Midway, what if the Japanese had just pushed on?

Eagle4ty

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First of all most (if not all) of your Naval Firing Tables were designed for Ship-to-Ship encounters, taking into account azimuth, elevation, swell, earths' curvature, etc. and very little (if any) pre-war attention was given to shore bombardment as it was considered to be most likely close in direct LOS fire stuff (last really accomplished during the Russian-Japanese War or even the Spanish-American War)-at least as far as I'm aware. Secondly, in a Ship-to-Ship engagement, you have a specific target as your aiming point - the ship, not just a large land mass where you're trying to take out specific gun turrets. Yes they most probably will hit the island, but even in naval surface engagements targeting specific gun turrets was a remote possibility unless in a very close-in fight. As evidenced throughout the war by US Naval gunnery, taking out specific gun positions was an ordnance heavy expenditure of resources and even if defensive gun emplacements were in open pits bolstered by mere log emplacements, marginally effective. Lastly, a ship is (normally) made of iron, and island of rock and sand. One can easily see the impact this may have on the types of ordnance used against defensive positions in/around/built-from these materials. If you want to see how effective they may have been, take a look at Tarawa as it's doubtful the Japanese would have spent much more pre-invasion bombardment time at Midway than the U.S. did at there.
 

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Stupid question... why would shore bombardment be harder than anti-ship? I thought one of the advantages of shore batteries vs ships was that the ground doesn't move. So in the reverse situation, when the TARGET doesn't move... isn't that easier than hitting a ship?
Oh you can hit land from a ship, most land masses are bigger than ships. The problem is hitting something like a gun emplacement, ammo dump, etc. They tend to be so, so much smaller.

You first have to spot them, camouflaging of gun emplacements tends to be more effective than ship's paint schemes. It is also very practical to construct dummy positions as was done at Wake. The first the Japanese knew of Wake's 5" gun positions was when they opened fire and blew up a DD with a magazine hit. They can also be more widely dispersed, so even hitting a gun's magazine/dump is likely to only take out one gun, a ship magazine hit is usually fatal.

Shore emplacements tend to be much lower, usually dug in. Except for the Atlantic Wall types, most coastal artillery positions would be lower than the difference between the sea and a ship's weather deck and that's ignoring ships superstructure, so you are talking about a three times plus difference in height for just a destroyer. Ships have superstructure and masts that aid the enemy in range finding due to their known heights and lengths.

WW2 radar direction helps little as the surrounding terrain gives a blizzard of returns. That also was a problem a few times against ships when the target ships were between the radar and the coast.

The equivalent of a close miss on a gun emplacement might still hit the rest of the ship. What may cause brown shorts and clearing of earth off self and the gun for an emplacement could well cause some staving in of hull plates for a ship.

The Japanese would not have had the luxury of late USN practice of shore and aerial bombardment for days, just a few hours at best. The closest comparisons would be Wake and Tarawa and in those operations the shore guns were not fully suppressed. In both cases superiority of numbers won in the end but at a dreadful cost to the attacker.
 

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So in the end I believe Yamamoto made the right decision to withdraw both tactically and strategically.
Anyone care to be Devil's Advocate on this one?
sure, withdraw to save what he had left for another day is the best he could do I suppose. but, did anything the Japanese do matter in the long run with the Americans reading their code and out producing them many, many times over? Yamamoto warned them of what would happen. Japanese leaders believed their own propaganda from the start that Americans were decadent, weak, and would not fight: if only the fight were bloody enough American resolve would break and sue for peace with terms favorable to Japan. Japan ran a bad war on many different levels. but they are still my first pick in ASL!
 

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Interesting. This is one of the few Midway counterfactuals that has not made me want to immediately reach for a whiskey bottle. I remember reading somewhere (and I really wish I could remember exactly where...) that if the US had been dealt a significant setback in the Pacific, the plan was to double down on the Europe First strategy, and then turn attention to Japan with Germany out of the picture. In that time, American industrial superiority would have come into play, and the numbers game would not be favoring the Japanese. The end result would be that the war would be over in 1947 or '48 at the outside.

