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Interview on experiences in World War II

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Interview of Victor Rebel by Clint Bain and Casey Pridey

Interview of Victor Riebel, World War II Veteran

Interview conducted by Ness City High School Audio-Video Technology Class students Clint Bain and Casey Pridey, on September 9, 2006. Adult supervisor Lynette Stenzel and Clara Marie Felts.

CB: My name is Clint Bain and I'm here with Casey Pridey and we are interviewing Vic Riebel as we get his oral history of World War II. Vic please state your whole name.

VR: Victor Joseph Riebel

CB: And your date of birth?

VR: January the, January the 30, 1927.

CB: Where were you born Vic?

VR: Ness County.

CB: And who were your parents?

VR: Clem and Ann Riebel.

CB: Did you have any siblings?

VR: There's twelve of us in the family, eleven. Five sisters and seven brothers.

CB: Did you attend high school?

VR: For a year and a half.

CB: Where did you attend? Here at Ness City?

VR: Ness City.

CB: What was your job prior to your military service?

VR: I was. . . .when I first started basic in the infantry I took my training for seventeen weeks of that at Camp Fanning, Texas. And after that I went over seas to Italy in 1945. And then I was on the. . . attached to the Air Corps and we was crash crew on the airport. And it was just four of us there we had two fire trucks and a water tank. It was on the run way. At first when we got over there we didn't know. The headquarters was at Leghorn, Italy. And then one evening they just hauled us out there to that base and here it was. We got in this big room. No windows, just a rock building half bombed, you know. The next morning when we got up. . . well that night was so cold we didn't undress even. We put our blankets over us. The next morning they told us. . . .gave us that. The fire trucks went out there. There was a tent, twelve by twelve. It had a little stove. But we stayed in this one room there all the time. That's where we slept for a long time. One morning we got up. . .we was suppose to…two of us to go out about seven o'clock that morning. The rest we slept in. Me and another one, we was in there and we just walked out and that building blew up. They figured there was a bomb in there and it just hit the. . . .that's where our kitchen was too see. It killed…we had the Italians, they fixed our meals and there's a couple of `em got killed. We just happened to walk out. We was just lucky. We just got outta there when that thing blew. The next thing we had to do we. . . .where the airport, where the tower was, they had a room up there and we slept in that for a long time. Well, we didn't like it up there so they had a little hut our there. And it was a dirt floor. Those pellets you know where that they put the bullets all on, we made a floor, a wooden floor out of it you know. We slept in that there for a long time because it was right next to the airstrip. That's why we stayed there. I was only there about four months and then there wasn't too many planes came in after that and so we moved down to the supply house where they had all them big buildings where they had typewriters, and sheets, and beds, and all the stuff you know. Right across the street they had all the ammunition and trucks and jeeps and motorcycles and everything. Had it parked there. Then we was stationed there. Because I got over there in '45 in that January and then it was '46 in August then I went down to headquarters. Which I had a pretty good job down there where it was. They had a fire truck there too. The Lieutenant had his family over there and all I had to was drive him to the airport or wherever he wanted to go. I drove a jeep so when his family wanted to go to some activities, I'd take them. So I got to ride a lot of horses. Because that little girl always wanted to go out and ride horses. So I had to take her out about everyday. That was the main thing. Then I came home and got discharged in Maryland.

CB: Could you tell us a little bit about your trip over to Italy?

VR: It was on a ship. An Aircraft Carrier we went on. There was 2,500 of us on it. It took eleven days to. . . . when we left the United States until we got over there. Coming home was on a little ship. There was only about 1000 of us on that. It was so small, a lot smaller than that Aircraft Carrier. Cause that Aircraft Carrier was about as big as a football field so you know we had a lot a room on it. Coming home it was rough when them waves hit that. . . . its just like it had wheels under it. It went up and then it dropped down. It took us 17 days to come back to the United States

CB: What unit did you serve with? Do you remember the name of the specific unit you were under?

VR: No I was gonna look on my discharge paper but I didn't. What year it was. I was gonna do that this morning and then I forgot.

CB: Did you encounter any combat experience?

VR: No.

CB: Can you tell us a little bit about your living conditions? I know you talked about how you slept in that hut. I mean, how was your food and your sleeping arrangements? Did you have plenty of rations and everything?

