of reasons not to get involved.

Of Course there are going to be three pissed of European countires that are not occupied by Germany and this is going yo go baddly for Japan. And you CANT avoid that. As the only reason to expand the war is to go after the resources that are in the areas these three countries control.

The one HUGE variable is Manhatan. Without Germany ”the letter” is mit written and this may (or may not i could argure it either way) result in a delayed nuclear bomb. But odds are one way or the other, that the bomb is not ready when it is “time to Invade Japan”. If for no other reason then that odds are the Full attention if the US France and GB/the Commonwealth and anyone else Japan pisses iff the war is going yo go much worse (ultimtatly) for Japan.

I think this will be a much nastier war on a faster time frame. So when it comes to for the Home Islands you will have a very Hardened group of Wallies who will be VERY brutal.
This i think will result in a Japan that is going yo be BRUTALIZED. In a manor we did mot see in WW2. Think USSR invation of Germany but on a nastier scale (but i di think with less atrocities) And if Japan does some of the things they considered such as arming kids, using bio/gas using suicide bomber civilians etc then the West is really going yo go off the reservation and Japan will get decimated.
Post war I think that the rebuilding of Japan will not happen. This much harder war will i tgink result in much larger restrictions on Japan. Probably sees no help in rebuilding and a bigger hate for Jaapan after the war is over. In OTL Japan and its actions in WW2 are often lost/hidden behind Germany. (just look how many more WW2 movies are made in the past 50 years about Europe then the Pacific) So Japan is NOT going to be the economic power it was OTL.
And the damage will be greater. Much greater as the invasion WILL happen.
And on this group we will have a lit if threads about “what uf the Atomic bomb was available in time for use against Japan.

BTW i tgink the Emperor and all his ministers get Hung or shot. Especially if they use their idiotic plans to resist the invasion.

So this is going to be much much harder on Japan.
 

raharris1973

Gone Fishin'
Disagree with above poster about Soviets having no reason to get involved. Soviets could have plenty of reasons to get involved. In generic circumstances, simple revenge for the defeat of 1905 and recovery of positions, interests and territories lost then. If the US-Japanese war is an outgrowth of a Sino-Japanese war pretty similar to the Sino-Japanese war of OTL, the Soviet Union was also a backer of China. Coming in near the end once Japan has been gravely weakened seems like an attractive option. It may even seem *necessary* to prevent a western power like the US, or a China with hands-on US support and augmentation from increasing its military presence and influence too uncomfortably close to the Soviet Union's border in northeast Asia.

Also, if the situation in Europe is relatively benign (Weimar Germany is somewhat friendly, Poland is perhaps a bit of a menace, but far smaller, but also perhaps humbled and weakened), all the more reason why the Soviets joining the dogpile on top of Japan should not be too risky.

Is there going to be a big fear in Moscow of dangerously offending Washington through uninvited participation?
 

DougM

Donor
The USSR is not going to jump in and fight on Behalf of GB/France and the US unless there is something in it for them. Revenge for a war fought by the previous regime is not enough to get them to join in. And frankly with out the build up WW2 gave them they are not in a good way to fight. Also without WW2 it is entirely possible that Stalin purged the hell out of the USSR and or its military and or its industry (yet again)

They may consider jumping in at the end if they see some advantage to be wrong out at a low cost. But they are probably doing a LOT less in this time.ine then in the OTL.
It is to hard to get involved and to easy to sit back and watch the decadent capitalists kill each other.

And that assumes you get a war between Japan and the US/Europe. Which i highly doubt you do. You still cant aboid the issue that even Japan is not crazy enough yo attack everyone at once. And Frankly the US does not have what Japan needs. So only sheer desperation will result in Japan attacking the US. You may be a little more likly for them to attack the USSR but i dont thunk in the. late 30s anyone thought far east Rusdia had the resources Japan needed. Attacking South East Asia is MUCH more likly but,,, brings back in EVERYONE as the USA will get drawn in so Japan pretty much has to do a Peril Harbor for the same reasons it did it OTL but now even more so as the RN is not fighting Germany.