I can't even begin to imagine what the casualty count would be though, especially if the Manhattan project were still completed in 1945, and nuclear weapons immediately committed to combat.

now THAT I find really interesting. If you do find or remember where you read that, shoot me a link or some info. In my addled mind Duke, it is hard to believe that a major defeat at Midway which would have resulted in all the following: a) the Japanese having pretty much free reign in the Pacific for 6 months b) taking Midway be direct assault (bloody as it might have been), or simply blasting, bombing and starving the garrison out. The issue would have not been in doubt with the defeat of the American Pacific Fleet IMO and there is no way the Americans could have held it and most importantly c).. unlike Germany..Japan would have been been DIRECTLY now a threat to the U.S and its territory.

I have problems thinking that those in charge, both civilian and military, after a disastrous defeat at Midway would have a choice but to change from the Europe first strategy. I just don't see how they couldn't.

'Well Mr. President in 6 months we'll have a Pacific fleet again, and our own territory is now under threat. Oh Nevermind that, let's concentrate on Europe. Hitler is some special kind of bad.
 

Bob Walters

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As they said upstream, shore targets are small and stable for aiming. Sea targets are big and tough to aim from. I don't remember where I read it, but I recall reading that a 5-1 gun ratio is required to win a gun duel between ships and shore guns.
I suspect the Japanese easily had a 5 to 1 gun advantage so yeah I'll take that action. Also, I suspect the battleships had a range advantage and even if they only used the two with the invasion fleet they had 16x14 inch guns vs 4x7 inch. Next, if we add the cruisers they had 40x8inch guns. So I'll take those odds. Now if you get into the 6 inch range the Battleships we can add 32x6 inch guns. So far the Japanese have better than a 5 to 1 advantage in guns and that is without including the ships in the support fleet. I should also note that they also have a light carrier and two seaplane carriers. It gets even worse if they were to wait for the other ships that were present at the battle. That adds a bunch more battle, cruisers, another light carrier, and two seaplane carriers. Note I have not included any destroyers in my totals. There were plenty of aircraft to scout Midway and ships to scout the location of shore batteries. And I'll also take Japanese gunnery against the Midway shore batteries.
 

Bob Walters

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Oh you can hit land from a ship, most land masses are bigger than ships. The problem is hitting something like a gun emplacement, ammo dump, etc. They tend to be so, so much smaller.

You first have to spot them, camouflaging of gun emplacements tends to be more effective than ship's paint schemes. It is also very practical to construct dummy positions as was done at Wake. The first the Japanese knew of Wake's 5" gun positions was when they opened fire and blew up a DD with a magazine hit. They can also be more widely dispersed, so even hitting a gun's magazine/dump is likely to only take out one gun, a ship magazine hit is usually fatal.

Shore emplacements tend to be much lower, usually dug in. Except for the Atlantic Wall types, most coastal artillery positions would be lower than the difference between the sea and a ship's weather deck and that's ignoring ships superstructure, so you are talking about a three times plus difference in height for just a destroyer. Ships have superstructure and masts that aid the enemy in range finding due to their known heights and lengths.

WW2 radar direction helps little as the surrounding terrain gives a blizzard of returns. That also was a problem a few times against ships when the target ships were between the radar and the coast.

The equivalent of a close miss on a gun emplacement might still hit the rest of the ship. What may cause brown shorts and clearing of earth off self and the gun for an emplacement could well cause some staving in of hull plates for a ship.

The Japanese would not have had the luxury of late USN practice of shore and aerial bombardment for days, just a few hours at best. The closest comparisons would be Wake and Tarawa and in those operations the shore guns were not fully suppressed. In both cases superiority of numbers won in the end but at a dreadful cost to the attacker.
A destroyer has essentially no armor there is a reason for them being called tin cans and the Japanese destroyer sink at Wake was the embodiment of a tin can. On top of that, it approached to 4100 yards. In addition. there is a great deal of difference between a ship that is 1500 tons and a ship that is 15000 (cruiser to double that or more if it was a battleship) tons or more. So yeah, they hit it and sunk it.
 

