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Seventy years ago...

Discussion in 'Air War in the Mediterrean' started by mcoffee, Apr 21, 2014.

  1. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner) Patron  

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    July 4, 1944

    The railroad bridge and R.R. repair facilities at Pitesti, Romania were targeted. Pitesti was to the Northwest of Ploesti and was the IP for the TIDAL WAVE attack of 1 Aug ’43. The 449th put up 27 aircraft with 1 early return. The target was well covered with excellent concentrations around the aiming points. There was no flak over the target but approximately 20 enemy aircraft made determined attacks on the group. They were reported as 15 Bf-109’s and 5 FW-190s. The initial attack was from 12 O’Clock high with the attackers firing rockets and then closing to M/G range. Attacks were pressed to 200 yards before breaking away. Subsequent attacks were from all around the clock.

    Eight aircraft sustained damage from the fighter attacks with 4 seriously damaged. The Shack, a 718th Squadron aircraft flown by a 719th crew this day was the formation lead. She returned with ~150 holes from the fighter attacks. Gunners from the Group claimed 4 Bf-109’s destroyed, 1 probable and 1 damaged. Escorts claimed 6 destroyed. Despite the aggressive attacks, the Group had no losses or casualties.

    The Allen crew was back aboard Hoppy repaired from the damage of the previous day – a testament to the dedication of the ground crews in repairing and maintaining the ships. The crew reported that some of the formation gunners were firing at a P-51 in the target vicinity. The crew flew without a navigator, the bombardier Parella and co-pilot Johnson sharing the navigational duties. Although this target was near Ploesti, only 1 mission credit was awarded.

    Mission credit 1, total 41; a/c 41-28600 Hoppy
     
  2. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner) Patron  

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    The 449th flew a mission to Toulon, France on July 5 and the 718th Squadron stood down. The Group lost 1 aircraft from the 716th Squadron. Ship #67 flown by the Haywood crew was hit hard by flak which wounded the ball gunner and seriously wounded the nose gunner. The ship lost hydraulics among other damage and the crew elected to make an emergency landing on Corsica. The pilot ordered the nose cleared since braking would not be available. The nose gunner could not be moved from the nose so the bombardier chose to stay and tend to the gunner. The ship overran the end of the runway and nosed down in a ditch. The nose gunner was killed in the crash and the bombardier seriously injured. Queen of Hearts was wiped out.

    July 6, 1944

    The 15th AF sent 580 bombers attacking oil, transportation and airfields in Northern Italy. The 449th went back to Latisana to attack the railroad bridge that they were unable to attack on June 22. This time the weather was clear and there was no flak or fighter opposition. At least 4 direct hits were scored on the bridge and a section of the span dropped in the river. No losses, damage or casualties although a landing accident back at Grottaglie wiped out the 717th ship Lil Jo Toddy.

    Combat photographer John Nolan flew again with the Allen crew and handed the old gunner a hand-held camera to shoot during the mission. He brought back home the roll of negatives that he shot. The attached strike photo was taken out the left waist window of Hoppy, as was the photo of Star Dust flown by the Morris crew. The ground photo back at Grottaglie was taken by Nolan and shows part of the flight crew and ground crew. From the left is pilot Jim Allen, waist gunners Castor and Coffee. On the right is tail gunner John Allen, co-pilot Ayers Johnson is next to the aircraft under the H, and bombardier Nicholas Parella is wearing the officers cap. The aircraft on the far left is another 718th ship Li’l Butch. In the background are the bombed-out dirigible hangers which once housed the Italian airship Roma.

    Mission credit 1, total 42; a/c 41-28600 Hoppy (no navigator)
     

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  3. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner) Patron  

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    July 7, 1944

    A continuation of the counter-oil campaign occupied much of the 15th AF while the 47th Wing attacked the marshalling yard and nearby airdrome at Zagreb, Yugoslavia. Lines from the marshalling yard radiated to Vienna, Trieste and the Eastern Balkans.

    The 449th sent 27 B-24 to the target, one returned early. Strike photos showed bursts across the M/Y and into the adjacent dispersal area of the airdrome. A large explosion from the dispersal area was deemed a probable fuel or ammunition storage hit. The formation was in moderate flak for 3 minutes with no losses, damage or casualties to the force.

    On the return flight, the Allen crew spotted a green sea marker in the Adriatic from 9,000 feet and circled to investigate. A “round English life raft” was located near the marker and the crew circled for about an hour awaiting the arrival of air-sea rescue.