VR: No we had all of `em that. . . .well when I got. . .the Italians up there at the airport. The Italians done the cooking so we had good meals all the time there. And down there when I went to that supply, the Germans, see the German prisoners, they done the cooking. And so we always had good food and everything. In fact we had them German prisoners down. . . .there was four of us there and then we had. . . in German. . . the oldest one was 67, and the youngest was 18. . . helped us. They done the trucks and washed everything and all we done drove. They done the rest of it you know. When we had to go to a fire they run the hoses and all. And for activity, well we went swimming a lot. We was right at the beach. Went to horse shows. They had a lot of horse shows over there. We played basketball and we played softball and that was our kind of entertainment. And they did have a hall a dance hall. They'd bring the girls in where they had dance twice a week. That was usually on Wednesday night and Saturday nights. Only we had a little problem up there one time. We got to arguing and we had he British there too you know. We had a argument over who won the war see, so we had a little war right in there. What amazed me more. . . . the building that. . . .where the rocks you know, and that mortar they had in there. Well we started throwing beer bottles with them long necks on `em you know. we had our table tipped and we would through them and they'd stick right in the wall. We had beer bottles all over. Which it got a little rough once in awhile because we didn't have no MP's up there. You know we was out there in the sticks. But that was mainly. . .we always had something to do. If we wasn't swimming we'd play basketball. We had goals up and. . . .

CB: How was your relationship with your commanding officers?

VR: It was real good. No problem. And when we was on airport too, they. . . from headquarters they'd bring our mail out once a week. We got mail once a week. If we had letters from home or any packages, they brought it out to us.

CB: Did you make any friends while you were over there.

VR: Oh yes.

CB: While you were over there, in Italy, were you able to stay in contact with home?

VR: Oh yes.

CB: What was the first time that you were away from home? I mean was this the first time you've ever left?

VR: When I left Ness City that was the first time I was away from home. In fact that was about the first time I was out of Ness County. Cause I grew up out in the country you know.

CB: Do you remember how you spent your holidays while you were in the service?

VR: No, not really. Cause we had to stay right there all the time. We didn't get no leave or nothing. Like Thanksgiving and Christmas, they usually had turkeys you know. And for the German. . .the two . . . them people we had we brought back meat for them and they really enjoyed that you know because they had. . .they just got soup and bread. That's all they got you know so when we brought `em something to eat. . . meat, man they really enjoyed that. They done a lot of things for you. They was good to us then you know what when we wanted something boy they'd just jump right in there.

CB: Do you remember what your service pay was?

VR: Yeah, ninety dollars a month.

CB: Do you remember the announcement for the end of the war?

VR: Yes.

CB: What were you doing, could you tell us?

VR: We was still in training at Camp Fanning, Texas when they gave us the word. Everything come to a halt right there. Because for. . .they was running short and we was supposed to get done in. . .had seventeen weeks to finish and they'd try to get us over there in twelve weeks. They'd work us twenty hours and we'd sleep four hours. Like we go out in the field, well you took everything with you know. I never did pull blankets out I just pulled my rain coat because I just laid down here. The trucks come and are ready for breakfast. And they worked us then, but they had to give us four hours of sleep you know. So they was pretty tough there for awhile. And then you was out in the field there all day and we'd have classes nights you know. You know what we done, we tried to sleep. We didn't get all of it either.

CB: Do you remember the date of your discharge?

VR: Yeah in was in September 1946.

CB: How did you get home?

VR: How did I get home? Well they uh. . . .when we got into New York and went to this camp and they discharged us. And they had the train that told. . .when it. . .where we. . .like I wanted to come to Kansas City you know. So they told me what time the train would leave. We'd go to the train station. We'd end up at Kansas City and then I rode the train to out to Dodge City.

CB: Jumping back a little bit. Do you remember the announcement of Pearl Harbor?

VR: Yes I remember Pearl Harbor too.

CB: What were you doing?

VR: It was on a Sunday morning and we heard that on the radio. We had our radio on and heard that.

CB: Did you enlist or where you drafted?

VR: I was drafted. Didn't take long. Turned eighteen in January and by March I was in. They. . .and that's why I didn't go to school see then. I had a choice. Well my dad thought stay out there on the farm. I wouldn't have to go. But I had another brother and you could only keep one. So he got to stay and I had to go. I didn't have no choice.