No i just cant see the war escalating without the “distraction” of Germany/the war in Europe. The war in Europe was started because Germanywas stupid enough to believe (like most bullies) that it could kerp pushing France and GB around until they pushed them one time to much. And their victim swung back.
The War with Italy was Italy looking at how “easy” Germany smashed France and chased iff England and saying…. I want a piece of that pie and those guys are push overs.
The War against the USSR was a combination of Crazy goals ny Hittler and his utter arrogance in believing that he had scared England into submission. (yet another bully belief)
Meanwhile Japan was involved in a war in a chunk of the world that Frankly most Europeans could not care about assuming they could find it on a globe. (assumng they remember the other half the Globe even exists). And i am lumping the US into “Europe”. here
So they got away with abusing the neighbors until they pushed it to far and the world in general (and the US in particular) had to take notice. And thus the embargo.
That put Japan in a desperate state. But the distraction of the European war was such that it gave Japan an opening in which the Dutch, and French were all but out of it and which would see GB much more concerned with mater closer to home. Heck even the US couldnt bring bring its Atlantic based resources to the Pacific due to the naval sutuation in the Atlantic and elswhere. And the USSR was in a fight for its life in Europe so they are not getting involved. Basicly Japan saw a great opritunity to pile on while everyone was distracted to a greater or lesser degree.
So it was a once in a lifetime chance for Japan to make a play.

The Issue is. the OP has removed 100% of this. Like many PODs it changes SO much that the situation as we had it no longer exists. Without a distracted Europe the pressure against Japan starts years earlier and is more supported or probably driven by GB and Europe as they are (and were) concerned anout Japans action on mainland Asia in OTL but were more concerned with Germany/Italy and the Spanish civil war.
So without that the rest of the world is going yo Give Japan a harder time sooner.

If Japan was foolish enough yo start a war against EVERYONE then they will have a number if victories right up to the point that the rest of the world overpowers them by shear numbers.

Now if you somehow get a US vs Japan war…. The same thing happens to Japan but it takes more time then Japan vs the world. And ultimatly reads like a character of WW2 in the Pacific. But much harsher for reasons stated in other posts.

But i still contend this is a POD that does mot happen. Without the distraction of Germany/war in Europe I just dont think even Japan is crazy enough to start this war.
 
So without OTLs path, what other avenues exist?
Starting a war in china shouldn't be to hard. No big war in europe = no nazi germany. The soviets will be the big bad guys in this scenario. This could lead to an intresting US+ Republic of China vs Japan vs USSR+ Chinese Communists war.
 
Starting a war in china shouldn't be to hard. No big war in europe = no nazi germany. The soviets will be the big bad guys in this scenario. This could lead to an intresting US+ Republic of China vs Japan vs USSR+ Chinese Communists war.
Well Japan had already invaded China pre 1939 so getting a China - Japan war is no issue

And we were already making moves against Japan over that (diplomatic furrowed brows, and sanctions)

We don't like the USSR much but in this context they're not going to be the big bad guys in this situation. Especially if the Japanese poke the USSR across the Manchurian border as that makes Soviet response more internationally reasonable.

Thing is I can't see the US getting directly military involved against Japan on behalf of China. But what I can see is both the USSR and the US funding different factions in China i.e the US and the USSR betting on their chosen factions vs Japan and that ending up as a competition over post war influence in the area,

Could this lead to the Japanese doing something foolish against the Americans? Maybe, and the sanctions are effecting them anyway so they are already antagonistic towards the US.

But yeah in an actual conflict especially one initiated by Japan, the US curb stomps Japan. and I think Japan's political resistance to any thing that looks like backing down or retreating is only going to make the end position for them worse.
 
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If it's a proxy war in/for China where the US initially sends money & advisers then later ground troops - think Vietnam without the draft & with the pre-WW2 sized US army i.e. smaller than Belgium's. Then the US forces aren't going to make much difference although US economic sanctions would have similar effects to those enacted post Indochina in OTL. Which may lead to an expansion of the war as the Japanese feel time is running out economically and they need a knockout blow against the US.
 

raharris1973

Gone Fishin'
If it's a proxy war in/for China where the US initially sends money & advisers then later ground troops - think Vietnam without the draft & with the pre-WW2 sized US army i.e. smaller than Belgium's. Then the US forces aren't going to make much difference although US economic sanctions would have similar effects to those enacted post Indochina in OTL. Which may lead to an expansion of the war as the Japanese feel time is running out economically and they need a knockout blow against the US.
Problem is, despite US sanctions on Japan angering Japan, an attack on the US is not a direct answer that fixes the problem caused by sanctions. The direct answer that fixes the problem caused by sanctions is taking over the Dutch East Indies and Malaya (and maybe Burma) for their oil. The attack on the US just provides indirect flank protection for this move. But this broad offensive on three countries, or two countries and an Empire, is wildly ambitious, fantastically so, especially when *none* of them are distracted by a European war.

