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ACR-13 USS Montana / USS Missoula

Length: 504 feet 5 inches. Breadth: 72 feet 10 1/2 inches. Mean Draft: 25 feet. Displacement: 14,500 tons normal, 15,981 tons full load. Machinery: 28,600 IHP; Babcock boiliers, 2 sets of 4-cylinder, Triple Expansion Engines, 2 screws, outward turning. Speed: 22.16 knots. Coal Bunker Capacity: 900 tons normal, 1,992 tons maximum. Batteries: Main Battery: four 10-inch, 40 cal. breech-loading rifles, sixteen 6-inch, 50 cal. rapid fire guns. Secondary Battery: twenty-two 3-inch, 50 cal. rapid fire guns, two 3-inch antiaircraft, four 3 pdr. saluting guns, two 3-inch field pieces, six automatic guns, caliber .30, four 21-inch submerged torpedo tubes. Armor: Belt, 3 to 5 inches; turrets, 5-9-inches; barbettes, 5-inches; deck, 3 inches; Conning Tower, 9 inches. Complement: 41 officers, 850 men (921 as flagship). Built by: Newport News Ship Builders, Newport News VA Class: Tennessee

The first USS Montana (ACR-13), also referred to as "Armored Cruiser No. 13", later renamed Missoula and designated CA-13, was an armored cruiser of the United States Navy, a sister-ship of North Carolina (ACR-12). She was laid down by the Newport News Shipbuilding Co., Newport News, Virginia, 29 April 1905, launched 15 December 1906, sponsored by Miss Minnie Conrad, and commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard 21 July 1908, Capt. Alfred Reynolds in command.

Assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, Montana departed Norfolk 5 August to cruise off the east coast until 25 January 1909 when she sailed from Charleston, South Carolina where she was to meet her sister ship the USS North Carolina. There the two ships were preparing for the upcoming trip to take President-elect William Howard Taft on an inspection tour of the nearly finished Panama Canal in February of 1909. Both the North Carolina and the Montana were to sail from Savannah, Georgia with Taft on board on January 25, 1909 to start the trip south to Panama, arriving off Colon, Panama, the 29th. Taft had chosen the North Carolina as his flagship for the trip as she was the Navy’s newest warship, and would represent the best that the navy had at the time as a show of her might and advanced naval technologies to the region. Additionally the North Carolina and the Montana had the new wireless radio sets should Taft need to use them to communicate with the States.

While operating with the Special Service Squadron, Montana departed Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 2 April for the Mediterranean to protect American interests during the aftermath of the Turkish Revolution of 1908. Leaving Gibraltar 23 July, she arrived Boston on 3 August, and resumed east coast operations.

On 8 April 1910 the armored cruiser sailed from Hampton Roads, Virginia, to take part in the Argentine Centennial Celebration, calling at Uruguay, Argentina, and finally Brazil before heading for home 30 June, arriving Hampton Roads 22 July. Montana left Charleston, with President Taft and his party embarked, 10 November for a visit to Panama, returning her passengers to Hampton Roads, 22 November.

Montana was placed in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet 26 July 1911 for major overhaul at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, until 11 November 1912. In December of 1912, she departed on a second trip to the Near East, stopping at Beirut, Alexandretta (now Iskenderun) and Mersin, Turkey. On December 2, 1912 she sailed from Port Said, Egypt to join her sister ship the Tennessee in Beirut to protect Americans in that city. Returning to the United States in June 1913, Montana operated off the east coast and made training cruises to Mexico, Cuba, and Haiti until the United States entered World War I.

During the first months of the war, Montana conducted training exercises and transported supplies and men in the York River area and along the east coast. Assigned to the Cruiser and Transport Force 17 July 1917, she did convoy and escort duty out of Hampton Roads; New York, New York; and Halifax, Nova Scotia, through most of 1917 and 1918.

On Monday February 18, 1918 the Montana is conducting target practice firing of her guns. One of the 3-inch guns was accidentally double loaded and a cartridge case ignites causing an explosion in the gun. Eight men are injured, two of which died of wounds sustained during the explosion.

Boatswain’s Mate 1c Charles W. Pauly of Chicago died while the Montana was steaming back to Norfolk, Virginia and Seaman 2c Roy L. Putnam of Phoenix, Alabama died in the Naval Hospital in Norfolk two days later on the 20th of February as a result of multiple injuries he sustained during the explosion. Seaman Lawrence N. Finley of Cawker City, Kansas is also seriously wounded but he survived.

The other five men injured during the explosion while their injuries were not life threatening but still serious enough, all survived. They are Private Richard N. Guion, USMC, of New Orleans; Seaman W. T. Friederichs of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin; Seaman Charles E. Pyle of Lamar, Colorado; Seaman John H. Atkerson of Salmons, Kentucky; and Seaman N. T. Leroy, unknown address.

Montana also performed as a Naval Academy practice ship in the Chesapeake Bay area early in 1918. Ordered to France in December, between January and July 1919, Montana made six round trips from Europe, returning 8,800 American troops.

Following her arrival at Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, Montana remained there from 16 August 1919 through her decommissioning 2 February 1921. On 7 June 1920 Montana was renamed Missoula for Missoula, Montana and classified CA-13. She was struck from the Navy list 15 July 1930 and sold to John Irwin, Jr., 29 September 1930. In October 1935 the armored cruiser was scrapped in accordance with the London Treaty for the reduction of naval armament.

The unfinished hull of the USS Montana as she slides into the water for the first time on December 15 1906 at the Newport News Shipbuilding Co., Newport News, Virginia.

This photo was taken at the Norfolk Navy Yard on October 8, 1909, while visitors were aboard. Nice view of the Bridge and forward 10-inch guns. Each time they are fired each gun takes 365-pounds of powder and the projectile weighs 850-pounds. The total charge for one gun is 1,215 pounds.

The Montana getting up steam in Mexican Waters on May 3, 1914. She has on board the bodies of the sailors killed in the capture of Vera Cruz, Mexico.