CB: You said you had a brother?

VR: Yeah that got to stay on the farm with my dad.

CB: So you were the only one in your family that?

VR: No I had two other brothers that were in World War II.

CB: What branches were they in?

VR: Army. They was both in the army.

CB: When you were drafted did you choose the branch of your service or was it assigned to you?

VR: Yeah, I had but you had to take a test. . .they came to the high school. See and I wanted to go to the Air Force but I didn't. . .I guess I didn't pass it. I didn't get in. When I was drafted and then I didn't . . .didn't have no choice when I got down there. But you had a choice before they drafted you but you had to take a test on all of it. If I remember right anyhow because I know I took one here when I was. . . .

CB: And you said that you did go into the army then?

VR: Yeah, they didn't. . . I just went straight to the Army. I didn't have any other choice. You see a lot of time I guess they took so many for the Navy and so many for Marines you know. But most of `em. . .most of the boys were Army.

CB: Then later did you say that you were attached to the Air Cops?

VR: Yeah, when I went overseas, cause it was on this crash crew. And so that's why we was attached to `em.

CB: Were you. . . when you where over there could you stay in contact with your brothers that were also in the service?

VR: No I never did. In fact I didn't really know where they was at. But later on I knew my brother, he was in over there in Italy too and Germany. My oldest brother. And the other one he was in the Pacific.

CB: What did you do after the service?

VR: Went to work here for an implement dealer First I was in the station. Propane. Then he took the implement and car dealership. I was with him for 28 years. Schlegel. Then I went to work for an oil company and that's been 31 years, so that. . . .

CB: Your career choice, was that affected by your roll in the service?

VR: Ah what?

CB: Did you decide your career choice by your service.

VR: No. No. No.

CB: Did you have any photographs or items or souvenirs that you brought back with you from the war?

VR: No. No I sure don't. I never did bring any back. I wanted to but they said that we couldn't ship it back you know. I had little pistols. I had a few over them over there. See I was gonna send them home and they said you better not. They'll. . . they'll take it away from you. So I didn't do it. But I don't think it was true on all of it. Because I did send all my. . .my coat, I put it in there. It made it back. So when I got home wished I'd stuck it in there you know. It would of got back.

CB: I remember you said that you went from Maryland to Kansas City. Then Kansas City to Dodge City. But how did you get from Dodge City to Ness City.

VR: I called.

CB: Called?

VR: I called home. They come and. . . that's what they done when I was in basic training too. I came home and would be in Dodge and they would pick me up cause I rode the bus. When I got done with training they sent me to. . . . got a furlough for two weeks you know and then I had to go to Fort Riley. Then they decided where I was gonna go. And I thought I was going to Pacific because when they told us to pack up you know and they had them mosquito nets in there. Whew, we know where we're going. And they told us to roll up the bed because the next morning we was gonna ship out. And then the next morning got up and said we was on hold and we went the other way. That's when I went to Maryland. Camp Picket, Maryland, then into New York then overseas.

CB: To Italy?

VR: Italy.

CB: And during your basic training you said that was in Texas was it?

VR: Yeah, Camp Fanning, Texas. It was a stationed east of Dallas. There's, well Marvin Dechant he was down there before because I had to pull those rifle range. . .. those targets you know. And he had on there, Marvin Dechant, Bazine, Kansas. I said, ``I know that guy.'' He'd been here. And Howard Betz was down there. And Jedlicka was down, I met them while I was down there. They was after me. They was after me they looked me up and that's how I new they was down there because they looked, they knew I was down there. On Sunday morning they went around. I was. . . . Jedlicka, I think I was three weeks ahead of him in training. But Marvin he was out of it by the time I got there but I seen that name in there.