AdrianE

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if what if Stalin had attacked Hitler as he (as some do believe, including myself) was within weeks of doing in the late summer/fall of 41.
Its hard to believe that there is anyone who still believes this idea, given how thoroughly David Glantz demolished it.

As to the Japanese winning at Midway, this page is very enlightening: http://www.combinedfleet.com/economic.htm
 

Paul M. Weir

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A destroyer has essentially no armor there is a reason for them being called tin cans and the Japanese destroyer sink at Wake was the embodiment of a tin can. On top of that, it approached to 4100 yards. In addition. there is a great deal of difference between a ship that is 1500 tons and a ship that is 15000 (cruiser to double that or more if it was a battleship) tons or more. So yeah, they hit it and sunk it.
I doubt that Japanese CAs would do all much better. The 5" coastal gun was the 5"/51 caliber with a MV of 3,150 ft/s, not the destroyer 5"/38 with a MV of 2,600 ft/s. Most Japanese CAs only had a maximum belt of ~100mm (4"), rising to 127mm (5") on magazines. That 4" belt would have been vulnerable to the 5" to about 3000m, any 3" or lower armour to 4000m. The 7"/44 could do 100mm out to 9000m and do 130mm to 160mm (depending upon shell) out to 6000m.

While everybody tried to cram as much as they could into the 10,000 Washington Treaty Limit for CAs, the Japanese really jumped up and down on the box to pack more in, while cheating as well. The resultant ships had a number of structural weaknesses and stability issues. Definitely a quart in a pint pot. One thing was the turrets had only 25mm (1") armour. Early in the war superior Japanese ship handling and fighting, especially night fighting, meant that they had the upper hand (Savo Island, etc) and combined with heavy armament they could dish out heavy punishment. But when faced by seasoned opposition they had difficulty in taking it. There was more than a hint of a "glass cannon" about them.

The 7" could outright sink any Japanese CA up to 9000m and the 5" would be well able to turn upperworks, including turrets, into smoking swiss cheese. No, sorry, but I would not like to play the Japanese side in a Midway bombardment.
 

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Its hard to believe that there is anyone who still believes this idea, given how thoroughly David Glantz demolished it.
hahah. Not going to do it. Get sucked in.

Last time, and the time before that, and before that... that subject is pure flamewar material among historians and hyperliterate. But yes, there still are those who think and consider ALL the information and can connect the dots and believe that is exactly what Stalin was planning.

As far as Glantz. Glantz is very good at writing books that are semi readable to any but the most diehard for being so detailed and dry, but he sort of lost the forest here for studying the individual trees. He's simply wrong here. Of course there is no smoking gun here, due to Stalin's personality and paranoia you will find no order in the Russian archives giving the intention and date of the attack and due to the post war realities, those who knew, like Zhukov were NEVER going to talk about it. Remember, the Russians/Stalin/Communists were the good guys.. our allies in fighting Nazi's, not the second coming of the Nazi's.

Needless to say all IMO
 

Michael Dorosh

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Its hard to believe that there is anyone who still believes this idea, given how thoroughly David Glantz demolished it.

As to the Japanese winning at Midway, this page is very enlightening: http://www.combinedfleet.com/economic.htm
Interesting read, I'd take exception with one thing he says:

Just as with their escort building programs, the Japanese were operating under a tragically flawed national strategy that dictated that the war with the United States would be a short one.