Ships Muster

As I find names of men who sailed this ship I will add them here with what I know of each. If you know additional facts about these men or others who were crew of the USS Montana/ USS Missoula please e-mail them to: Joe Hartwell

Richard Paul DesLauriers, F3c

Dorothy Dickson who is the daughter of Richard P. DesLauriers relates about her father, "He signed on to be a second-class seaman and they put him in fireman position. Guess he did not like it or his mom and dad wanted him out. He was actually only 17 as his birthday was 1901 and not 1900.  He told us he lied to get in and his mom signed for him. Maybe she changed her mind as she had already lost a child unrelated to war."

Richard Paul DesLauriers was born on January 16, 1901 in Kankakee, Illinois into a large farm family. During the First World War, Richard like most young boys still in high school, dreamed about serving in the military for his Country in a far off place in a grand adventure. This feeling was so great for Richard or “Dick” as he was sometimes known, talked to his mother until she agreed to sign the papers and let him go, only if he promised to return and finish his high school education.

And so on June 24, 1918 at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Chicago, Richard was enlisted into the Navy as a Apprentice Seaman, given his service number of 131-03-13 and his uniform and began his training. Once completed on October 28, 1918 he was sent to the Naval Training Station, Hampton Roads, Virginia where he stayed until November 9, 1918 where he was assigned to the Armored Cruiser USS Montana. He made at least one trip to France during his time aboard as noted in several letters he wrote home to family.

On January 14, 1919 and Examination Report aboard the Montana found Seaman DesLauriers qualified for a rating of Fireman 3rd Class. But while on board Richard being only 18 at the time, may have started to feel that he wanted to leave the navy and return home as on November 22, 1918 while aboard ship he wrote the following request for discharge.

“I wish to finish my remaining semester in high school and take up a course at a University. My help at the present time is needed at home, as my brother is a cripple and is no help to the large family.”

F3c DesLauriers, Richard P.

As it was his current enrollment was to expire on June 23, 1922. He may have been feeling that the great adventure he was dreaming of was not what he thought it was. This may have been added to from his mother, Eustace, at home who on December 1, 1918 wrote to the Bureau of Navigation in Washington D.C. asking about the health of her son. In the letter she stated:

I am writing to ask your kind assistance in ascertaining the condition of health of one Richard Paul DesLauriers, now on duty as Fireman aboard the USS Montana, 10th Naval Division, whose mail is being sent in care of the Postmaster, New York City.

This lad is 18-years of age, was originally enlisted at Great Lakes as Seaman, but was drafted to Fireman service and shipped to sea before fully regaining his normal health and weight, after a severe case of Influenza.

Mail was last received from him on November 30, after being 8-days out, which stated his health was very poor, being greatly troubled with weak back and kidneys (results of Influenza). Since that time, of course, no word has been received from him and great anxiety as to his condition is felt by me. I would very much appreciate it if you could give me an official report of his condition, as it will probably be some time before news can be received from him, by letter.

Eustace DesLauriers

On December 2, 1918 the Navy Department sent a message to the USS Montana in which the following was transmitted: “Richard P. DesLauriers. Mother Ill. Can you come home. Answer and will wire you money. Father. Kankakee, IL.” And yet again the Navy Department sent a second dispatch to the USS Montana with this message: “Richard P. DesLauriers. Your mother has nervous presentation. Necessary for you to come home. Joseph A. Guertin M.D. Kankakee, IL.” It seemed the family was so desperate to get Richard discharged from the navy that they went all the way to the U. S. House of Representatives, to Congressmen James R. Mann. It was on January 7, 1919 that he wrote the following letter to Admiral Victor Blue, Chief, Bureau of Navigation in Washington D.C.

Dear Admiral Blue,

The case referred to in the enclosed letter and affidavits seems to be one where the discharge of the young man is especially urgent. I, therefore, beg to call the matter to your attention in hope that it may be found practable to release Richard P. DesLauriers now a fireman on the USS Montana.

Yours Truly
James R. Mann

On the receipt of the letter from Congressmen James R. Mann the Navy Department sent a dispatch on January 18, 1919 to Captain George Day of the Montana requesting an official report in writing as to the physical condition of Fireman DesLauriers. On January 22, 1919 Captain Day returned with this report from the Montana then at Pier 2, Hoboken, NJ:

DesLauriers, Richard P. 1310313, F3c, USNRF was examined by the Medical Officer of this vessel this date and his health and physique were found to be in excellent condition. He is found physically qualified to continue his duties. Signed Captain George Day

This was relayed to Richard’s mother on January 27, 1919 in the form of a letter. These efforts were unsuccessful in getting Richard discharged from the navy, and matters were then taken to Richard’s uncle. He was Charles A. Bonniwell a member of the Order of Washington, whose organization was under the command of Rear Admiral Charles H. Stockton, USN Ret. Mr. Bonniwell was the Deputy Vice Commander of the State of Indiana. This is the letter Mr. Bonniwell wrote to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels on December 16, 1918:

Mr. Secretary, Sir,

The writer’s nephew, Richard DesLauriers, of Kankakee, Illinois, enlisted in the United States Navy at the Great Lakes, as a second-class seaman some six or seven months ago.

He had not completed his high school education, but was so anxious to serve his country and though but 18 years of age, his mother willingly gave her permission, that he do so with the understanding that he was to complete his studies immediately after the war.

Your particular attention is called to the fact that he enlisted as a second-class seaman. In the face of what he signed up for, he was drafted in as a fireman and as I term it, “shanghaied” into this branch of the service. Further, he had at the time, just recovered from a very severe attack of Influenza and was out of the hospital less than a month when he was placed in an outgoing fireman draft.

Now though he had enlisted as a second-class seaman, he was perfectly willing to serve his country in any way that his superiors directed, believing that in so doing he would not jeopardize his chances of an honorable discharge from service because of this fact.

In conformance with your published statement that it was the desire of the government to have all students who had not completed their education, to return to school, his mother secured a certificate from the principal of the high school he attended, attesting to the fact that he had not completed his studies and forwarded it on to him to file with his request for discharge.

He filed it with his request for discharge, but this has been denied him by his commanding officer though for what reason, we are unable to ascertain except that they are short of firemen and it has been impossible to get a sufficient number of men to carry on this work. Now, to the writer, this is where the gross injustice comes in. Is this young man to be penalized for his patriotism in accepting this work, while thousands of others who enlisted as second-class seamen after him and remained in this branch of the service, are being discharged from the service?

