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 World War 1 at Sea


by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

USS San Diego, armoured cruiser, lost 19 July 1918 (US, click to enlarge)  


Naval War in Outline
US Navy Ship Names
Warship numbers and losses, 1914-18
Losses by year
Key to main characteristics including US Torpedo and Gun Calibres
Main ship types - Dreadnoughts to Submarines





The US Navy inflicted few losses on the German Navy - one definite U-boat plus others possibly mined in the huge North Sea barrage laid in part by the US Navy between Scotland and Norway. Also few major ships were lost to enemy action - one armoured cruiser and two destroyers. However the large and still expanding US Navy came to play an important role in the Atlantic and Western European waters, as well as the Mediterranean after the declaration of war in April 1917.

Most of the battlefleet stayed in American waters because of the shortage of fuel oil in Britain, but five coal-burning dreadnoughts served with the British Grand Fleet as the 6th Battle Squadron (US Battleship Division 9) tipping the balance of power against the German High Seas Fleet even further in favour of the Allies. They were also present at the surrender of the German Fleet. Other dreadnoughts (Battleship Division 6) were based in Berehaven, Bantry Bay, SW Ireland to counter any break-out by German battlecruisers to attack US troop convoys. Some of the pre-dreadnoughts, armoured cruisers and protected cruisers were employed as convoy escorts, 1917-18 both along the coasts of the Americas and in the Atlantic.

All three scout cruisers of the 'Chester' class together with some old gunboats and destroyers spent part of 1917-18 based at Gibraltar on convoy escort duties in the Atlantic approaches. The destroyers were part of the at least 36 United States destroyers that reached European waters in 1917-18, many of them based at Queenstown, Ireland, and St Nazaire and Brest, France. Their main duties were patrol and convoy escort, especially the protection of US troopship convoys.

US Submarine K.5 in 1919

Some of the 'K' class (K.5 above) submarines were based in the Azores and 'L' class at Berehaven, Bantry Bay, Ireland on anti-U-boat patrols 1917-18.

In 1917 the programme of large ship construction was suspended to concentrate on destroyers (including the large 'flush decker' classes, 50 of which ended up in the Royal Navy in 1940), submarine-chasers, submarines, and merchantmen to help replace the tremendous losses due to unrestricted U-boat attacks. Some of the destroyers and especially the sub-chasers ended up in the Mediterranean, patrolling the Otranto Barrage designed to keep German and Austrian U-boats locked up in the Adriatic Sea.


US Navy ship names


Capital ships - States of the U.S; Cruisers - US cities; Destroyers - Officers, enlisted men and other naval-related personalities; Submarines - fish and sea creatures




August 1914 Strength

Wartime additions*

1914-18 losses**



4 + 2






Pre-dreadnought battleships




Coast defence ships




Armoured cruisers



1 + 1

Protected cruisers



1 + 0

Light/scout cruisers




Aircraft and seaplane carriers






18 + c 46

0 + 2



c 22 + c 30

1 + 1



c 44 + c 78

3 + 4



* First figure is for new ships added by April 1917. This is approximate only, as completion and commissioning dates are not always available

** First figure is for major warship losses before April 1917. Submarines sunk but salvaged and recommissioned are not included in the figures


LOSSES BY YEAR - (In date order within each year)

Year - Ships lost (all in or near American waters or off Western Europe)
1914 -
1915 - submarine 'Skate'
1916 - armoured cruiser 'Memphis'
1917 - protected cruiser 'Milwaukee'; War declared - destroyers 'Chauncey', 'Jacob Jones', submarine 'Carp'
1918 - armoured cruiser 'San Diego'

Key to Main Characteristics


Tonnage - standard displacement; Speed - designed speed at standard displacement, rarely attained in service; Main armament - sometimes changed as the war progressed; secondary armament usually changed; Complement - normal peace time. Exceeded in war with consequent reduction in living space and higher battle casualties; Year - year or years class completed and normally entered service. Only includes ships completed up to war's end; Loss Positions - estimated from location unless available from reliable sources; Casualties - totals of men lost, or survivors plus saved, will often exceed peacetime complements.