His own figures prove that while tragic (for the Japanese), this wasn't a flawed strategy. It was the only strategy that could have worked for them. They failed, of course. But if their goal was to beat the United States in a war for control of the Pacific, a short war was the only way to do it - and the figures he presents from Kennedy prove that. The Japanese were also wise to form alliances given their relative economic strengths, but German preoccupation with the Soviet Union meant that by the time Germans and Americans fought each other, the Pacific war had for intents and purposes already been lost. Perhaps a more sensible approach would have been for Japan to align with the Soviet Union instead (remembering that the Germans were providing military aid to China before the war), allowing them to split China between them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-German_cooperation_(1926–1941)
 

Bob Walters

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I doubt that Japanese CAs would do all much better. The 5" coastal gun was the 5"/51 caliber with a MV of 3,150 ft/s, not the destroyer 5"/38 with a MV of 2,600 ft/s. Most Japanese CAs only had a maximum belt of ~100mm (4"), rising to 127mm (5") on magazines. That 4" belt would have been vulnerable to the 5" to about 3000m, any 3" or lower armour to 4000m. The 7"/44 could do 100mm out to 9000m and do 130mm to 160mm (depending upon shell) out to 6000m.

While everybody tried to cram as much as they could into the 10,000 Washington Treaty Limit for CAs, the Japanese really jumped up and down on the box to pack more in, while cheating as well. The resultant ships had a number of structural weaknesses and stability issues. Definitely a quart in a pint pot. One thing was the turrets had only 25mm (1") armour. Early in the war superior Japanese ship handling and fighting, especially night fighting, meant that they had the upper hand (Savo Island, etc) and combined with heavy armament they could dish out heavy punishment. But when faced by seasoned opposition they had difficulty in taking it. There was more than a hint of a "glass cannon" about them.

The 7" could outright sink any Japanese CA up to 9000m and the 5" would be well able to turn upperworks, including turrets, into smoking swiss cheese. No, sorry, but I would not like to play the Japanese side in a Midway bombardment.
Why would they come within 9000 meters? I was not envisioning a night attack although, with their night superiority that might not be a bad idea. In addition, I would expect that during the day the Japanese would use seaplanes for spotting per their doctrine and training. Recall also that this was still early in the war. Also, the Japanese cruisers were seriously refitted after they pulled out of the Washington Treaty and most were almost had gained almost an additional third in displacement.

Now as to the shore batteries, from what I have been able to find out is the guns themselves were out in the open and very vulnerable and the operators could hardly be called seasoned. I would commence firing no closer than 14000 meters as the engagement range was something like 20000 meters. I may only get 4% or so hits (6% was their expected hit percentage) but with almost 100 guns firing I would be able to eliminate the 7 inchers pretty quickly. I could move in closer after they were neutralized.
 

Paul M. Weir

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On Wake they had dug in their 5" guns then relocated them just prior to the first landing attempt. So I would doubt that Midway guns were much worse than the Wake guns in terms of protection. They had 6 months to prepare that Wake didn't have.

I finally found again some of the figures that I used in a much earlier thread from a few years ago, https://www.wargamer.com/articles/what-if-invasion-of-midway/ which gives:

A partial return of the island's armament consisted of:
4 7" coastal guns taken from scrapped US warships,
6 5" coastal guns,
24 3" dual purpose guns (anti-aircraft and anti-ship),
8 37mm anti-aircraft guns (also dual purpose),
18 20mm anti-aircraft guns temporarily detached from the 3rd Marine Defense Battalion at Pearl Harbor,
42 .50 caliber water cooled machineguns,
30 .30 caliber water cooled machineguns,
5 M-3 Stuart light tanks,
8 motor torpedo boats,
18 US submarines located well offshore.

I would strongly recommend reading the above article in full. In addition the Japanese had ~ 1.5k IJN and 1k IJA troops (plus another 2.5k construction/service personnel) to overcome 3.3k USMC and a few hundred USA and USN personnel. The attacking Japanese were outnumbered in combat troops by about 4:3!
 

Bob Walters

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On Wake they had dug in their 5" guns then relocated them just prior to the first landing attempt. So I would doubt that Midway guns were much worse than the Wake guns in terms of protection. They had 6 months to prepare that Wake didn't have.