I guess a sequence of US sanctions and then Japan attacking the US (and not others) isn't *impossible*. The Japanese could come up with other rationalizations. Fear of eventual US attack, trying to seize strategic hostages to bargain for non-interference with the China issue, or something else.
 
If it's a proxy war in/for China where the US initially sends money & advisers then later ground troops - think Vietnam without the draft & with the pre-WW2 sized US army i.e. smaller than Belgium's.

ATL US army should be different.
Well Japan had already invaded China pre 1939 so getting a China - Japan war is no issue

And we were already making moves against Japan over that (diplomatic furrowed brows, and sanctions)

We don't like the USSR much but in this context they're not going to be the big bad guys in this situation. Especially if the Japanese poke the USSR across the Manchurian border as that makes Soviet response more internationally reasonable.

Depends on the PoD. The soviets will be the big bad guys if they win the soviet-polish war in 1920. They also fought the republic of china in our timeline in 1929.
Weimar germany is not going to survive if the great depression is as bad as OTL. The US is also in a better shape in this scenario. -> more support for china -> more incidents with japan.
 
ATL US army should be different.


Depends on the PoD. The soviets will be the big bad guys if they win the soviet-polish war in 1920. They also fought the republic of china in our timeline in 1929.
Weimar germany is not going to survive if the great depression is as bad as OTL. The US is also in a better shape in this scenario. -> more support for china -> more incidents with japan.
well that true enough but I was only really going in to the OP, earlier POD that effect other things will change stuff
 
Assuming German behaves like a normal country ( not hard they do most of the time) there will be a slow arming up of Europe in response to various issues like Italian adventurism. The USSR in 1938 is basically 98 rifle 11 Cav divisions with experimentation on tank and airborne formations with a plan to expand a lot to 173 rifle divs in1938, bit that's in response to German rearmament. So not the Big Bad.

Assuming the US Japanese war kicks off in December 1941 in response to a US ultimatum to withdraw from China ( why they do this who knows but they did) a few things the US does not get the two ocean navy act in 1940 so probably CV9 10 11 as OTL and commissioned on or about the first 6 months of 43 ( maybe a bit quicker for the latter two) but the rest not until very LATE in 1944. the US aircraft and armament industry do not get the boosts from European orders from say 37 onwards, they will get some, not a lot though. No preparedness or significant expansion of the Army ground forces, maybe some for the AAC but in small numbers with little to no combat feedback. The Tech transfer includes the basic designs for Liberty ships and LST - the US can do this on their own but slightly later as the initial orders for Liberties are British ( and so tooling dependent on those orders. )

The most assistance the US would get from Britain ( plus Empire and Commonwealth) France and DEI is benevolent neutrality. think what the US did in the Atlantic. and maybe intelligence cooperation. The Japanese as long as they had money would be able to buy raw materiel from them and the Japanese do have money and a substantial merchant marine which enables them to export and import. Around 30% of trade within the British far eat was carried in Japanese ships. A US blockade has to be effective to be honoured. No doubt they would also point out that this is no different to the US position on the Spanish civil war and would be entirely different if the US was a League of Nations member.

Without British ( etc) involvement any Japanese attack and subsequent defence does not have to account for invading Malaya the DEI French Indo China and subsequent operations in New Guinea and the Solomons so those Japanese forces are now available for China or the Defence of the Mandates. Which is what the IJN had planned their strategy around.

A US Japanese war starts with Pearl Harbour which cripples the USN for a while, as there are more forces available assume that Wake happens on attempt one and the PI may move a little faster. MacArthur can't obviously escape to Australia and if he does he gets repatriated to the US, which would be fun politically. The US has maybe One Division ( 1sr Marines) available in W1-3 42 and probably a second for offensive purposes in Q2-3) but limited shipping. There is a maths here. For Guadalcanal they can Stage from NZ Espiritu Santu ( anglo french) about 600 miles away. Tarawa - Pearl 2,400 so to do that and sustain the invasion force needs enough shipping which has to be built.

OTL that was November 43, TTL more like November 44.