United States Torpedo and Gun Calibres in Centimeters

Torpedoes: 21in - 53.3cm; 18in - 45.7cm

Guns: 16in - 40.6cm; 14in - 35.6cm; 13in - 33cm; 12in - 30.5cm; 8in - 20.3cm; 7in -17.8cm; 6in - 15.2cm; 5in - 12.7cm; 4.7in - 11.9cm; 4in - 10.2cm; 3in - 7.6cm




August 1914 Strength (10)

1. SOUTH CAROLINA class, BB.26 SOUTH CAROLINA, BB.27 MICHIGAN, 2 ships - 16,000t, 18 knots, 8-12in/22-3in, 870 crew, 1910

USS Michigan (Photo Ships)

South Carolina, Michigan, mainly American waters on escort and training duties, 1917-18

2. DELAWARE class, BB.28 DELAWARE, BB.29 NORTH DAKOTA, 2 ships - 20,400, 21 knots, 10-12in/14-5in, 930 crew, 1910

USS Delaware (Photo Ships)

Delaware, training and exercises, then 6th Battle Squadron, British Grand Fleet based in Scapa Flow, north of Scotland from December 1917 (relieved by 'Arkansas' in August 1918); North Dakota remained in American waters on gunnery and engineering training

3. FLORIDA class, BB.30 FLORIDA, BB.31 UTAH, 2 ships - 21,800t, 21 knots, 10-12in/16-5in, 1,000 crew, 1911

USS Florida (Photo Ships)

Florida, fleet exercises, then 6th Battle Squadron, Grand Fleet from December 1917

Utah, engineering and gunnery training in American waters, then Bantry Bay, Ireland from September 1918 as US flagship

4. WYOMING class, BB.32 WYOMING, BB.33 ARKANSAS, 2 ships - 26,000t, 20 knots, 12-12in/21-5in, 1,060 crew, 1912

USS Wyoming (Photo Ships)

Wyoming, 6th Battle Squadron, Grand Fleet, from December 1918; Arkansas, patrol and gunnery training, then relieved 'Delaware' in 6th Battle Squadron, Grand Fleet in August 1918

5. NEW YORK class, BB.34 NEW YORK, BB.35 TEXAS, 2 ships - 27,000t, 21 knots, 10-14in/21-5in, 1,040 crew, 1914

USS Texas in 1919

New York (flag), Texas, both part of 6th Battle Squadron, 'New York' from December 1917, 'Texas' joining in February 1918

Texas is still in existence as a museum ship at San Jacinto Battlefield State Park, La Porte, Texas

Wartime Additions
(4 by April 1917, 2 after)

6. NEVADA class, BB.36 NEVADA, BB.37 OKLAHOMA, 2 ships - 27,500t, 20 knots, 10-14in/21-5in, 860 crew, 1916

Nevada, Oklahoma, both oil burners, based at Bantry Bay, Ireland from August 1918

7. PENNSYLVANIA class, BB.38 PENNSYLVANIA, BB.39 ARIZONA, 2 ships - 31,400t, 21 knots, 12-14in/22-5in, 915 crew, 1916

Pennsylvania, flagship, Atlantic Fleet, 1916-18

Arizona joined 6th Battle Squadron after the November 1918 Armistice

8. NEW MEXICO class, BB.40 NEW MEXICO, BB.41 MISSISSIPPI, class of 3 - 32,000t, 21 knots, 12-14in/14-5in, 1,080 crew, 1918/1917 ('Idaho' completed 1919)



August 1914 Strength (23)

9. INDIANA class, BB.1 INDIANA, BB.2 MASSACHUSETTS, BB.3 OREGON, 3 ships - 10,300t, 15 knots, 4-13in/8-8in/4-6in, c 600 crew, 1895-96

10. IOWA, BB.4 - 11,400t, 16 knots, 4-12in/8-8in/6-4in, c 600 crew, 1897

11. KEARSAGE class, BB.5 KEARSAGE, BB.6 KENTUCKY, 2 ships - 11,500t, 16 knots, 4-13in/4-8in/14-5in, c 700 crew,1900

12. ILLINOIS class, BB.7 ILLINOIS, BB.8 ALABAMA, BB.9 WISCONSIN, 3 ships - 11,600t, 16 knots, 4-13in/14-6in, c 700 crew, 1900-01