I finally found again some of the figures that I used in a much earlier thread from a few years ago, https://www.wargamer.com/articles/what-if-invasion-of-midway/ which gives:

A partial return of the island's armament consisted of:
4 7" coastal guns taken from scrapped US warships,
6 5" coastal guns,
24 3" dual purpose guns (anti-aircraft and anti-ship),
8 37mm anti-aircraft guns (also dual purpose),
18 20mm anti-aircraft guns temporarily detached from the 3rd Marine Defense Battalion at Pearl Harbor,
42 .50 caliber water cooled machineguns,
30 .30 caliber water cooled machineguns,
5 M-3 Stuart light tanks,
8 motor torpedo boats,
18 US submarines located well offshore.

I would strongly recommend reading the above article in full. In addition, the Japanese had ~ 1.5k IJN and 1k IJA troops (plus another 2.5k construction/service personnel) to overcome 3.3k USMC and a few hundred USA and USN personnel. The attacking Japanese were outnumbered in combat troops by about 4:3!
I will check that out later as we need to prepare for my brother-in-law's wedding. Like I said 10 coastal guns would be no obstacle. My take on their preparation was based on what pictures I could find. the Japanese had something like 5000 troops with the invasion fleet. I am not sure that would be enough. There are also a few other consideration to take into account.
 

MajorDomo

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There is a former confidential naval film on the US navy bombardment and invasion of Okinawa.

It is on YouTube, Navy Film 26464. It addresses many of the discussion points here and ends with conclusions. Obviously, the US had many more assets than the IJN would have had versus Midway.

My dad was on a destroyer at Okinawa and said they would fear 5" guns which would emerge when steal doors opened and take a pop at their destroyer.

Rich
 

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There is a former confidential naval film on the US navy bombardment and invasion of Okinawa.

It is on YouTube, Navy Film 26464. It addresses many of the discussion points here and ends with conclusions. Obviously, the US had many more assets than the IJN would have had versus Midway.

My dad was on a destroyer at Okinawa and said they would fear 5" guns which would emerge when steal doors opened and take a pop at their destroyer.
Destroyers are a different kettle of fish. They have no armor, so a 5" shell will do damage that it would not do to a cruiser. Most ships, even when armored, dislike being hit by guns, but destroyers definitely dislike it more.

This is the film, BTW, but it's Iwo Jima, not Okinawa:


JR
 
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Bob Walters

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Destroyers are a different kettle of fish. They have no armor, so a 5" shell will do damage that it would not do to a cruiser. Most ships, even when armored, dislike being hit by guns, but destroyers definitely dislike it more.

JR
Yeah, but Midway had 10 guns and Iwo had bunches of them also if one adds the ships from the accompanying fleets at Midway the Japanese had just about as many ships at Midway as the US did at Iwo. Also, it does not appear that the guns at Midway were enclosed in concrete (at least the pictures I have seen).
 

Eagle4ty

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18 subs + any remaining air assets (and possibility of resupply from Hawaii) would have clinched it for me. Regardless of the ability to knock out the remaining gun positions, or overcome the ground odds, or deal with inadequate assault craft, or the fact an invasion would lead to nowhere, the IJN simply didn't have the strategic resources to be able to commit to such a dubious undertaking, especially should they be savaged again.
 

von Marwitz

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c).. unlike Germany..Japan would have been been DIRECTLY now a threat to the U.S and its territory.

I have problems thinking that those in charge, both civilian and military, after a disastrous defeat at Midway would have a choice but to change from the Europe first strategy. I just don't see how they couldn't.

'Well Mr. President in 6 months we'll have a Pacific fleet again, and our own territory is now under threat. Oh Nevermind that, let's concentrate on Europe. Hitler is some special kind of bad.
Sorry, but no way.

The Japanese would not even have been able to supply Hawaii had they elected to assault it.