    The crew was assigned to fly Ship #34 Hoppy on the formation plan but flew spare Ship #32 (no indication on debrief form for reason 34 was down).

    Mission credit 1, total 43; a/c 42-52205 Bama Baby* (no navigator)

    * Ship #32 flew with the 718th Squadron from 16 June through 13 October when it landed at Tortorella with battle damage. The aircraft flew with the 454th BG either before or after its time in the 449th BG and carried the name Bama Baby while in the 454th. Not certain if it carried the name while in the 449th.
     
  4. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner) Patron  

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    July 8, 1944

    Combined attacks on oil and airdromes in the Vienna area. The 47th Wing was assigned the Markersdorf A/D which was one of the primary single-engine fighter bases around Vienna. Photo recce from 26 June showed 122 aircraft on the field.

    The 449th bomb load was 40x100lb bombs each to attack aircraft dispersal areas and strike photos showed a good concentration of hits around the aiming point with hits also into hanger installations. No fighters intercepted the formation and the Group did not experience any flak over the target. However, they did run into flak both before and after the target area and there were many complaints in the debrief forms about the lack of accuracy of the briefing flak maps. Two ships incurred serious flak damage and four more had minor damage. One ship landed at Foggia low on fuel on return.

    The Allen crew was back aboard Hoppy after it had been unavailable the previous day. The #2 engine lost all oil prior to the IP and had to be feathered. Three of the 4 generators also dropped offline. They turned for home base and jettisoned the bomb load. The crew was initially granted only a single credit for the mission (crossed enemy lines) but it was amended to 2 credits since they penetrated the flak coverage in the Vienna area.

    Mission credit 2, total 45; a/c 41-28600 Hoppy (no navigator)
     
  5. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner) Patron  

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    July 9

    The 449th was awarded its 2nd Presidential Unit Citation for the mission of July 9 to bomb the Concordia-Vega refinery at Ploesti. 47th Wing Commander Hugo Rush was flying in the lead aircraft of the 450th BG with the 449th 3rd in the Wing column. The usual smoke screen employed over Ploesti had drifted out to where it obscured the intended IP. The 450th missed the turn at the IP and the 376th BG followed. The Mickey operator in the 449th’s lead ship was certain he had located the correct IP and Group Commander Thomas Gent turned the Group down the attack heading. Using a combination of visual and PFF methods the lead ship got a good fix on the briefed aiming point and the Group released a good pattern. Photo coverage at the time only showed a towering cloud of smoke emerging from the smoke screen but later photo recce showed the 449th had done substantial damage to Concordia-Vega. Rush had questioned Gent’s turn over the command set but after the mission was debriefed and the recce photos were analyzed, recommended the Group for the PUC.

    The mission was costly as Ship #21 Th’ Inhoomin Critter flown by the Driggers crew of the 718th was hit by flak prior to the IP and the crew had to bail out over Yugoslavia. The 9 man crew evaded with the aid of Chetniks and returned to Grottaglie on 10 August. The Westbrook crew of the 716th also took heavy flak damage in Ship #66. They made it to within 10 miles of the friendly field at Gioia, Italy before losing control of the ship and crashing. Five crew men were killed and the other 5 injured.

    The Allen crew was not scheduled to fly.
     
  6. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner) Patron  

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    The old gunner has flown his final mission.

    8 August 1922 - 11 July 2014
     

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  7. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner) Patron  

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    [SIZE=medium]July 12[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]The Group went to southern France to attack the Var RR Bridge between Nice and Toulon. The group was in moderate flak for about 3 minutes which caused minor damage to 5 ships. A good bomb pattern was reported and strike photos showed damage to the bridge and cuts of the rail line.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=medium]The Allen crew flew in Ship #34 but the old gunner was replaced at left waist for the mission by a gunner from the Morris crew. [/SIZE]
     
  8. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner) Patron  

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    July 14

    429 heavy bombers of the 15th attacked marshalling yards and oil targets in the Budapest area. The 47th Wing was assigned the Ferencvaros M/Y, with the 449th providing 28 B-24s. Good coverage was reported around the west end of the yard and the triangular choke point on the north side of the M/Y.

    The group experienced some flak at the IP and then was in intense flak for 3-5 minutes around the target. An estimated 75 -100 fighters were seen with attacks beginning at the IP and continuing through the rally after the target. Escorting P-38s did a good job fending off the attacks but were reported as outnumbered, so some of the attacks carried through to the formation. Most of the attacking aircraft were Bf-109s. Group gunners claimed 4 destroyed, 1 probable and 3 damaged.