So the US can Curbstomp Japan but not until late 44 with not too much happening until then.
 
The most assistance the US would get from Britain ( plus Empire and Commonwealth) France and DEI is benevolent neutrality. think what the US did in the Atlantic. and maybe intelligence cooperation. The Japanese as long as they had money would be able to buy raw materiel from them and the Japanese do have money and a substantial merchant marine which enables them to export and import. Around 30% of trade within the British far eat was carried in Japanese ships. A US blockade has to be effective to be honoured. No doubt they would also point out that this is no different to the US position on the Spanish civil war and would be entirely different if the US was a League of Nations member.

Im unsure thats possible. The core of the Embargo Acts was freezing Japanese accounts in the US banks, which was something of a nuclear option in economic terms. Japan had largely moved out of the British banking system in the previous two decade in a effort to gain some independence. How practical it is to transfer the balances to Londons banks & expand credit there I cant say.

OTL Japans port traffic of 1940 was serviced by 11,000,000 GRT of cargo ships. Japan then had just short of six million tons of cargo ships under its flag, the balance being other nations. (From Ellis 'Brute Force') OTL losing the other 5-6 million tons shipping capacity crippled Japan from the start of the embargoes. Exactly how that balance in foreign flagged service is affected by a US/Japan war is a important question. The US would have serious difficulty enforcing a blockade at sea for over a year. The economic model in the British Navigation Certification system my be useful. Whatever the case foreign flagged ships can still get in & out of Japan for a year or more, but the cost/prices will rise significantly. As OTL Japan has a incentive to trade off warship construction for new cargo ships it can operate at lower prices than Greek, Norwegian, or British ships. OTL Japan built between six and eight million tons cargo ships 1940-1944, all of which was sunk 1943-45.

To get to a effective Naval & Economic blockade of Japan would likely require 18+ months for the US.
 
A US Japanese war starts with Pearl Harbour which cripples the USN for a while, as there are more forces available assume that Wake happens on attempt one and the PI may move a little faster. MacArthur can't obviously escape to Australia and if he does he gets repatriated to the US, which would be fun politically. The US has maybe One Division ( 1sr Marines) available in W1-3 42 and probably a second for offensive purposes in Q2-3) but limited shipping. There is a maths here. For Guadalcanal they can Stage from NZ Espiritu Santu ( anglo french) about 600 miles away. Tarawa - Pearl 2,400 so to do that and sustain the invasion force needs enough shipping which has to be built.

The only thing I have seen on mobilization for War Plan ORANGE is a claim the Army intended to have 50,000 soldiers ready for overseas service in six months and 100,000 in twelve. No indication if that included the entire service support establishment. The Marines were limited by Navy Dept budgets to two standing combined arms brigades in the 1930s & the ability to stand up a third out of active service and reservists, tho it may have been under equipped. So technically a division equivalent. Actually operating a 'division' would not be desirable until USMC strength reached 40,000 or more. Anyway I'd interpret all that as the equivalent of three divisions operational at the twelve month mark. There'd be some supplementary ground and air forces like coast artillery in Hawaii & understrength/undertrained Regular Army & National Guard formation in the US.
 
Im unsure thats possible. The core of the Embargo Acts was freezing Japanese accounts in the US banks, which was something of a nuclear option in economic terms. Japan had largely moved out of the British banking system in the previous two decade in a effort to gain some independence. How practical it is to transfer the balances to Londons banks & expand credit there I cant say.

OTL Japans port traffic of 1940 was serviced by 11,000,000 GRT of cargo ships. Japan then had just short of six million tons of cargo ships under its flag, the balance being other nations. (From Ellis 'Brute Force') OTL losing the other 5-6 million tons shipping capacity crippled Japan from the start of the embargoes. Exactly how that balance in foreign flagged service is affected by a US/Japan war is a important question. The US would have serious difficulty enforcing a blockade at sea for over a year. The economic model in the British Navigation Certification system my be useful. Whatever the case foreign flagged ships can still get in & out of Japan for a year or more, but the cost/prices will rise significantly. As OTL Japan has a incentive to trade off warship construction for new cargo ships it can operate at lower prices than Greek, Norwegian, or British ships. OTL Japan built between six and eight million tons cargo ships 1940-1944, all of which was sunk 1943-45.

To get to a effective Naval & Economic blockade of Japan would likely require 18+ months for the US.