No chance whatsoever even under the most beneficial circumstances that they would have been able to supply anything on the US mainland.

von Marwitz
 

Paul M. Weir

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Yeah, but Midway had 10 guns and Iwo had bunches of them also if one adds the ships from the accompanying fleets at Midway the Japanese had just about as many ships at Midway as the US did at Iwo. Also, it does not appear that the guns at Midway were enclosed in concrete (at least the pictures I have seen).
Again taken from this: https://www.wargamer.com/articles/what-if-invasion-of-midway/

While the Japanese were indeed going to subject Midway to a preparatory naval bombardment prior to the invasion, only the four heavy cruisers (Suzuya, Kumano, Mikuma and Mogami) and supporting destroyers of Cruiser Division Seven were tasked to carry this out. Using their battleships to conduct naval shore bombardments went against official Japanese Navy Doctrine at the time, and would continue to be so until the Battle of Guadalcanal, a few months later. Even then we must not overemphasize the effect of Japanese battleship gunfire upon fixed land targets. In one night off Guadalcanal a few months later, the Japanese Battle cruisers Haruna and Kongo fired over 970 14" high explosive, incendiary rounds into Henderson Field, and the US Marine Perimeter, and were unable to knock out the US "Cactus Air Force" there. The following day the Marines were, somehow, able to put aircraft aloft to bomb and strafe the Japanese transports that had deliberately been run aground several miles down the shoreline from the Marine Perimeter.

That is also my reading of Japanese dispositions. The BBs and their associated CAs and DDs were loaded for bear (AP, USN fleets), not for playing whack-a-mole (HE, Wake). The Japanese were notorious for producing overly intricate plans, rigidly adhered to those and those depended upon everything going just right and proving often quite disastrous when one step failed. The initial Dec '41 series of attacks nearly got badly derailed by the initial repulse at Wake and delays imposed at Bataan. As it was the Japanese had to switch forces back and forth between Bataan and Malaya, they simply did not plan for nor have the forces to allow for any delays. Overall they got exceeding lucky in their initial SE Asia offensives. So I totally agree with the author of the above that the Japanese were not mentally flexible enough to quickly switch forces to reinforce their bombardment ships.

That leaves 4 Mogami class CAs with 40 8" and 32 5" dual purpose of 7th Cruiser Division and 2 DDs with 12 5" dual purpose guns of 8th Destroyer Division. I don't know what the 4 minesweepers and 3 sub-chasers of the Minesweeper Group had, but 4"/100mm would be about their limit. Throw in the Escort Force with 10 DD of the 15th, 16th and 18th Destroyer divisions and a command CL (Jinsu) giving 60 5" and 7 5.5"/140mm. That's a total of 40 x 8", 7 x 5.5" and 104 x 5" guns. That sounds nice, but of those front line 17 combat ships, 4 have 4" belt, 1 with 2.5" belt and 12 with no armour.

You still have to spot the shore guns. Put up spotters and fly then anywhere near Ford or Sand Island and they are flying into 24 x 3", 8 x 37mm and 18 x 20mm AA guns as well as 40 x .5" MG, a right nasty, concentrated little FlaK nest. They had lost 11 aircraft with another 14 heavily damaged in the 108 plane Wake air raid, so I would guess that a dozen or less spotter aircraft that would have to loiter around Wake would have have some very, very interesting times. Even then, did Japanese DDs have the training to cooperate with spotter aircraft like their BB/CA bigger brothers? I suspect not enough to be effective, if any.

If the Japanese approached at night, like at Wake, then, like at Wake, the USMC gunners still can hit but be quadruply difficult to spotted and be hit by the Japanese.

My guess for that action is the Japanese approach and promptly loose a CA and a DD. By the time they realise the opposition and draw off to a safer distance they loose another DD or two and have another CA badly damaged along with a couple of DDs, with a good chance they don't make it back home. By then the Japanese have only 2 CAs, a CL and 7-8 DDs still in the fight and at a distance where anti-shore accuracy is very badly degraded.

If they are still stupid enough to try to force an invasion then the have the same problem the US had at Tarawa, being hung up on the coral reefs but with only rubber boats instead of amtracks to cross those reefs and being outnumbered by the defending troops. It would have been an utter, utter disaster.
 
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