    Ship #1 Our Baby of the 719th Squadron was called at the IP and told his #4 engine was burning. The Geisert crew lagged out of formation and remained between the A and B sections through the bomb run. On the rally turn, a single fighter made a pass at Ship #1 and it was seen to explode. Two men were KIA and 9 were POW. Of the returning ships, 9 reported minor damage and 1 major damage. The tail gunner of Ship #72 was slightly wounded.

    Mission credit 2, total 47; a/c 41-28600 Hoppy (‘Mat’ Mathieu nav)
     
  9. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner) Patron  

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    July 15

    Ploesti once again. The 47th Wing attacked the Romano-Americano refinery. The 449th sent 36 aircraft with the Wing. Once again, an effective smoke screen was in place so bombing was by H2X through the screen. The radar on Ship #20 leading the C section caught fire, so that section dropped on the marker from the A section. Visual results were undetermined, but two columns of smoke rising to 20,000 feet were visible for 150 miles on withdrawal. The usual intense flak met the formation but there was no fighter interception.

    The flak caused the loss of two 717th Squadron ships. Peerless Clipper flown by the John Scroggs crew feathered the #2 engine and trailed the formation with the #4 engine also smoking. The crew bailed out over Yugoslavia and all 10 evaded with the help of the Chetniks. The Blanton crew flying an unnamed aircraft lost 2 engines to flak and began throwing everything out of the ship they could to maintain altitude. They bailed just over the Albania border but all 10 were captured and held POW.

    There were 12 damage ships among those returning and 1 crewman was wounded.

    The crews received unwelcome news upon returning. “Double mission credit was no longer allowed to crews unless they flew into, or north of the Munich-Vienna-Steyr area. This meant that Ploesti, one of the most heavily defended targets in Europe, was no longer a double mission credit to the unanimous objection of all flying personnel.” There were many angry comments in the “bitch” section of the debrief forms. One of the crews invited “the general” (presumably Twining) to join them on the next Ploesti mission stating that no flak jacket would be issued.

    Mission credit 1, total 48; a/c 41-28600 Hoppy (no nav)
     
  10. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner) Patron  

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    July 18

    The 449th set out to attack the Lowenthall A/D at Friedrichshafen, Germany but turned back when they could not get above the overcast over the Alps. Flight time a little over 4 hours – no mission credit for the formation.

    A few groups made it past the Alps and attacked targets in southern Germany; 79 attack Memmingen, Germany airfield with 16 losses, 69 bomb Friedrichshafen without loss and 31 attack targets of opportunity. According to the combat chronology between 260 and 300 fighters opposed the force with 20 total US losses, against 66 fighters claimed by escorts and heavies.

    Mission credit 0, total 48; a/c 41-28600 Hoppy
     
  11. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow Patron  

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    Be at peace, Mr. Coffee. :S!
     
  12. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner) Patron  

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    July 19

    Aircraft production and airdromes were targeted in the Munich area. The 47th Wing was assigned the Neuaubing Aircraft components factory. Air reports indicated the Germans were engaged in the production of flying bombs and jet propelled aircraft. The 449th sent 48 bombers but there were 8 early returns. The 40 aircraft over the target reported a fair bomb pattern and coverage with one large building hit and some smoke and flame. Strike photos actually revealed better coverage than the crews reported with the entire target covered except the extreme western portion.

    No fighters intercepted but the Group was in intense flak for 4-5 minutes which damaged 10 ships and wounded 1 man. The Clabaugh crew flying Draggin Waggin radioed the Group lead that they were down to 150 gallons of gas on the return flight. They were losing fuel due to flak damage and the co-pilot was wounded so they diverted to toward the fighter strips in the Ancona area. On approach to the fighter strip at Fermo all 4 engines quit from fuel starvation and Clabaugh made a successful dead-stick landing – certainly not recommended in a B-24. The feat earned Carlton Clabaugh a DFC.

