One Irene Bolam offers “Personal View” of the other

Today we leave the sordid world of bogus claims about antique cars and enter the bizarre realm of fringe Earhart lore to hear from the “other Irene Bolam,” Irene E. Bolam, who gained her last name through an accident of marriage and was a sometime, little-regarded member of the Amelia Earhart Society whose total contributions can be found in the below essay.  I have no photo of her, can’t find this her maiden name, and know almost nothing of her, or whether she’s even still alive.*  But she did have a few opinions, not all coherent, about the better-known Irene with the same last name, and she voices them in the below essay for the AES readership. 

Shortly after publication of Joe Klaas’ Amelia Earhart Lives * in 1970, Irene Bolam held a well-attended but brief news conference in which she spoke only a few sentences, although these were most emphatic, according to observers.  Holding an upside-down copy of the source of her consternation, she labeled it a “cruel hoax,” slammed the book on a table, roared, “I AM NOT AMELIA EARHART!” and left the room.  Seven weeks later, publisher McGraw-Hill ceased sales of Amelia Earhart Lives and pulled it from shelves nationwide; no official explanation was ever given.

lrene’s written denial to Klaas and Joe Gervais, “I am not she,” was apparently too succinct and unassertive to convince them of her veracity For the record, Irene Craigmile Bolam (Oct. 1, 1904 – July 7, 1982) was a former aviatrix who claimed to know Amelia Earhart and other celebrities, but in middle age had morphed into a devoted wife, financial manager, world traveler and resident of Monroe Township, Middlesex County, New Jersey, but these real and verifiable facts evaded the Earhart-addled Gervais, who never accepted them, at least publicly.

This is the famous Sea Spray Inn photo of Irene Bolam, with her husband Guy, that launched the 1970 book Amelia Earhart Lives, by Joe Klaas and unofficial co-author Joe Gervais, and created a sensation among so many who actually believed the ridiculous claim that Amelia Earhart had returned to the United States as Irene Bolam.

For anyone who would like to learn or get reacquainted with the odious details of the long-debunked, worm-eaten Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth, please see Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part I of IV,” on Dec. 29, 2015, the first of a four-part series I wrote on this dark chapter of the Earhart saga, as well as the 2005 jointly written “Amelia Earhart’s Survival and Repatriation: Myth or Reality?also known as “The Atchison Report.”

The following essay by the other Irene Bolamappeared in the December 1993 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters(Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)

“A Personal View of Irene Bolam”
By Irene E. Bolam

Irene O’Crowley Craigmile Heller Bolam acquired her name the same way I did: by marrying one of the Bolam brothers.  Her husband, Guy Bolam, was the first son of their father, born in England at the turn of the century.   My husband, John was the last son, born in the U.S., 31 years later.  So Irene became-a sister-in-law in the family when she married Guy in 1958, albeit more than a generation from us in age.  John and I first met her in 1964 when we returned from Germany.  She and Guy picked us up at JFK airport and took us to their home in Bedford Hills, N.Y. for several days.  Irene was gracious, friendly, generous, helpful, funny, intelligent, worldly, and very much in charge of things.  Guy was charming, intelligent, worldly, dapper, opinionated, but a stubborn Englishman who was hard to live with.

Regardless of what the New Jersey psychic said about Irene’s problems with love, marriage and grief during the first half of her life, she and Guy finally found true love when they married in their 50s.  She was a perfect asset for his worldwide business dealings. They made friends easily, loved to travel, and people were delighted to be with them.  Yet we believe that foremost they were friends and protectors of each other, and perhaps the keepers of each other’s secrets.

The book that started it all: Amelia Earhart Lives: A Trip Through Intrigue to Find America’s First Lady of Mystery (McGraw-Hill, 1970).

Guy and Irene traveled extensively and often, because he worked with Radio Luxembourg. Since he was born and raised in England, they spent much time with friends there.  They met the author Lady Mary Stewart (from Scotland) on a train in southern Europe.  Later while dining at their hotel they saw her sitting alone in the same dining room.  Guy asked her to join them, and a very deep and lasting relationship continued between their families for the rest of their lives.  Guy and Irene knew people all around the world, some of which were well known figures in high places.  We can’t say there was anything odd or deceptive about this.  Irene, especially, was very outgoing and friendly.  If she liked you, you were a friend forever.  People liked her immensely, and would proudly introduce her to others.  She was intelligent, articulate (except for occasionally salty and sometimes acerbic language), and had a commanding presence.  She knew a lot of important people, including many high ranking military officers, astronauts, and flyers.