Its really hard to make a judgement. Unless you have access to Foreign Affairs which has an article outlining In 1941 freezing Japanese USD accounts means only freezing the physical USD in US control so what's in the safe of a US based account holder, bearing in mid that a US USD holder with funds on account in a US based Japanese bank may be exempt and actual trade may be with letters of credit based on the holdings held in Japan itself. Its obviously easier to send a Brinks truck down Wall St to move the money for Japan rather than ship it around the world. ( and even easier to make a ledger entry and keep the USD in a safe at Wells Fargo or Barclays). It also is an asset not a currency value, so the Sumitomo branch building has an asset value but no meaning.

What probably happens is the physical USD reserves are in the Bank of Japan in Tokyo with lesser holdings in other places and lines of credit are extended locally by say Goldman Sachs on the basis that the letter of credit from them to Japan Oil Imports Inc from them is good and they then use that to pay Standard. If GMS is no longer allowed to do that the USD are unaffected and Barings are asked to extend a line so JOIC can buy from Shell.

Any balances not in the US are unaffected and its relatively easy to transfer the line of credit to London, Calcutta, Paris or Frankfurt for that matter. The Banks would have some facilities and contacts particularly in Calcutta for normal business. What becomes harder is to then buy stuff in the US.

I am slightly dubious about the port traffic number I think the definition is sailings per time so a 10Kt ship doing two trips might count at either 20Kt Port traffic or 40 Kt if you count coming AND going. The Japanese estimate was they had 6m t of shipping, needed 3m t for commercial needs and 4m t for the OTL military needs ( or vice versa) which was doable short term. But the bulk of the military movements would have been to DEI, Malaya and the Australian Axis ( PNG, Solomons and Rabaul) which would include substantial volumes for establishing Rabaul) TTL the demand is much less as the bases were established in the 30s.

Its going to be hard for Japan but as long as they have goods to trade and the main ones are silk and fabrics which are to SE Asia they have an economy. OTL ofc the US action was mirrored by the UK and DEI ( and France) TTL thats not automatic at all.

The only thing I have seen on mobilization for War Plan ORANGE is a claim the Army intended to have 50,000 soldiers ready for overseas service in six months and 100,000 in twelve. No indication if that included the entire service support establishment. The Marines were limited by Navy Dept budgets to two standing combined arms brigades in the 1930s & the ability to stand up a third out of active service and reservists, tho it may have been under equipped. So technically a division equivalent. Actually operating a 'division' would not be desirable until USMC strength reached 40,000 or more. Anyway I'd interpret all that as the equivalent of three divisions operational at the twelve month mark. There'd be some supplementary ground and air forces like coast artillery in Hawaii & understrength/undertrained Regular Army & National Guard formation in the US.

Thats feasible but not very relevant. The US army as at 1939 was 175k with 3 full strength divisions ( not exercised as such) and one Cav div plus non divisional and National Guard Units. I think the number includes AAC. I would expect some increase but absent conscription not very much ( OTL it was 1.4m in 1940) with most of the money going on new Aircraft.

The Marines could probably stand up a division in early 43 ( earlier if pushed) the Army is going to have issues. They don't need to mechanise as much but they dont have nearly two years to prepare for mobilisation establish training facilities, induct troops and do the whole mobilisation thing. That takes everyone about two years. So starting from 44 yes. Before that some things will be available but target 1 will not be an island in fighter ferry range of a protected base with a functional air warning system provided by the Aussie coastwatchers. Its going to an Island (Makin, Tarawa wherever) a couple of thousand miles from your forward base and in range of air attack with no practical warning by the IJN. The US can probably take it but to hold it they have run convoys on fairly predictable routes in low fuel states at the wrong end just to provide water for the garrison with the last part being in range of IJN land based air and without Midway an equal of superior carrier force able to ambush you until the main tranche of Essex come out in late 44, well in time for Dewey to claim the credit for final Victory, unless FDR capitulates.

The US blockade is not really feasible until you establish a patrol line from Pearl or Midway (Australia being Neutral) and distinguish between trade with Japan and any other trade - that tend to push the patrol line North but there re lot of neutrals around.
 
the US can do this on their own but slightly later as the initial orders for Liberties are British ( and so tooling dependent on those orders. )
Without German U-Boats, there is no shortage of Merchant Hulls, and no need for fast building replacements.
IJN saved their torpedoes for more 'worthy' targets.
 
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