    The Allen crew flew Hoppy with new replacement pilot John Blaney as co-pilot for his first checkout flight. (Blaney was killed along with 2 other crewmembers on 13 October when he had to ditch in the Adriatic returning from Vienna) Blaney’s navigator Harold Kling also flew with the crew. Prior to the target Hoppy developed trouble with an engine (turbocharger) and the crew jettisoned one 1,000 lb bomb so they could keep up with the formation. After bombs away the weight advantage was gone and Hoppy slowly lost ground to the formation. Jim Allen dropped below the formation and began trading altitude for airspeed until reaching lower altitude where the balky turbo was not as much of an issue. The crew threaded their way through valleys crossing the Alps, keeping a sharp vigil for enemy fighters since they were alone. Once more across the Adriatic, Hoppy touched down at Grottaglie and both waist gunners had completed their required 50 mission credits.

    Mission credit 2, total 50; a/c 41-28600 Hoppy

    Photo: 19 July 1944, two happy waist gunners have completed their tour: Coffee and Castor flank co-pilot Johnson.
     

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  13. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner) Patron  

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    Epilogue:
    The old gunner completed his tour of 50 mission credits in 35 actual missions, with 2 uncredited early returns and 1 uncredited mission abort. He logged 241:45 hours of combat time for an average of more than 7 hours per mission after the ERs are backed out.

    Someone on this forum called WWII the biggest human drama of all time. The entries above stand as testament to the small contribution to that drama of 10 men put together to form a B-24 combat crew – one of whom happened to be my father.

    They were among the 16 million Americans in uniform, part of what Tom Brokaw referred to as “The Greatest Generation”. They were a cross section of the U.S. coming from the Northeast, the deep South, the Pacific Northwest, from Texas and California. They ranged in age from 19 to 35, although most were in their early twenties. The 10 man crew is pictured in training at Tucson in post #12. Two did not come home, one was wounded in action (the three casualties occurred after 19 July and are noted below). They are all gone now. Dad was the last of them and he passed away so very recently.

    I had the privilege of spending some time with the copilot Ayers ‘Johnny’ Johnson at several 449th reunions before he passed away in 2006. The same for Progar crew navigator ‘Mat’ Mathieu, who flew several missions with the Allen crew. Hopefully he will be able to attend the reunion at Dayton next month.

    The last two crew members who had flown with the 376th quickly finished their tours. The remainder of the crew would continue to fly with various replacements – some notable events below:

    July 20: Mission to Friedrichafen, Germany - Robert Mansfield came out of the ball turret and took the old gunner’s place at the left waist window as two members of the Blaney crew flew as replacements for Castor and Coffee. He probably wished he had stayed in the ball as a flak burst wounded him in the face, lower back, buttocks and legs. The ship (#23, 42-52434) was badly damaged with the control cables to the rudders severed, oxygen system and radios out, and approximately 125 holes in the aircraft. Jim Allen would be awarded a DFC for bringing the damaged ship home. Bombardier Nicholas Parella completed his 50 missions.

    July 21: nose gunner Charles Mullins completed his tour.

    July 26: Hoppy was lost on its 46th mission. The Willard Bills crew was aboard with Warren Stewart as Instructor (3rd) Pilot (4th mission for Bills). Hoppy was hit by flak over Graz, Austria and lost the #3 engine which had to be feathered, and the #1 engine was damaged. Falling behind the formation, the crew threw out all possible weight to maintain altitude. Over Drnis, YU, the two waist gunners, photographer John Nolan and the bombardier bailed out. The gunners and bombardier were captured by German troops. Nolan managed to evade. At the Yugoslav coast, the #2 engine quit so the crew turned the aircraft inland and the 8 crew members still aboard bailed out near Marina (now in Croatia). The nose gunner’s chute malfunctioned and he was killed. The remaining 7 evaded with the help of Partisans and returned to duty August 1. Noland was also aided by Partisans and returned August 5.

    July 27: Ayers Johnson flew as co-pilot with the Progar crew. The nose gunner was killed by flak over Budapest. ‘Mat’ Mathieu was in the nose section as navigator.

    August 7: Ayers Johnson first mission as 1st pilot. He would finish his tour on August 26.

    August 15: The 449th began takeoffs at 0229 AM to make a 0720 target time attacking beach defenses for the Southern France D-Day (DRAGOON) invasion. Everyone wanted to see the “big show” of the invasion force so many flying personnel (and a few non-fliers) that were not scheduled for the mission found a way to get aboard various aircraft for the mission. Jim Allen got assigned as ‘instructor pilot’ with one of the newer crews and was on the flight deck behind the crew pilots. Oscar Bloch, a 718th Squadron lead bombardier got aboard the same aircraft as a photographer. At 0251 42-95297 began its takeoff roll and according to the Tower Control Officer seemed to stay on the ground a noticeably long time. After liftoff, the aircraft failed to climb and the landing gear hit power lines 750 yards beyond the departure end of the runway. The left wing tip also struck a power pole. Loaded with 2,700 gallons of gas and 40 100lb bombs, the aircraft crashed in a massive fireball. All twelve men aboard were killed. Jim Allen had completed 49 missions and left behind a young widow and infant daughter in Tennessee. The sad irony is that the mission that would have completed his tour was a “milk run” with no flak and no fighters. He is buried in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery.