He is a member of the crew of the USS Montana, which I understand leaves for France on the 21st and will not return for some thirty days. Would it not be possible to arrange for his discharge immediately upon the return of this ship in order that he may take up his studies at the commencement of the January period and so complete his education without any additional burdens upon his parents or himself?

May I have the honor of being advised as to what further action may be necessary to see that justice is accorded this young man?

Very Respectfully yours,
C. A. Bonniwell

Richard’s last day on the Montana was August 23, 1919 and was sent back to great lakes Naval Training Station in Chicago where on August 27, 1919 he was officially discharged from active service with the Navy.

When Richard first reported aboard the Montana he had time to write to his mother and tell her how things were. This is his letter to her written on November 10, 1918.

Dear Mother,
November 10, 1918

Well mother I am no longer a dry land sailor. I am aboard the USS Montana, a First Class Battle Cruiser.

It is a nice ship and I like it fine tho I do not know anything about my work, as I have not been on work yet.

I left the base yesterday afternoon and came directly aboard ship. Things are not new; in fact it is an old tub. I found that out from fellows who know. I sure hope we make more trips across, as I would hate to come home with out doing so.

When you write address the letter:
USS Montana
C/O Postmaster
10th Division, New York

Send me Pete Peters address, as [unreadable] here as in camp but that is to be expected.

You will not hear from me very often now. When we are at sea there is no way to send or receive mail.

The ship I am on is has made the most trips across the pond. The ship Miller is on does not do any overseas work at all and is only a training ship. There is not much news now but will write as often as possible.

If you want to send anything send some candy, as only that sort of stuff would keep. Send some chocolates and pack in a small strong box.

Write soon,
With Love

While the Montana was in the harbor in Brest, France Richard had a chance to explore a French city and see some sights he may have never seen before. This, for a farm boy from the farm country was most likely very eye opening. This is the letter he wrote his dad on the last day of December 1918.

Dec. 31, 1918
Dear Dad,

As I have a few minutes to write before turning in I thought I would write and tell you something about Brest. I went ashore for a few hours tho I did not have a penny, and roamed around the streets of Brest.

France is about a hundred years behind the U.S.A. and sure is a dirty hole at least Brest is.

The streets a very narrow and muddy, the sidewalks are only three feet wide so if you want to get anywhere you have to take to the street.

The town is closed up until 6:30 in the evening and we only get liberty till 5:30 so you see how wild everything is here.

If they gave the gobs overnight they would clean the town out for they get on some awful drunks as it is and talk about fight, the frogs all clear out when the Yankee gobs get started.

Two thirds of the ships company are under the seas tonight for those who did not go ashore got drunk on shellac, the place is a mad house tonight especially my mess they throw plates and food at one another and at last it ended in a fight in which two gobs got broken noses. They were a chum of [unreadable] and myself. I got one heck of a wallop, which tore loose the cartilage in the lower front of my nose and cut my upper lip pretty bad. I also had the sleeve of my sweater, which you sent me, tore pretty bad but the tailor said he could fix it so it could not be noticed. The way it happened was like this, a big Swede, fine man, hit me in the side of the head, I took a big swing at him but misses him a mile and caught my sleeve in the wire spring on one of the bunks, he then broke my nose and tore my sleeve all in one concentrated effort. I can’t remember much after that only my nose feels like a boil now and my front teeth ache.

Brest is a very immoral place, the girls all of a very low type, they sell immoral pictures and sing at the same counter with holy pictures. If a merchant in Kankakee were to put such pictures on his counter for sale he would send the rest of his life in pen.

The street cars in Brest are a joke, worse then those in Kankakee for size, they must hold about ten people I guess.

I saw a few German subs in the harbor cruising about flying the French flag with the German flag under it.

There are at least 12 U. S. warships and transports in harbor now all loaded with troops homeward bound.

We take our troops aboard on the 3rd or 4th and leave for the good old U.S.A. on the 5th, we will arrive on the 17th the day after my birthday so you see I will be 18 before I get back to the States.

Well Dad how was Xmas at the DesLauriers house anyway? It was fair aboard the “old Monty” 1600 miles at sea but I sure that it of home for I had to serve the dinner instead of eating it so it was not much fun in fact it was hard work for it was one hell of a big dinner just like we had Thanksgiving. I have a big one to serve tomorrow. New Years.

Well give my love to all and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do and I will be,

As ever
Your Son

Richard DesLauriers is on the left in both photos.

Fireman First Class, Carl Henry Meier

The following narrative was written by Stephen P. Meier, the son of Carl Meier.

FM1c, Carl H. Meier, USN

Carl Henry Meier was born in Richmond, Indiana on April 25, 1899. He was the first child of Ellen (Boland) Meier and John C. F. Meier. He had a brother, William, and a sister Mary. Their father died in 1909. Carl left St. Mary’s grade school after the 8th grade to find work to help support his mother, brother, and sister. He worked at many odd jobs. At the age of 15 he worked as an apprentice to the metallurgist of the Maxwell Automobile Company in New Castle, Indiana. He also worked at a men’s clothing store in Richmond.

On April 13, 1917 dad joined the Navy and was sent to the Great Lakes Naval Station for training before being assigned to the USS Montana as a fireman. During World War I, the Montana was primarily used as a convoy escort between Halifax, Nova Scotia and Brest, France. After the war he volunteered to travel on the Montana through the Panama Canal to San Diego where it joined the pacific fleet. He left the Montana at Bremerton, Washington and returned to Richmond by way of The Great Lakes Naval Station where he received his Honorable Discharge. (He received a travel allowance of $ .05 per mile for 228 miles, or $11.40).

Upon his return to Richmond, he again worked at various odd jobs and finally started working as a plumber. However when the depression started there was very little work, so he served on the Richmond police force for a short period of time, but when times got better he returned to plumbing and started his own business which he ran until his retirement.

In 1926 he married Johanna E. Shinn. They had three children: Carl, Jr., Barbara, and myself, Patrick. On November 2, 1929 tragedy struck the Meier family when their oldest child, Carl, Jr., was hit by a truck and died a few hours later. My mother, Johanna, died suddenly on January 21, 1972. Dad stayed in the old house for a few years, but his health was failing and he moved to Colorado to live with my sister Barbara. The last years of his life were spent in the VA Nursing Home system in Colorado and in Texas. (Barbara was a VA nurse).