You know, I left here in a. . .well which I rode the train and went to Fort Leavenworth and was shipped out of there you know. And well you was around all the young boys ya know and we went to Camp Fanning, but then when my father, he lost his leg you know and it was harvest time. Now the Red Cross gave me two week you know and I left down there and I said how am I going to get. . . . nobody but my self you know. Well they said you've got to catch a bus you know. Well I said ok you know and I got to the station and the bus left already and I thought oh my gosh. And the taxi driver he said well we can catch them and you can get on it. See we had all these privileges you know. They'd stop you know for guys in the service you know. And I just had a ticket from Dallas to Oklahoma City. And then I bought another ticket instead of you know buying one ticket Dodge City. I don't know why you know. After it was all over with I thought why did I do that you know. But I'd buy a ticket to another bus and people all standing out back in you know rode buses and they'd have a load. They'd have to wait. We got on first you know. It didn't make a difference, the rest of them they had to wait till. . . and you know you got on first you know. And that's the way I got home that way. And I called and told them what time I was gonna be in Dodge City and they was kind of amazing my second oldest brother, he was home. I didn't know that, but they just took him down to Dodge. He was ready to catch the bus to go back and I got off and come home. It was good timing you know. Yeah it was something else. Then you know after I finished my basic you know you get two weeks. I had to go to Fort Riley you know and all I had was a sheet of paper you know, where I was supposed to go when I. . . I never been around you know and done all those things you know and I got down there and I got to Grand Junction. Now where am I going? Where's Fort Riley you know. I didn't know that much about it. Well you'd ask you know. Well they said a bus. You can catch a bus to go out there. Yeah but when I get out on the base where do I go? You got to go to head quarters you know. But where's the headquarters, you know. You always asked. You'd have a piece of. . . where do I go? Well they'd direct you and you'd get there and that's how you got around. That's the way you got around every place. Well over there when we was in Italy, you know, we'd go to town. The Italians. . . when we first got to the air base there, I forgot about that. We hadn't had a bath for a week, you know. We didn't even have no showers there so we was going to town. We got a jeep. Went down there and we had to go across the river to get in to Pisa. The Leaning Tower of Pisa. We was just right south of that you know. Got down there and we got our shower and then we couldn't find the highway back, you know, out of there. We asked people, they couldn't talk English. We couldn't. . . .and that was hard to explain, you know, what we want to get across the river, we was going to the base you know. They didn't understand. They'd walk off. That's how you got around when you just at one place. Ness County you know. You was on the farm. Why I went to school out in the country you know, and we got to town just on Christmas to get our candy. That's the only time we come to town, you know, until we started high school and then I was in High School here and then. It was different then, then out there on the farm. I guess back in them days, parents thought you just worked and go to school and work and that was it.

So you learned just as you went along, you know. Now days, and then when you got radios and you heard everything and different things and got around you know and went different places, and then it was so much easier you know. But when you're in a little town you know, now and get in the big city and boy whoa. You grew up that way, you know. You didn't get out, you know so. . . But now days you know, they travel all over, you know. There is nothing to it. A horse and buggy you didn't go very far.

LS: Do you remember ever visiting with your parents about what they thought with all three of you boys in at the same time?

VR: No, there wasn't much said about it you know. My oldest brother he got a. . . he got wounded in Italy there. He got a purple heart. He was lucky he was in the medic deal and they went out there to get a solder and this old. . . they could just hear that old bullet coming you know and he jumped out the jeep on one side and his buddy jumped the other and it killed him and it just wounded him. He said it was that close but he would never say much about that over there.

LS: And what was his name?

VR: Norbert. Yeah, well see then there was three of us in World War II and two of them was in. . . Melvin he was in the Air Force, and Willy was in the Korea. He had a rough time too over there cause he always wrote me letters, I found out what was going on over there that time. He wouldn't even let the folks. . . he wrote the letter to me. What all the close quarters he had with you know those gooks he called them. You know he'd say yeah that, you know they had to be up there you know on the line an firing and they'd come across and they dug holes and covered them up and he said cold forty degrees you know, and he's setting in the hole. And he said they'd cover everything up you know and he said, you could just hear em. They was looking for you. He said they was up and you could hear them talk you know. And he said boy you didn't know if they, they'd fire on you or nothing you know.

LS: Are either of your other brothers that was in World War II alive anymore?

VR: Yeah, they're both alive.

LS: And where do they live Vic?

VR: One in Great Bend and one in Wichita. The oldest one now he had a stroke. He can't talk.

LS: And that was Norbert?

VR: Yeah.

LS: And what was the other brother's name?

VR: Paul.

LS: Paul. And where dose he live?

VR: Wichita He was some. . . . over there on some island. He never did get in combat neither over there for some reason now that I. . . .I can't think what he was doing over there but he was on some island over there where he was stationed at the time was on. So he really didn't get up in the. . .