13. MAINE class, BB.10 MAINE, BB.11 MISSOURI, BB.12 OHIO, 3 ships - 12,500t, 18 knots, 4-12in/16-6in/6-3in, c 800 crew, 1902-04

14. VIRGINIA class, BB.13 VIRGINIA, BB.14 NEBRASKA, BB.15 GEORGIA, BB.16 NEW JERSEY, BB.17 RHODE ISLAND, 5 ships - 14,900t, 19 knots, 4-12in/8-8in/12-6in, 810 crew, 1906-07

15. CONNECTICUT class, BB.18 CONNECTICUT, BB.19 LOUISIANA, 2 ships - 16,000t, 18 knots, 4-12in/8-8in/12-7in, c 890 crew, 1906

16. VERMONT class, BB.20 VERMONT, BB.21 KANSAS, BB.22 MINNESOTA, BB.25 NEW HAMPSHIRE, 4 ships - 16,000t, 18 knots, 4-12in/8-8in/12-7in, 880 crew, 1907-08

All four served in engineering and gunnery training roles, 1917-18

BB.22 Minnesota, damaged 29 September 1918, North Atlantic off Delaware, 20 miles from Fenwick Island Shoal Lightship (38-11’N, 74-41’W) - mine apparently laid by German 'U-117'. Gunnery and engineering training ship cruising off the Atlantic coast. Serious damage to starboard side, but she reached port under her own power, with no loss of life. Repairs took 5 months

USS Minnesota

BB.23 Mississippi, BB.24 Idaho were sold to Greece in July 1914



August 1914 Strength
(12, reduced to 11 by April 1917)

Apart from ACR.3 all were renamed from 1911-16 and 1920; only the name changes from 1911-16 are included here

17. SARATOGA ACR.2 (ex-New York) - 8,200t, 20 knots, 6-8in/12-4in, 570 crew, 1893. Named 'Saratoga' from 1911, renamed ROCHESTER from 1917

18. BROOKLYN ACR.3 - 9,200t, 20 knots, 8-8in/12-5in, c 570 crew, 1896

19. PENNSYLVANIA class, ACR.4 PITTSBURGH (ex-Pennsylvania), ACR.5 HUNTINGTON (ex-West Virginia), ACR.6 SAN DIEGO (ex-California), ACR.7 PUEBLO (ex-Colorado), ACR.8 FREDERICK (ex-Maryland), ACR.9 SOUTH DAKOTA, 6 ships, 1 lost - 13,700t, 22 knots, 4-8in/14-6in/18-3in, 830 crew, 1905-08

ACR.6 SAN DIEGO, 19th July 1918, North Atlantic, 10 miles SE of Fire Island, Long Island, New York (c 40-30’N, 73-00’W) - torpedoed or mined by German 'U.156'. Assigned to trans-Atlantic convoy escort on the western leg, she was on passage from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to New York at the time. Reliable sources differ on whether or not her loss was due to a torpedo or mines laid by 'U.156' off the American coast - mining seems the most likely. 'San Diego' (Capt H H Christy) turned turtle and sank in around 20 minutes, the only major US warship loss of the war; 6 men lost out of the crew of 1,100. On her return to Germany, 'U.156' (Lt Cdr Feldt) was lost with all hands, probably in the Northern Barrage minefield, much of which was laid by American ships.

20. TENNESSEE class, ACR.10 MEMPHIS (ex-Tennessee), ACR.11 SEATTLE (ex-Washington), ACR.12 NORTH CAROLINA, ACR.13 MONTANA, 4 ships, 1 lost - 14,500t, 22 knots, 4-10in/16-6in/22-3in, c 860 crew, 1906-08

ACR.10 MEMPHIS, 29th August 1916, Caribbean Sea, in Santo Domingo harbour, Dominican Republic (c 18-50’N, 70-00’W) - driven ashore and totally wrecked by (100ft?) tsunami or tidal wave of seismic origin; hurricane in some sources. On peace-keeping duties in Dominican waters during a rebellion. At anchor at the time, with a boatload of 'Memphis' sailors returning from shore-leave. As she was driven ashore, engine room personnel made every effort to give her manoeuvring power. The Medal of Honor was awarded to Engineering Lt Claud Jones, Chief Machinist's Mate George Rud (posthumous), and Machinist Charles Willey; some 40 men dead or missing, 200 badly injured.