Dad died at the VA Medical Center in Kerrville, Texas on February 26, 1986 at the age of 85 years and 10 months. He was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Richmond, Indiana.

USNRF Ensigns J. L. Dawson Painter and Charles A. Painter Jr.

Two brothers who served aboard the Montana During WWI

J. L. Dawson Painter, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 31, 1893. He graduated from college in 1914 and, when the United States entered the war, enlisted in the Naval Reserve and attended Officer’s Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island where he received his commission in 1918. His older brother, Charles A. Painter, Jr., was born in Pittsburgh on November 15, 1891. When the war broke out he enlisted in the Naval Reserve and was commissioned in Newport at about the same time as his brother Dawson. The two brothers were initially assigned to the Montana for training purposes. Dawson Painter subsequently served aboard the USS Nokomis (SP-609, later PY-6), a converted steam yacht on patrol duty off the west coast of France. His brother Charles is thought to have remained on board the Montana. After the war ended on November 11, 1918, both brothers were honorably discharged from the Naval Reserve Force.

Both Dawson and Charles entered the brokerage business in the Pittsburgh firm of Post & Flagg, which, later on, was acquired by Kay, Richards & Company. Dawson Painter subsequently joined the Union Trust Company (later acquired by the Mellon National Bank and Trust Company) where he served as Assistant Vice President until his retirement in 1955. Dawson Painter died in 1956 and is buried with his family in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts. His brother, Charlie Painter, succumbed to Parkinson’s, and died on January 26, 1955 in Sewickley, Pennsylvania and was buried in Pittsburgh.

Ensign J. L. Dawson Painter, USNRF and his brother
Ensign Charles A. Painter, Jr., USNRF shown on the right.

Diary of Ensign (later Lt. Jg.) J. L. Dawson Painter

USS Montana (ARC 13)

Dec. 27, 1917-Mar. 15, 1918.

 This diary was transcribed by the son of Dawson Painter, William H. “Bill” Painter.

December 27, 1917. Came on board 8 P.M. train arriving 5 hours late, were chasing over to Norfolk and back after baggage.

December 28, 1917. Assigned this afternoon to 4th Division and after magazine at General Quarters.

December 29, 1917. Held first drill alone. Sight setting. Stood First Watch 8-12 p.m. Temperature 11 degrees Fahrenheit. Wasn’t cold at all.

December 30, 1917. Sunday. Called on Captain this afternoon. No work. Stood mid-watch. Temperature 12 degrees F. Wind aft. Pretty cold.

January 31, 1917. Am stationed in after magazine at General Quarters. Target practice today. Sub caliber. Weather poor.

January 1, 1918. Weather so poor we gave up target practice and returned to Hampton Roads. No liberty as boat could scarcely run in ice.

January 2, 1918. Snowing today. I had forenoon watch. Ice very heavy and lots of it. No liberty.

January 4, 1918. We were practically ice bound today. This is the coldest spell Hampton Roads has had in years. No boats ran so no mail or liberty.

January 5, 1918. Captain’s Inspection today. Wore sword for first time. Much warmer. Had deck 4-8 p.m. Still no mail or liberty.

January 6, 1918. Started coaling this morning. Put on 965 tons. Weather fine.

January 7, 1918. Coaled all day. Coaling watches up to 4 a.m. Ice still heavy.

January 8, 1918. Finished coaling this morning. Pretty poor work on the whole. Conditions poor. Material and personnel poor also. Weather warmer.

January 9, 1918. Got ashore for first time today. I was boat officer and spent a few hours at the Hotel at Old Point while stewards bought supplies.

January 10, 1918. We shoved off this morning for New York and then we believe abroad. Captain not aboard. He is in Washington. Stood watch in Foretop. Weather fine.

January 11, 1918. Arrived New York. Liberty this afternoon 6 p.m. to tomorrow morning. Saw “Leave It To Jane” and “Midnight Frolics”.

January 12, 1918. Received target ammunition and supplies on board. Shoved off 6 p.m. for abroad. Am in Foretop this trip. Should be easy work.

January 13, 1918. Are on our way with two transports of about 30,000 tons, the Mt.Vernon and the other of half that size, the Madawaska. I had 8-10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to dark in the foretop. Quite a sea running. We rolled 24 degrees and things began to slide. Weather was windy but not very cold. Didn’t sight anything at all.

January 14, 1918. We are steering about 90 degrees this trip. I had 6:30 to 8 A.M. and 2 to 4 p.m. in the foretop. Very little work so far. Nothing sighted.

January 15, 1918. Are making 12 knots on about the same course. I had 12-2 p.m. in the foretop. Held hammock inspection this morning. This afternoon Mr. Liggett called us in and told us probably all but four would be transferred after further training.

January 16, 1918. A bad storm today. Had 10-12 in foretop but didn’t sight anything. Storm is on the quarter and we are rolling.

January 17, 1918. Storm still keeps up. We are rolling worse. Averaged about 20 degrees roll. Table came loose and banged around in mess room. Very hot below as ventilating system is shut off. Thought I was going to be sick sure this P.M. in the foretop. I had 8-10 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.

January 18, 1918. Still rolling badly. Storm at its worst. Wind was the worst I ever felt. Scale 8. Had 6-8 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. As I was coming below we had one 35 degree roll and icebox upset. Breakfast and lunch in our hands as we couldn’t sit at table. Weather fairly warm.

January 19,1918. Storm still on. Lost both transports during night but picked them up at 8 a.m. Stood 12-2 p.m. in foretop. Almost missed lunch but was feeling better at 2 p.m.

January 20, 1918. Sunday. Are in real war zone. Life raft floated by. Dark object sighted on port beam. Casemates obtained permission to open fire, but object disappeared and did not show up again. The Agamemnon joined us today. Should have joined sooner but storm prevented. Storm calmed down some today but are still rolling. Had 10-12 noon in foretop. Nothing sighted.

January 21, 1918. Had 8-10 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. in foretop. General quarters this morning and abandon ship drill. Put on life belts. Sea is calmer but still a long ground swell.