    September 5: the old gunner arrived at Naples for transport home

    Sep 12: Departed aboard SS Althos II bound for ZOI – found Johnson aboard enroute

    Sep 26: Arrived New York

    Oct 17: Donald V McEvoy, the navigator that trained with the Allen crew was KIA with 515 BS, 376 BG. He was flying as Mickey Navigator in the lead ship when the crew had to bail out over the Adriatic returning from a mission to Vienna. P-51s circled the crew in the water awaiting rescue boats but none of the crew were recovered. McEvoy is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing, Florence American Cemetery.

    5 Oct 45: separated from AAF

    11 Jul 14: Taps

    449th Bomb Group Summary:
    254 missions between 8 Jan 44 and 26 Apr 45
    2 Presidential Unit Citations for 4/4/44 and 7/9/44. Wing Commendation for 6/26/44 mission.
    Personnel: 393 KIA, 359 POW, 63 DED, 130 EVD, 9 INT, 56 RTD
    Aircraft: 112 lost on combat missions; 57 to flak, 40 to fighters, 15 operational or unknown. There were an additional 16 operational losses on non-combat flights.

    Photo: the two who did not come home, Donald V. McEvoy and James G. Allen, Tucson early 1944. (Nicolas Parella in background)
     

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  14. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner) Patron  

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    Today marks seventy-one years from the start of dad's combat tour.
     
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  15. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner) Patron  

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    Today marks the one year anniversary of the Old Gunner's final flight.

    Time is running out on the veterans of WWII. A veteran who was 18 when the war ended would be 88 today. Most that remain are well into their 90's.
     
  16. FalkeEins

    FalkeEins Member

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    I wasn't familiar with this thread...so thank you!...
     
  17. Randy Morgan

    Randy Morgan New Member

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    ​Hi,
    My name is Randy Morgan. I'm researching the 454th Bomb Group 738th Bomber Squadron of the 15th USAAF.
    ​The B-24 H #41-29308 is listed as being with the 738th Bomber Squadron not the 736th.
    Go to 454thbombgroup.it. I'm looking for any info on the 738th Bomber Squadron as there's so little out there.
    ​This B-24 H I believe was named or it shows being named "The Ghost". I'm showing the following as the crew:


    Lt. Francis B. Peyton #1 (Pilot)
    Lt. William M. Giesa #2 (Copilot)
    Lt. Alfred O. Lee #3 (Navigator)
    Lt. Gerald W. Lambert #4 (Bombardier)
    Sgt. Kirby H. Woehst #5 (Eng./Top Turret Gunner)
    Sgt. Shirley Strother #6 (R.O./Right Waist Gunner)
    Sgt. Herbert w. Gray #7 (Eng./Nose Gunner)
    Sgt. George M. Foote #8 (Ball Turret Gunner)
    Sgt. Warren E. Hearne #9 (Arm./Left Waist Gunner)
    Sgt. Armine W. Lewis #10 (Arm./Tail Gunner)

    I'm Documenting all the aircraft and crews along with any first hand info I can to preserve this groups history since one of my dear elderly friends was the tail gunner on David Millington's crew aboard Miss Polly, later named Tuff Nut Tessie #41-29246 B-24 H.
    Thank You, Randy Morgan
     
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  18. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner) Patron  

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    While I can't help you with your specific request, I applaud your efforts to preserve the history of the 454th Bomb Group. You have a big job. I currently have information on 280 aircraft, 342 crews and slightly over 5,000 individual names of the 449th. Since you are in Opelika, have you been to AFHRA at Maxwell AFB to see what records of the 454th they hold? If you have the aircraft load lists for each mission it will greatly help the process.
     
  19. Randy Morgan

    Randy Morgan New Member

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    I have 2 files Ms. Gamma sent me, Thank you!
     
  20. Jaap Vermeer MDE

    Jaap Vermeer MDE Active Member

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    Randy,two articles,

    greetzz Jaap
     

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