USS Memphis



August 1914 Strength
(24, reduced to 23 by April 1917 )

21. BOSTON - 3,200t, 13 knots, 2-8in/6-6in, 285 crew, 1887.

Training ship from 1911

22. CHICAGO - 4,500t, 14 knots, 4-8in/8-6in/2-5in, c450 crew, 1889.

Training ship from 1910

23. NEWARK C.1 - 4,050t, 18 knots, 12-6in, 385 crew, 1891.

Stricken 1913, used as quarantine and hospital hulk during war

24. BALTIMORE C.3 - 4,400t, 19 knots, 4-8in/6-6in, 385 crew, 1890.

Converted to minelayer 1912. Baltimore played a major part in laying the North Sea Mine Barrage between Scotland and Norway from June 1918

25. PHILADELPHIA C.4 - 4,300t, 19 knots, 12-6in, 385 crew, 1890

26. SAN FRANCISCO C.5 - 4,100t, 19 knots, 12-6in, 385 crew, 1890.

Converted to minelayer 1911. San Francisco (US flag) also played a major part in laying the North Sea Barrage from June 1918

27. OLYMPIA C.6 - 5,850t, 20 knots, 4-8in/10-5in, c 440, 1895.

Olympia is still in existence as a museum ship at Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia, USA

28. CINCINNATI class, C.7 CINCINNATI, C.8 RALEIGH, 2 ships - 3,200t, 19 knots, 1-6in/10-5in, c 320 crew, 1894

29. MONTGOMERY class, C.9 MONTGOMERY, C.11 MARBLEHEAD, 2 ships - 2,100t, 17 knots, 9-5in, 275 crew, 1893-94

30. COLUMBIA class, C.12 COLUMBIA, C.13 MINNEAPOLIS, 2 ships - 7,400t, 21 knots, 1-8in/2-6in/8-4in, 480 crew, 1894

31. NEW ORLEANS class, NEW ORLEANS, ALBANY, 2 ships - 3,750t, 20 knots, 6-6in/4-4.7in, 365 crew, 1898/1900

32. DENVER class, C.14 DENVER, C.15 DES MOINES, C.16 CHATTANOOGA, C.17 GALVESTON, C.18 TACOMA, C.19 CLEVELAND, 6 ships - 3,200t, 16 knots, 10-5in, 340 crew, 1903-05

33. ST LOUIS class, C.20 ST LOUIS, C.21 MILWAUKEE, C.22 CHARLESTON, 3 ships, 1 lost - 9,700t, 22 knots, 14-6in/18-3in, c 700 crew, 1905-06

C.21 MILWAUKEE, 13th January 1917, eastern Pacific Ocean, off Eureka, northern California on Samoa Beach - grounded. Submarine 'H.3' ran aground in nearby Humboldt Bay on the 14th December 1916. By the 13th January, 'Milwaukee' was present to assist the salvage operations and while trying to refloat her, was stranded on Samoa Beach. Salvage attempts in her case failed, and in November 1918, she broke in two in a storm

USS Milwaukee



August 1914 Strength (3)

34. CHESTER class, CS.1 CHESTER, CS.2 BIRMINGHAM, CS.3 SALEM, 3 ships - 3,750t, 24 knots, 2-5in/6-3in, 360 crew, 1908

All three cruisers spent part of 1917-18 based at Gibraltar on convoy escort duties in the Atlantic approaches

USS Birmingham



August 1914 Strength (50)

35. BAINBRIDGE class, DD.1-5, 5 ships, 1 lost - 420t, 29 knots, 2-3in/5-6pdr/2-18in tt, 73 crew, 1902

DD.3 CHAUNCEY, 20th November 1917, Atlantic Ocean, 110 miles west of the Straits of Gibraltar (c 36-00’N, 8-00’W) - collision with British steamship 'Rose'. Based at St Nazaire on eastern Atlantic escort duties, 'Chauncey' (Lt Cdr Walter Reno) was with a convoy on the night of the 19th/20th, when she was cut in half by the 'Rose' and sank at 03.17hrs; commanding officer and 20 crew lost, 70 survivors picked up by 'Rose'. Some sources attribute the collision to the USS Caya.