January 22, 1918. Had 6-8 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. in foretop. Weather fine. General quarters this morning. At 2:08 p.m. sighted first destroyer and three more within 10 minutes. A further appeared later. By 3:25 all were nearby and we were relieved. Turned for home then and started on our way into what looks like a heavy storm. We turned at about Lat. 46 degrees 36 minutes latitude, Longitude 19 degrees. All five destroyers were well camouflaged all colors imaginable. They looked very businesslike but were rolling badly even in today’s seaway. I haven’t missed a meal on board here but probably wouldn’t eat one if I got on board a destroyer. Glad I was in foretop when we spotted them. Also glad we got them ahead of the bridge.

January 23, 1918. On our way back. We took off life preservers today, though we are still in the war zone. Are still running into a strong head sea and every fourth or fifth wave covers the forecastle. One ripped the top off a ventilator which was in the foretop and five men went out to fix it. The next wave almost swept them overboard. So we had to turn around and fix it while the sea was from astern. I had 12-2 in the foretop. Weather cloudy and windy.

January 24, 1918. Storm still blowing. Forecastle covered with water most of the time. Once in a while a wave even gets as high as the bridge. Had 10-12 in the foretop.

January 25, 1918. Same as yesterday, only worse. In the evening seas swept quarterdeck also so ventilators closed down. Had 8-10 and 2-4 in foretop. Sighted small, three masted schooner this morning.

January 26, 1918. The storm is over. Nothing but a long swell left. Had 12-2 in foretop. Ought to land within a week from today.

January 27, 1918. At 5:00 a.m. ran into the worst storm so far. The Old Man decided to take it head on and we slowed down to just steerage-way. The seas were as bad as anyone on board had ever seen and the wind was over 90 miles an hour. Getting up to the foretop was no cinch. I had 10-12 and 4-6 in the foretop. Skids for steamer and captain’s motorboat both gave way on one sea with the result that the bottoms of both were stove. Also cover of after ventilator was torn off, and men with buckets bailed all night. Nothing serious happened.

January 27, 1918. Storm has passed. It is a little colder but sea is smooth compared with yesterday. I had 8-10 and 2-4 in foretop. Sighted a bark this morning and we steered toward it to make sure it was O.K. after the storm.

January 29, 1918. No sooner does one storm blow up than another starts up. Much colder today and looks as if storm was coming. Had 10-12 and 4-6 in foretop.

January 30, 1918. Storm is here. Very cold and windy, also snowing hard at times. I had 8-10 and 2-4 in foretop. Couldn’t see more than 100 yards half the time. We are presumably bound for Newport and ought to be there Saturday or Sunday. Hope I see Charlie.

January 31, 1918. Our first really calm day. Had 6-8 and 12-2 in foretop. Sighted a tramp outbound this morning. Weather still cold but wind has died down.

February 1, 1918. Very calm but cold today. This afternoon we ran into a small snowstorm. Had 10-12 and 4-6 in foretop. Ought to arrive in Newport Sunday. Twenty days out at 6:00 p.m. this evening.

February 2, 1918. Captain’s Inspection today. I was on watch in foretop and so missed it. Had 8-10 and 2-4. Weather calm and cold. Temperature about 24 degrees. Sighted Nantucket Shoals lightship this evening.

February 3, 1918. Very heavy fog this morning. We ran into shoal water and dropped anchor. Found we were off Pt. Judith so up anchor and ran into Newport entrance. Too thick to go in. Had 6-8 and 12-2 in foretop.

February 4, 1918. Went in this morning early past Newport up to ---ville. Started coaling at 9:15 and had 400 tons on by 3:00. The worst day for coaling I ever saw. Windy and cold. I heard from Dr. Gibbs that Mother was in Newport and also that Charlie was going to sea on the North Carolina. As soon as we finished coaling we shoved off for Hampton Roads. I had 4-6 in the foretop.

February 5, 1918. Very cold this morning. By this afternoon we had a heavy coating of ice all over forecastle and starboard side over two feet thick in places. Temperature 0 degrees F. This morning 10-12 in foretop. Coldest watch I have had. Not so bad 4-6 this afternoon as wind died down.

February 6, 2008. Sighted land about 8:15. Men on forecastle chopping ice. Much warmer. About 25 degrees F. Sighted Seattle going out to target practice as we came in. Coaling ship this P.M. Weather fine. Really enjoyed it all afternoon. Knocked off at 6:30 after having put on about 500 tons.

February 7, 1918. Finished coaling today. I knocked off at noon and was boat officer this P.M. Had one trip but no time to just put my foot on shore. One letter from Pop, parcel post from Charlie and Alice, Pop and the office (3 pkgs.)

February 8, 1918. Had my first port watch, 24 hrs. watch. Counting division work made about 16 hours actual work out of 24. Off at 8 P.M. Went to beach until 10.

February 9, 1918. Went on at noon today as boat officer. Took Captain ashore and got called for a poor landing the coxswain made. Met Clarke at Hotel at 8 P.M. and brought him aboard until 10 P.M. Hope to see him again but can’t tell as he is also on board a ship as quartermaster.

February 10, 1918. Was off today from noon on. Went ashore with Jacobson and Kilkenny. Went to Newport News and drove back in a machine. Not much doing.

February 11, 1918. Went on noon today to noon tomorrow as boat officer. Weather fine. We have lectures every afternoon by Mr. Case on coming target practice.

February 12, 1918. Ashore today at 5. Had supper with Dan and Mrs. Paulson. Disgraced myself by choking on a cracker. Will have to buy a few crackers and learn how to eat them. Returned early at 10.

February 13, 1918. Boat officer today to noon tomorrow. Weather fine. Nothing special.

February 14, 1918. Ashore at 4 P.M. Supper with Morrow. Sat around afterwards with men from ship and went swimming in Chamberlain. Returned at 10 P.M. through heavy fog.

February 15, 1918. Hard day today. Morning and afternoon watches. Morning watch was worst. Had to report Mess 23 for throwing food on deck. Drill all morning and afternoon with subcaliber target practice. Held sight setting and loading drill.

February 16, 1918. Same drills as yesterday. This finished up our subcaliber. Tomorrow we boresight guns and Monday we begin real practice. This evening was sent out in steamer on patrol 6:30 to 7:30. Nothing exciting.

February 17, 1918. Mid watch this morning. Found man off station and reported to O.D. The poor boob will probably get S.C.M. as was absent over an hour. Boresighting this morning. Had to knock off early as it got too rough. Finish up in the morning.