Irene and Guy made the trip to Boston once a year for physical checkups at the Lahey Clinic.  During the last three years of Guy’s life, John was working near Boston, so we were able to visit during their week-long stays.  It has been written that Irene didn’t really do much flying, became inactive in 1933, and let her license lapse in 1937.  However she knew a lot about early flying and spoke fondly of it.  One night in 1969, when Guy was in the hospital and Irene was very worried about him, we spent a long evening in a restaurant atop one of the insurance buildings in downtown Boston.  Since John and I were taking flying lessons at the time, we were delightfully entertained by Irene’s stories of learning to fly. 

When she was ready for her first solo flight in an old biplane with an OX-5 engine, the instructor gave her careful instructions about flying once around the field and landing again.  She took off OK, but as she leveled off at pattern altitude her plane started to trail a plume of smoke (apparently the water-cooled engine had a leak in the radiator).  While the instructor waved frantically for her to cut the flight short and land immediately, she doggedly continued to follow his original instructions and made a long leisurely downward leg and approach.  As luck would have it, she landed safely amid a cloud of smoke and wondered what all the fuss was about.

Taken directly from Rollin Reineck’s Amelia Earhart Survived (The Paragon Agency 2003), the cutline reads: “Comparison of facial features, Amelia Earhart — right and left — before 1937.  Center picture is Irene Bolam aka Amelia Earhart, 1970.” 

Irene related other interesting anecdotes, including the fact that she knew many of the famous flyers of the time, including Wiley Post and Amelia Earhart, and that she had indeed flown with some of them.  She appeared to be completely familiar with any subject we might bring up about flying in the old days, such as types of planes, instruments, early airports, etc. 

Irene also loved to go shopping and buy whatever she pleased with little regard to the price.  Not everything she bought was for herself, however.  She also showered gifts on her friends, often bringing back woolen items from Scotland, and linens from Ireland to give away.  One time in their Boston hotel room, she was trying on a lounging outfit to show another friend and me.  The friend asked how old I was, and I told her.  Irene came storming out of the bathroom and said, Don’t EVER tell anyone how old you are!”  She managed to get away with that philosophy throughout her life; perhaps there’s a lesson here for all of us?

After Guy died in 1970, she continued to manage the Radio Luxembourg accounts while trekking around the world.  She rarely traveled alone, always talking one of her women friends into accompanying her on interesting adventures.  Her Christmas cards told of the places she had been that year, or the ones she intended to visit next.  She thoroughly enjoyed life, people, events, theater, travel, new heights.  She was the epitome of aClassy Lady.” 

What do we think about the Irene Bolam/Amelia Earhart connection?  After a most fascinating three days of the AES Symposium at the Flying Lady, our heads were swimming with the new information revealed.  From Irene’s actions in numerous situations, we believe retired NYPD Forensic Specialist Jerome Steigmann’s conclusions seem most logical.  His evidence indicates that Irene had been recruited by the U.S. government to play the role of a decoy, because Gervais & Klaas (and perhaps other researchers) were getting too close to the truth about Amelia.  The government and Irene could “muddy the waters” of her past, in order to leave the impression that she might be Amelia, but maybe not.  She could deny everything with vigor, act elusive with some interviewers and mislead others, refuse to let her fingerprints be taken, occasionally wear Amelia’s jewelry but deny that it was what it appeared to be.

The cover of the late Col. Rollin Reineck’s tribute to the insanity his friend Joe Gervais introduced in 1970 and spread throughout the Earhart research community and the world, the odious Amelia Earhart Lives. 

Irene told us she was a member of both the Ninety-Nines and Zonta [International], but others say that her name doesn’t appear in the records of these organizations.  Why then would they ask her to speak at their national and international meetings?  As far as we know, she was just another female flyer, who never broke any records or made famous flights that might be reported in the newspapers of that time.  Perhaps some of the older Ninety-Nines members knew more than they are telling about Irene being a decoy?  She traveled a great deal, and could have used these trips to meet with Amelia and learn everything she needed to know about Amelia’s life. 