LS: So which brother got to stay home then? Was there another one of draft age?

VR: Yeah, Johnny. He. . . yeah see I had three brothers older than I was and I got three brothers younger than I was. I was right in between.

LS: So the two went then he got to stay and then your number was up?

VR: Right

LS: Do you ever hear from any of the people that you served with? Did you stay in contact with any of them or?

VR: No I just went there in '52, '53. I went to Minnesota to see one of them up there but then we lost contact. Used to send Christmas cards all the time and then finally just. . . . so I don't know nothing about him. But we was in contact all the time. We went up there and seen him one time. And the other two that I was around a lot over there, one of them was from Arkansas and two of them from Oklahoma. So, and I never did much contact after we left. In fact after we left the air base they got. . . they shipped out different places. So we wasn't together too long. And the ones that I was there on the. . .by the warehouse we was just together. So I know their. . .can't remember their names even. Cause when I got shipped over to different. . . cause I got away form all of them when I got in there and got next to that Lieutenant you know and then I was. . . I didn't see any of them then. In fact them guys, they had to go to camp before they could go over seas to get their shots and everything you know. And I don't know how I got there. That Lieutenant must have took care of it because see they went to another place. They was held up for week you know. And I stayed with them all the time till the ship. . . I just got there the day before the ship took off to load out. And then when I got discharged you know all the papers you had to have all that. . . everything on your medicine you know the shots and everything. And they looked at it and said how come I didn't get shots over there. I said I don't know.

LS: He didn't want to let you go.

VR: But they gave them to me before I got out. I got the double shots anyhow. But they looked on that report you know and it wasn't there. You was supposed to get all of that done over there you know before you come home.

LS: Do you mind going back right quick and telling us again what you said about your shooting the targets and being in the water.

VR: At first. . .cause it was in there and I couldn't get that target up there right you know and with that board, you know and then when the report and then they told me. . . I went to sleep, see. Then I finally I told them what happened so they told them to hold it you know. Well, I had to get clear out there. They had that dirt pile on top of it you know. I got my hand up and holding it up there. Well it came right on top and it about got my hands you know. I jerked down and I got me a board and I propped it up you know after that you know. But …those were the things that happened. Well we was out in bivouac too, you know at night. And all you had. . . it was no lights where we camp. You had the scouts out in the front you know. They had the compass where we was suppose to go and everything you know. I don't know, what the compass said wrong you know but there was a big ole cliff off there. And he took us all off and we went down that you know. Well, they radioed for him you know where we was because we didn't know where we was at even. Because we couldn't find the camp even. Lost everything. Finally got out of there you know and they turned on the lights and then we knew we kind of come out of there. Those are a few things that happened.

LS: And those all happened like you said during basic training?

VR: Right, yes.

LS: And that made you think ``What's gonna happen when I get there huh?''

VR: Well yeah, Well you kind of knew that you know. You had night artillery. When you went through the obstacle course, and when got about done, and got to the last, you put live ammunition in it. And you go around just like they have, and they have targets you know. When that guy popped up, you better shoot him you know. Well you shoot you know and everybody in a. . . take two hundred and fifty soldiers running around there. And they was all live ammunition and you couldn't see nothing and all. And they'd have tracers in it. Every so often there'd be a tracer. You knew where they went you know. You had to crawl underneath there and they'd. . . them. . .and the artillery, they'd shoot over you know. You know when that bullet hits you know they smoke and throw dirt you know and everything. And the only way. . . and they had barbed wire off of the ground about that high. You had your pack on the back and then you had to dig down to get underneath there and get through there you know. And they was shooting across of us. If we lifted up you know. Them ole tracers you know, you raise up, you seen a them tracers go by if you lifted up you know. That was kinda, that gave you an idea of how rough when you get over there what's gonna happen. What you're gonna face right there. That's what they're trying to tell you. You got to learn this all because that's your life you're trying to protect yourself you know. But it was. . . it just scared you know around there. All them bullets flying around you know. Them targets. Everybody went around and flew up and boom, boom. You would get `em, you know.