February 18, 1918. Started target practice today. The three-inch reserve crews fired. Very bad accident on after gun. Shell man tried to ram one shell in with another. Shell in gun burst. Over 25 men hurt. One man died this evening, the one that probably caused the accident. We ran back to Hampton Rds. and sent eight men ashore to hospital. Met Charlie this evening at Chamberlain and found he has orders to the Montana. Pretty lucky for us both. He reported on board today.

February 19, 1918. Continued target practice today. Port three-inch reserve gun crews fired. Rotten scores probably due to poor spotting rather than nervousness over yesterday. This afternoon boresighted six-inch guns. Target practice called off. We received orders to get three months stores on board by the 22nd. Presumably we go to Halifax then and make two quick trips over. No definite news but this seems probable.

February 20, 1918. Coaled ship this afternoon after returning to Hampton Roads this morning. Stiff wind blowing made poor conditions to coal under. Put on deck load also and finished up at 10 P.M.

February 21, 1918. Started taking supplies on board. Men worked up to 3 A.M. Court of Inquiry held today on accident. Went ashore this evening with Charlie and loafed around Chamberlain. Returned 10 P.M. We shove off tomorrow. Had afternoon watch. Received 200 men and read “Rocks and Shoals”.

February 22, 1918. Washington’s Birthday. All ships in Full Dress. Shoved off at 3 P.M. presumably for Halifax. Am stationed in forward control at present very little to do but stand. Weather fine.

February 23, 1918. Still underway. Course about 63 degrees. Had forenoon and first watch. Weather fine but getting colder. Charlie is on same watch as I as J.O.O.D. So we get up and go to bed together. Nothing special.

February 24, 1918. Had afternoon watch. Weather still the same. Sea as calm as we have seen it.

February 25, 1918. Mid watch this morning. Sighted land early this afternoon and took on British naval officer to take us in. We are relieving the South Dakota. They shoved off very shortly after we anchored. It looks as if this will be our base for the next few months with a couple of trips over.

February 26, 1918. Made a boat trip this morning in heavy fog. Later we coaled ship beginning about 9 and knocking off about 4 P.M. It rained this afternoon and made coaling rotten work. Got soaked myself. Ashore this evening. Wandered around Halifax with four or five others.

February 27, 1918. Weather pretty good. Went on as boat officer four o’clock. Made four trips for liberty party before I was through and also didn’t get to bed before 12 P.M.

February 28, 1918. Shoved off this P.M. with English transports. Had morning watch as J.O.O.D. and also first dog in forward control after we got underway. We have eight English transports with us and one English cruiser. Are making better speed than last time.

March 1, 1918. We have nine ships with us counting one English cruiser. Making good speed. Weather clear, cold and calm. Was elected mess treasurer today. Had 4-8 A.M. and 6-8 P.M. in forward control. Night in tonight.

March 2, 1918. Captain’s Inspection today. Had 8-12 A.M. and 8-12 P.M. Weather fine. Is going to be faster trip than last.

March 3, 1918. Had 12-4 P.M. on watch English ships are showing running lights. Weather still the same but a little warmer.

March 4, 1918. Had 12-4 A.M. and 4-6 P.M. Bad storm this afternoon. Convoy all scattered. Wave smashed in steamer on starboard side same as last trip.

March 5, 1918. Picked up convoy again today. Long swell running but not much wind.

March 6, 1918. 8-12 A.m. 8-12 P.M. Had abandon ship [drill] this afternoon and put on life preservers. This trip shorter but colder than last. We haven’t really been in Gulf Stream at all so water is about 50 degrees.

March 7, 1918. Weather still the same. No wind worth speaking of. This evening turned around somewhere about Lat. 50 Long. 20. Destroyers will meet convoy during night.

March 8, 1918. On our way back. 12-4 A.M. 4-6 P.M. Took off life belts this A.M. Weather pretty good.

March 9, 1918. Wind is a little stronger but still good weather. Captain’s Inspection today.

March 10, 1918. Another storm beginning this A.M. 8-12 A.M., 8-12 P.M. Not very bad but will delay us some. Hope to make Halifax by Thursday.

March 11, 1918. 12-4 A.M. and 4-6 P.M. on watch. Forward control is very slow work. Nothing to do but watch the clock go round.

March 13, 1918. Beautiful sunrise this morning but still fairly cloudy. Bag inspection today. So worked from 4 A.M. to 8 P.M. including navigation work.

March 14, 1918. 8-12 A.M., 8-12 P.M. Are getting near Halifax. Speeded up to 16 knots this P.M. so as to make it by Friday. Weather good.

March 15, 1918. 12-4  P.M. Coldest yet. Arrived Halifax this P.M. Made boat trip 6 P.M.

Seaman John H. "Jack" Atkerson

Seaman John H. "Jack" Atkerson

The story of John H. “Jack” Atkerson begins on June 13 of 1896, his birthday. “Jack” was born and raised in Simpson County, Kentucky and he graduated from Franklin High School about 1914.

The Atkerson family in Kentucky dates back to at least the 1830’s. John H. “Jack” Atkerson’s father was Andrew Winfield Atkerson, whose father was George Atkerson. His (George's) father was Elias Atkerson who came to Simpson County, Kentucky in the late 1830’s from Virginia via the Cumberland Gap, settling in Smith County, Tennessee for a short period of time. The subject of this narration “Jack” Atkerson belonged to the Son’s of the American Revolution.

In April of 1848 George Atkerson has a son named Wesley Atkerson, he being the uncle of “Jack” and then in October of 1851 “Jack’s” father Andrew Winfield Atkerson is born. Andrew Winfield was known as “Feel” through out is life and on his gravestone it actually says “Feel” Atkerson. The two brothers, Wesley and “Feel” established homesteads in Simpson County and began farming there. In fact the “Feel” and Wesley Atkerson farms were next to each other at the time of the taking of the 1900 Federal Census.

The Wesley Atkerson family consisted of Wesley and his wife Eliza and their daughter Edna and son Burt. In the “Feel” Atkerson family there was “Feel” and his wife Kate and their eldest son Guy born in November 1884; daughter Blanch born in October 1888; son Curtis born in August 1890; son John H. “Jack” born on June 13, 1896; and a daughter named Lillian Earl born in September 1899. By 1910 “Jack’s” eldest brother had moved away from Kentucky and was living in Jefferson County, Alabama working in a coal mine.