USS Chauncey

36. HOPKINS class, DD.6-7, 2 ships - 410t, 29 knots, 2-3in/5-6pdr/2-18in tt, 73 crew, 1903

37. LAWRENCE class, DD.8-9, 2 ships - 430t, 30 knots, 2-3in/5-6pdr/2-18in tt, 73 crew, 1903

38. PAUL JONES class, DD.10-12, 3 ships - 480t, 29 knots, 2-3in/5-6pdr/2-18in tt, 73 crew, 1902-03

39. STEWART, DD.13 - 420t, 29 knots, 2-3in/5-6pdr/2-18in tt, 71 crew, 1902

40. TRUXTUN class, DD.14-16, 3 ships - 30 knots, 2-3in/6-6pdr/2-18in tt, 73 crew, 1902

41. SMITH class, DD.17-21, 5 ships - 700t, 28 knots, 5-3in/3-18in tt, 85 crew, launched 1908-09

42. PAULDING class, DD.22-31, 10 ships - 740t, 29 knots, 5-3in, 6-18in tt, 85 crew, launched 1909-10

43. MONAGHAN class, DD.32-42, 11 ships - 790t, 29 knots, 5-3in/6-18in tt, 90 crew, launched 1910-12

DD.37 Fanning took part in sinking of 'U-58' on 17th November 1917

44. CASSIN class, DD.43-50, 8 ships - 1,000t, 29 knots, 4-4in/8-18in, 100 crew, launched 1912-13

Wartime Additions
(18 by April 1917, c 46 after)

45. O’BRIEN class, DD.51-56, 6 ships - 1,050t, 29 knots, 4-4in/8-21in tt, 100 crew, launched 1914-15

DD.52 Nicholson also took part in sinking of 'U-58' on 17th November 1917

46. TUCKER class, DD.57-62, 6 ships, 1 lost - 1,100t, 29 knots, 4-4in/8-21in tt, 100 crew, launched 1915

DD.60 Wadsworth, first USN destroyer flagship in British waters; with five others she arrived at Queenstown in early May 1917, the first US warships to reach the European battle zone

DD.61 JACOB JONES, 6th December 1917, Atlantic Ocean, South Western Approaches to Britain, 25 miles SW of Bishop Rock, Isles of Scilly (49-20’N, 06-18’W). - torpedoed once by German 'U-53'. Based at Queenstown, southern Ireland on anti-submarine duties, 'Jacob Jones' (Lt Cdr David Bagley) was one of six destroyers returning from Brest after escorting a convoy to France. She was hit at 16.20hrs, going down in 8 minutes. Of the 38 survivors, two were taken prisoner by the U-boat, others rescued by two British ships that responded to a radio signal sent out by 'U.53’s' CO, Lt Cdr Hans Rose, and reportedly, Cdr Bagley and five others managed to row ashore; 64 men were lost

47. SAMPSON class, DD.63-68, 6 ships - 1,100t, 29 knots, 4-4in/12-21in tt, 100 crew, launched 1916

48. CALDWELL, WICKES, CLEMSON "flusk decker" classes, DD.69-347 - c1,100t, 30-35 knots, 4-4in/12-21in tt, 100-115 crew, launched 1917-1921.

Approximately 46 commissioned by end of war



August 1914 Strength
(27 - including 9 old boats for local Philippines defence)

49. A class, SS.2-8, 7 boats - 110/125t, 8/7 knots, 1-18in tt, 7 crew, launched 1901-03

SS.6 Pike (A.5), 15th April 1917, western Pacific Ocean, at Cavite Naval Base, SW Luzon, Philippines - ballast tank leakage. The official USN account is that she sank at her mooring because of a slow leak, raised two days later and returned to active service. Another version (by Gray) is that she was cruising off Cavite and sunk by an explosion, possibly due to petrol vapour or hydrogen gas with either several dead and injured or all 7 crew saved. In this case too, she was salvaged and recommissioned.