And another one that I didn't like was that poison that we had to go in. You had gas mask. And you couldn't put the mask on. You walked into this here and they had that burning there you know and you had to say your name. Like I had to say, Victor, Private Victor Riebel, and my serial number: 37765411. Then you put it on. And if you didn't, they'd kind of watch you know. Because a couple of them they went down right quick like. They couldn't get it on quick enough you know. But I mean that serial number, I can still remember it. Boy you said it fast. And I still got that. I don't know it just stays with me. That 37765411, and that stayed with me all the time.

That was another one that really scared me. Because I didn't say it fast enough neither, but I, I could just feel it you know. It was just gonna get me you know. I was gonna go you know. But that was one of them things they used over there. You better knew how to do all of that you know.

LS: Ok, now the Germans told the Italians?

VR: Yes. Because they're gonna move in take over the town because it was amazing. I'd like to went back over after I came home. About ten years later and see how they built up over there you know. But they said no and there was a mountain just a little ways over there. And they said, we was up there, and they told us that's where we stayed. It was amazing you know because they knew the United States was gonna come in you know. Well they was all for the Germans you know, because the United States. But then hey Joe, we was good guys then you know. After we moved the Germans out of there.

LS: So you feel like. . .OK the Germans came in and warned the Italians that they needed to get out and so the Italians went to the mountains. At that time they didn't realize United States was gonna be there?

VR: Yes, yes, that's when they was fighting you know. That's when they was blowing everything up. Germans were down there. They took control clear down to Sicily. That's where all of us bombed out you know. When the United States went off. . .got off the ship they started fighting. They moved the Germans back. That's why that one guy said, ``The United States would have never won the war if they could have got supplies down there. But they shut `em off. They couldn't get no supply down there to run their tanks and ammunition you know. And that's why they just had to keep a moving back you know. But that's when they done all the bombing. Everything, like in all them towns, it's just like a rock quarry. Rocks, just everything bombed. Just be walls up. What amazed me, one from, I landed in Sicily and riding on the train going up the Leghorn, which we had to go through Rome too. But they wouldn't let us off. When that train stopped there, them MP's they had the whole thing covered. We couldn't even get off. But we went along and those different places yet, and there was a. . . .rifle was stuck in there and steel helmet on top of it. That they hadn't picked up and put in a cemetery. I noticed that you know, just way out in the field where they got shot. In Florence, that's where they had the big cemetery. I'd say as far as we could see there was crosses. You know how they put them in line. You've pry seen pictures of it. But I was amazed; we went over there and walked through there. In the front row, they always had all their tags on there. Name tags on there. In the front row they had a lot of them, unknown, unknown. Because they didn't have no. . . they lost their tags you know. It just said unknown. And the rest of them went through the. . .oh they had their name you know and tags on there. But it was amazing. It was pretty you know they keep it up and nice grass there. But them little crosses all. . .as far as you could see. That was all soldiers there. Now the Germans, they had different places but they only have maybe fifty, sixty in one place. And they had fence around it. And it was Germans that they buried there.

Oh, and another thing I was gonna tell you about those mines. They was all over. And when I was over there they was starting a. . . .trying to. . . where we was on the airport. . .they'd come out and they had a German prisoner so we watched them you know. They had the maps where they put their mines you know. Like they showed when we were in training you know how they set `em you know. How to get in there you know. How they usually set their mines there you know. And they'd have their little maps you know from the. . . where the Germans had the mines set you know. You know how they got `em out of there? They had them German prisoners and they put a rope around this. And he went in there and they told him how to go and he had his bayonet you know and he'd poke around see. And when he'd find one he'd dig it out you know. And the mines, oh how am I gonna say. One of them water kettles. That's about what they looked like. You know the round, they was only about that high, and round like they had a top on there you know. But it had a handle on it. Well see, he'd go in there and dig around you know, and they'd give him that rope, and then he'd tie it on there and then he'd come out and he'd get so far and they'd blow `em up. The old saying over there was always first you know, we watched them when the airport you know the farmers over there, they still put their wheat out there. Which they only had, only had one horse and one plow or ox. I got pictures of all that ox you know they plowed with. There was always a woman walked in front of the horse. And they said how come the woman had to walk in front of the horse? Said well in case he hits a mine it'd blow her up instead of the horse.

LS: Oh my gosh.

VR: That was the old saying. We always laughed about that. I better get out of here. So there's always different stories. Well I didn't do much but I was there.

LS: OK, we thank you.

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