Sometime after graduation from High School in Franklin “Jack” Atkerson joined the navy. It is not known when exactly but it must have been sometime between 1914 and 1917. Why “Jack” did not stay in Kentucky and farm as his father, uncle and grandpa had for years is unknown but possibly “Jack” felt the call if his Revolutionary ancestors calling him to be a patriot and serve his country.

By the time America entered the war and the first call up for the Federal Draft in June of 1917 “Jack” must have already been in the navy as there is no Draft card for him. There is however a draft card for Guy T. Atkerson, “Jack’s” older brother. Guy registered in the third call up of the draft in September of 1918. At the time Guy was working at the Westinghouse plant #2 at the U.S. Naval station at Muscle Shoals Alabama as a machine operator. Guy was noted as having a left leg missing above the knee. On Guy’s Draft card he listed his father “Feel” as nearest relative.

During the first call up of the Draft “Jack’s” older brother Curtis and cousin Bert both register from Simpson County, Kentucky. Bert was farming with a wife and 2 children. Curtis was married with one child and was a Deputy Sheriff working for Joe Atkerson the Sheriff of Simpson County. Joe was likely another brother or other relative of “Feel” and Wesley.

On Monday February 18, 1918 Seaman “Jack” Atkerson is aboard the Armored Cruiser USS Montana and at the time the ship is conducting target practice firing of her guns just off the Chesapeake Bay. One of the guns was accidentally double loaded and a cartridge case ignites causing an explosion in the gun. Eight men are injured, two of which died of wounds sustained during the explosion.

“Jack” is one of the eight men injured but his injuries are not life threatening. He has his left eye taken out from flying metal from the explosion. He has an artificial eye made and as long as forty years after the accident he still had to have pieces of metal removed.

“Jack” recovers from his wounds and he is discharged from the navy due to his injuries. Back home in Simpson County, Kentucky by June of 1918, “Jack” had to register for the second call up of the draft, where he listed that he had his left eye out. He was 21-years old at the time and listed his father “Feel” as next of kin.

Likely on a Veterans benefit “Jack” entered the University of Kentucky where he graduated with a Degree in Agriculture. Eventually he would become an Agricultural Extension Agent until his disabilities from the lost of his eye kept him from doing his job. In 1930 “Jack” was working as the Extension Agent in Scottsville in Allen County, Kentucky. He was still unmarried at the time and did not marry until about 1936 when he took Annie Galloway as his wife. Together “Jack” and Annie had two sons, Jay born on July 28, 1937 and Phillip W. born on May 9, 1939 both being born in Warren County, Kentucky.

John H. “Jack” Atkerson would pass away on June 15 of 1970 of heart disease and his wife Annie would pass away in March of 1977.

Musician First Class Dennis J. Ahern

On August 3 of 1888 in Limerick, Ireland a boy is born who was named Dennis John Ahern. In 1892 a 27-year old man named John Ahern came to America and settled in Plymouth, CT working as an Iron Polisher. This man named John may have been Dennis John Ahern’s father. About 1894 little 6-year old Dennis came across the Atlantic to live with the elder John Ahern in Plymouth, CT. In 1900 the two Ahern’s were living in the John and Mary O’Donnell house in Plymouth.

Dennis John Ahern learned to play the violin during his early years, which would be something that would sustain his life in the new world. At an unknown time he came to possibly live with Mrs. Lizzie C. Marriott of 40 Ashley St. in Dayton, Ohio. The exact relationship is not known. But there came a time when Dennis Ahern joined the United States Navy as a musician. While in the navy Dennis had written several letters to Mrs. Marriott, one of which was dated December 21, 1908 where Dennis speaks about the USS Montana. “The ship is cleared for action and we are having ammunition drill nearly all the time.”

I a previous letter he writes the following on July 9, 1908 while stationed aboard the USS Franklin. “The Bandmaster from the Montana wants to take me aboard as soon as I am rated. I will then draw $30 per month, up from $16 I now get. If he takes me on the Montana I would play the clarinet. The Bandmaster was a Englishman named Mitten, he is a good bandmaster and a good fellow.”

Musician Ahern did make it aboard the USS Montana and may have remained aboard through his entire time in the navy. When the 1910 Federal census was taken Ahern was a Musician First Class serving aboard the USS Montana. At the time he was a 22-year old single man. It is known Ahern was still in the navy past December 15, 1911. Ahern served a 4-year term in the navy and after discharge returned to 40 Ashley Street in Dayton, Ohio to the home of Mrs. Marriot.

During WWI in the first call up for the Federal Draft Dennis Ahern registered on June 5, 1917. At the time he was still living at 40 Ashley Street in Dayton and was working as a violinist for the Hurtig and Seaman Theater in Dayton and was still single. He was a medium built man with grey eyes and light colored hair. He did not serve in the military during WWI.

Sometime there after he married but that ended in divorce. By 1930 Dennis was living in the home of Henry and Elizabeth Robenstein as a lodger. He was still earning a living playing the violin as a musician for a local theater orchestra.

Nothing more is known of the violin player from Limerick, Ireland who came to America to make music.

Coxswain Harold M. Taylor

Harold Mordaunt Taylor was a Coxswain in the United States Navy and served aboard the Armored Cruiser USS Montana from 1914 through 1918. His story of how he came to serve in the United States Navy begins on July 4, 1897 in Haffey, Pennsylvania.

As the United States is about to celebrate her 121st birthday on July 4, 1897 back in Penn Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania 31-year old Sarah Isabelle Taylor (nee Aber) and her husband 35-year old Elmer Harvey Taylor are about to deliver the couples seventh child. That day Sarah delivers a baby boy they named Harold Mordaunt Taylor. Elmer and Sarah would altogether have eight children born to them. At the time Elmer ran a general store to provide for his wife and eight children. Harold went to school only through the eighth grade.

Family stories tell that Harold was a bit of a character growing up and the relationship between he and his father Elmer was strained and sometimes volatile throughout their lives. The story of how Harold Mordaunt Taylor enlisted into the United States Navy is but one example.

According to family stories told of how Harold enlisted into the Navy, it went something like this. The exact circumstances are unknown but Harold somehow accidentally lost his father’s horse drawn wagon into the Allegheny River in December of 1914. Harold evidently feared his father’s wrath enough for losing the wagon in the river, that he wanted to avoid the confrontation with his father over the event, and Harold felt that he should join the Navy so he would not have to deal with his father. Harold would have been about 17 ½-years old at the time, and so he must have lied about his age.