Guy and Irene often entertained guests at their Bedford Village home.  It was a country home and neighbors were some distance away, so Amelia could have visited there incognito.  I can see how Irene might have gotten a kick out of playing the role, pretending to be mysterious, and keeping everyone guessing.  John wonders if she might even have been associated with a covert government organization in the first place, and met Guy, a member of British MI-6, through that connection.

We were shown pictures at the AES meeting, and were asked if they were all Irene.  Frankly, about half looked like her, and the other half were similar, but not quite the same!  We are also curious as to whether her lawyer,ex-judge Kennedy, might have been connected with the government also?  He was often at her side, or in the background, at interviews and public appearances.  Could his role have been to see that she said the right things?

From letters, we know that Irene was bedridden for several months to a year with cancer of the spine before she died.  But Robert Myers, author of Stand By To Die, who knew Amelia from the early 1930’s, claims to have had a meeting with Irene/Amelia in 1982 on a New Jersey street cornerWhile her driver waited a discreet distance away, she and Myers talked thru the window of her limo about the days at old Oakland airport when her [?] plane was being readied for the world flight.  Myers said Irene died “a few weeks later.”  (Italics mine.)

We find it hard to believe this could have been the same woman who was so incapacitated.   Also, according to the last issue of the AES Newsletters, an old flame of Amelia’s from the early 1920s named Lloyd Royer contacted author Gervais in 1977, to tell him about the secret shenanigans with Amelia and her plane.  He is the one who said a new plane was waiting in the skunk works hanger, complete with her N-number painted on the tail, even before her busted craft arrived from Hawaii.  Royer told Joe that Irene Bolam had recently visited him and left a copy of “AE Lives” inscribed to him.  Why would she do this if she hated the book?  Could the real Amelia Earhart have traveled around meeting old friends under the guise of Irene Bolam?  [For more on Royer, see my Feb. 24, 2021 post Lloyd Royer’s Earhart claim: Truth or fancy?”]

Compare Irene Bolam, 1972, above, with Amelia Earhart in 1935, below, and please explain how anyone could have possibly believed these two could have been the same person.  The idea is absurd, in this writer’s opinion, as well as many others’.  (Courtesy Bill Prymak.)

   Amelia in 1935.

In her final days, Irene was taken to an indigent hospital where they say she died.  Her body was willed to Rutgers University Hospital with the stipulation that no fingerprints would be taken.  The hospital later reported they had cremated her body and the ashes were buried in an unmarked grave.  This sounds too much like a contrived “final solutionto this intriguing story.

Almost four months after Irene’s death, a memorial dinnerwas held at Forsgate Country Club in New Jersey — invited guests only.  There were no Bolams on the list.  None of the Bolam family were ever notified of Irene’s death.  Richard Bolam. another brother, just happened to see her obituary in the St. Petersburg, Florida newspaper under the section of “celebrity” deaths.  We think Irene would be amused to be able to continue playing her role, even after death.  (End of “A Personal View of Irene Bolam.)

The foregoing is apparently all that Irene E. Bolam left to posterity and the record, at least as it’s found in the AES Newsletters The events surrounding Irene Bolam’s death and memorial dinner are indeed bizarre.  I would have expected more, but Bill Prymak had little to say when I once asked him about this other Irene, offering only a brief remark about people who are attracted to fame.  I didn’t pursue it. 

* Amelia Earhart Lives author Joe Klaas, who passed away in February 2016 at 95, was a pilot and World War II hero, a POW and a talented writer with 12 books to his credit.  But sadly, Klaas fell victim to the insane delusion Joe Gervais had birthed and spread to other witless sheep over the years that New Jersey housewife Irene Bolam was actually Amelia Earhart returned from Saipan via the Japanese Imperial Palace in Tokyo, determined to live out her life in obscurity and isolation from her family — something Amelia was incapable of doing. 

Some have even suggested that Gervais was a paid agent of disinformation — working for Uncle Sam to muddle the truth about Earhart’s disappearance.  I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility, but whether Gervais dreamed up his ridiculous claims about Bolam, as well as his other phony assertions, or was doing the bidding of the U.S. Deep State matters little now.  Nobody until TIGHAR came along in the late 1980s did more damage to the truth about Amelia Earhart and the public’s perception of credible research, such as that done by Fred Goerner, Vincent V. Loomis, Oliver Knaggs and Bill Prymak, than Gervais and his sidekick Joe Klaas. 