50. B class, SS.10-12, 3 boats - 145/175t, 9/8 knots, 2-18in tt, 10 crew, launched 1906-07

51. C class, SS.9, 13-16, 5 boats - 240/275t, 10/9 knots, 2-18in tt, 15 crew, launched 1906/09

52. D class, SS.17-19, 3 boats - 290/340t, 12/9 knots, 4-18in tt, 15 crew, launched 1909-10

SS.18 Grayling (D.2), 14th September 1917, United States, at New London Naval Base, Connecticut - sank at dockside. All crew of approximately 15 survived

53. E class, SS.24-25, 2 boats - 290/340t, 13/11 knots, 4-18in tt, 20 crew, launched 1911

SS.25 Sturgeon (E.2), 15th January 1916, United States, at Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York - internal explosion. Raised and returned to service within a matter of months; 5 dead, c 15 survivors.


54. F class, SS.20-23, 4 boats, 2 lost - 330/400t, 13/11 knots, 4-18in tt, 22 crew, launched 1911-12

SS.20 CARP (F.1), 17th December 1917, eastern Pacific Ocean in West Coast waters, United States - collision with submarine SS.22 'Pickerel'. 'Carp' had sunk once before, torn from her moorings and foundering in heavy seas off Port Watsonville, Monterey Bay, California in October 1912 with both men aboard lost. Her final loss took place during thick fog on manoeuvres, hit by a sister-boat; 19 men lost, 5 survivors. One source (Gray) gives the location as off Point Loma (or Lama), San Diego, California

SS.23 SKATE (F.4), 25th March 1915, central Pacific Ocean, 1 1/2 miles off Pearl Harbor, Oahu island, Hawaii (c 22-15’N, 158-00’W) - foundered. During diving exercises she lost depth control, later found to be due to flooding caused by corrosion of a battery tank, and sank in 300 feet of water. 'Skate' sank with all 21 crew. Three week’s later during salvage operations at record depths, one of the divers became trapped and was rescued by Chief Gunner's Mate Frank Crilley USN. He was awarded the Medal of Honor

55. G class, SEAL, SS.26-27,31, 4 boats - c400/500t, 14/10 knots, 6-18in tt, 24 crew, launched 1911-13

Wartime Additions
(c 22 by April 1917, c 30 after)

56. H class, SS.28-30, 3 boats - 360/470t, 14/10 knots, 4-18in tt, 25 crew, launched 1913 (plus SS.147-152 completed after the war)

57. K class, SS.32-39, 8 boats - 390/520t, 14/10 knots, 4-18in tt, 28 crew, launched 1913-14

SS.32 Haddock, SS.33 Cachalot, SS.35 Walrus, SS.37 K.6 were based in the Azores on anti-U-boat patrols

58. L class, SS.40-51, 11 boats - 450/550t, 14/10 knots, 4-18in tt/1-3in, 28 crew, launched 1915-17. Mostly commissioned before April 1917

L.1-L.4, L.9-L.11, designated 'AL' to distinguish them from the British 'L' class, were based at Berehaven, Bantry Bay, Ireland on anti-U-boat patrols 1917-18

L.2 was being attacked by German 'UB.65' off southern Ireland in July 1918 when the U-boat blew up, possibly due to a faulty torpedo magnetic pistol

59. M class, SS.52, 1 boat - 490/680t, 14/10 knots, 4-18in tt/1-3in, 28 crew, launched 1915

60. N class, SS.53-59, 7 boats - 350/415t, 13/11 knots, 4-18in tt, 25 crew, launched 1916-17

61. O class, SS.62-77, 16 boats - 520/630t, 14/10 knots, 4-18in tt, 1-3in, 29 crew, launched 1917-18

62. R class, SS.78-104, 27 boats - 570/680t, 14/11 knots, 4-21in or 18in tt/1-3in, 29 crew, launched 1917-19. Approximately 6 commissioned before end of war



With thanks to the US Naval Historical Branch and the compilers of the On-line 'Dictionary of Naval Fighting Ships'

All photographs are also Courtesy of the US Naval Historical Branch (US) 



see also


all World War 1


  US Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Casualties


Medal of Honor, US Navy and Marine Corps 1915-1918


Ranks of US Navy Commissioned Officers and Enlisted Men


On the Coast of France: U.S. Naval Forces in French Waters by Joseph Husband, Ensign, USNRF

The United States Marine Corps in the World War by Edwin N. McClellan,  Major, U. S. Marines

US Navy of 1915 - a fine 11 minute video





Austro-Hungarian Navy

French Navy

Hellenic or Greek Navy

Imperial Japanese Navy

Turkish or Ottoman Navy


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