According to the Pennsylvania WWI Service and Compensation file for Harold Mordaunt Taylor it states that on December 18, 1914 he enlisted at the U. S. Navy Recruiting Station in Pittsburgh, PA. It further states his age at enlistment of 18 years, 5 months, so clearly he lied about his age, because on December 18, 1914 Harold would have been 17 years, 5 months old at the time.

Harold must have looked old enough to join without his parents ok for the Navy recruiter and Harold was sent for basic training. Apprentice Seaman Harold M. Taylor was issued his service number of 103 51 45 and began a journey with the Navy for the next 4-years. On the day that America entered the war on April 6, 1917 Seaman Taylor was serving aboard the USS Montana, and may have been serving aboard before the war. About August of 1917 Seaman Taylor was advanced to Coxswain, which would be the rating he would maintain throughout the remainder of the war. Coxswain Taylor would serve aboard the Montana throughout the war in Caribbean waters, on convoy escort duties, and as the U. S. Naval Academy practice ship.

Taylor’s term of service with the Navy was up in December of 1918, and he was transferred off the Montana on November 9, 1918 and sent to the Receiving ship at the Norfolk, Navy Yard. Taylor was Honorably Discharged from Active Service at the Norfolk, Virginia Navy Yard on December 17, 1918.

Now back in civilian life Harold Taylor settled in southwest Pennsylvania, making his home in Penn Hills in Allegheny, County near the city of Pittsburgh. There he took a job working for the railroad as a laborer. He met and married Nancy Agnes McWilliams on September 19, 1919 who was about 4-years younger than Harold. Together Harold and Nancy would have three children, and son they named Harold and two daughters, Norma and Maggie.

The stormy relationship between Harold and his father Elmer continued after Harold had been married. One family story was told how Harold physically threw his father Elmer out of Harold’s home once for making a disparaging comment to his wife Nancy. The ill feelings between father and son were never really mended and when Elmer passed away, Harold inherited just one-dollar from Elmer’s estate. Elmer being a store owner was said to have been a fairly wealthy man when he passed on.

In 1930 Harold and Nancy lived on Bridge Street in Penn Hills and by 1940 they were living in a home on Milltown and Oakmont road in Penn Hills, PA. Harold in 1940 was still working for the railroad now as a brakeman on a train. Harold would work his entire life for the railroad, and he and Nancy would live for the rest of their lives in Penn Hills, PA.

First Sergeant George B. Crowell, USMC

Sgt George B. Crowell, USMC, was 1st Sgt of the Marine detachment on the USS Montana from April 1909 to July 1911. Crowell was born on November 4, 1887 in Paterson, New Jersey. The 1930 Census shows him as single and living in a boarding house in Dover, NJ. His occupation at the time was selling newspapers at the railroad station. George B. Crowell died in February of 1971 in Manahawkin, New Jersey.

His service timeline is as follows:

Private - Enlisted Dec. 4, 1907 Marine Barracks, Boston Navy Yard.
Private – July 1908, transferred to Co. “M” 3rd Battalion Expeditionary Regiment, Camp Elliott, Panama Canal Zone.
Private – Aug. 1908, transferred to Marine Detachment on board SS Esperanza.
Private – Sept. 1908, transferred to Marine Barracks, Boston Navy Yard – (AWOL from guard post for two hours – fined three (3) liberties).
Corporal – Oct. 1908, – transferred to USS Maine (battleship) Note: USS Maine had just returned from the world-wide cruise of the “Great White Fleet”, Maine was decommissioned at Portsmouth, NH at the end of October 1908. Maine was recommissioned June 15, 1911.
Corporal – Nov. 1908, – Sick (likely caused by drunkenness) USS Maine.
Corporal – Dec. 1908, - transferred to Marine Barracks, Norfolk Navy Yard.
Corporal –Jan. 1909, - transferred to Marine Barracks, Naval Station Guantanamo, Cuba.
Corporal – Feb. 1909, - transferred to Marine Barracks, Norfolk Navy Yard.
Corporal – Mar. 1909, - transferred to Marine Barracks, Naval Station Guantanamo, Cuba (neglect of duty, 30-days restriction).
Corporal – April 1909, – transferred to USS Montana (armored cruiser).
Corporal – May1909, – aboard USS Montana in port at Mersina, Turkey (disobeying orders – verbal warning).
Corporal – June 1909, – aboard USS Montana in port at Smyrna, Turkey.
Corporal – July 1909, – aboard USS Montana at sea.
Corporal – Aug. 1909, – aboard USS Montana at southern gunnery drill area (1/2 hour late returning from gun battery party – verbal warning).
Corporal – Sept & Nov. 1909, – aboard USS Montana at Norfolk Navy Yard.
1st Sgt. - Dec. 1909 to June 1911, – aboard USS Montana.
Sgt. - July 1911, – transferred to Marine Barracks, Boston Navy Yard. Arrested and in quarters awaiting results of summary court-martial having been tried aboard USS Montana July 3, 1911. Offense is Neglect of Duty in failing to make certain reports to commanding officer Marine detachment, Guantanamo, Cuba, May 13, 1911. Sentence – reduction to the next inferior grade (sergeant) and to lose pay amounting to $100. By order of the Major General, Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Sgt. – Sept. 1911, – transferred to Company “E” Marine Barracks Recruit Depot, Norfolk Navy Yard. On duty instructing recruits.
Sgt. – Early Nov. 1911, – transferred to Marine Officer’s School and Barracks Detachment, Norfolk Navy Yard. On duty instructing recruits.
Sgt. – Early Dec. 1911, – transferred to Company “E” Marine Barracks Recruit Depot, Norfolk Navy Yard.
Sgt. – Late Dec. 1911, – Discharged upon expiration of enlistment, character “Very Good” physical condition – good.

Pete Scarafiotti who today owns First Sergeant Crowell’s uniform shared this photo of Sgt. Crowell’s very rare M1904 dress blue tunic.
Pete commented, “As you can see from the above service record, ole’ George was quite a character.”

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This page was created on 26 February 2005 and last modified on: 3/1/14

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