Joe Klaas, circa 2004, author of Amelia Earhart Lives, survived a death march across Germany in 1945 and wrote 12 books including Maybe I’m Dead, passed away in February 2016.

It was a shame, because the eyewitness interviews conducted by Gervais, Robert Dinger and the local police detectives on Guam and Saipan in 1960, on the heels of Fred Goerner’s arrival on Saipan, were some of the most compelling ever done.  

Once again, you can read everything and more than you need to know about Irene Bolam and Amelia Earhart, beginning withIrene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part I of IV,” posted on Dec. 29, 2015.

* A bit of closer checking reveals that Irene Egnor Bolam, 88, lives in Independence, Ore.  We’ve never corresponded and I’m not inclined to start now, as this post is about Irene Craigmile Bolam as seen by someone who claimed to have known her.  I’m not comfortable doing any more with this post than what was published in the AES Newsletters.

7 responses

  1. David Atchason | Reply

    Greetings-
    First , I’m afraid this has left me a little confused,even though I have read it 3 times. I’m not sure where the “non-AE” Irene is writing an essay or being quoted and where that leaves off to be commented on by others or even by Mike. Apparently the NY detective shares my opinion, which I wrote about months ago right here, that the Irene Bolam affair was a government disinfo operation. They hired the Irene to do her act, while Amelia was more than likely (in opinion, again) back in the USA.

    They also hired Klaas to write the book, and it was the same technique as the IJN pilot who shot her plane down or claimed to, based on the Akagi. Same technique, at least I believe today, tomorrow that might change, of publicizing a genuine picture of AE and Fred on Jaluit and then have it falsely debunked. The same purpose exist in all 3 stories, which is to create strong doubt in the “sheeple” that any of these probably true stories have any validity at all. It seems that it works very well. By association with these “shown to be hoaxes” stories all stories that place Amelia in Japanese captivity are thrown into doubt in the public’s mind. I would tend to believe, at lest today, that the Japanese treated Amelia generally well, although they may have had hermake some “Tokyo Rose” broadcasts and that at the end of the war, she was sent home

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    1. William H. Trail | Reply

      David,

      I’ll grant you that after initially being taken into their custody, the Japanese may have exercised some restraint and discretion in their treatment of AE and FN — that is until higher authorities in Tokyo, possibly even Vice Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto himself (who was naval vice-minister at the time) could communicate instructions back down to the field. After that, all bets were off. We know that AE and FN (AE’s stay at the Kobayashi Royakan Hotel notwithstanding) were both subjected to harsh conditions and brutal treatment on Saipan. Every indication is that AE either scummed to dysentery, or was executed — either by being shot or beheaded. FN who was not a celebrity was no doubt executed shortly after AE as he had no further value to the Japanese. Frankly, I doubt that AE or FN lived to see New Year’s Day 1938.

      Now, when AE and FN brought the Electra down on Barre Island, Mili Atoll on 2 July 1937, what we now call WWI was still called, “The Great War.” It didn’t have a number as there wasn’t yet a Second World War. That conflict, at least as it pertained to armed hostilities between the United States and Imperial Japan was 4 years, 5 months, and 5 days in the future. And that’s my point. A war in which AE might have had even some modicum of propaganda value was way off in the future. I don’t believe the Japanese gave any thought to using AE for any such future purpose. Besides, the Japanese had plenty of English speakers. They didn’t need AE for that. Not only was she of zero propaganda value, she was actually a liability if left alive. No way were the Japanese going to release AE after her experiences with them. Likewise, the Japanese did not need AE for her aviation knowledge and expertise. They had plenty of that as well.

      As for Klaas, Gervais, the IJN aviator who claimed to have flown off the Akagi and shot AE and FN down over the Marshalls, and Irene Craigmile Bolam, et al, as elements of various U.S. Government disinformation programs to debunk “Japanese Capture,” I seriously doubt it. Why go to the trouble, risk, and expense of mounting disinformation operations, and involving non-government personnel (always a wild card) when you can just deny, deny, deny, and stonewall at no risk and no cost?

      Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe there are real conspiracies out there. I cite the Kennedy assassination and the Warren Commission Report as classic examples. I also believe that there is a lot of BRAVO SIERRA out there as well. In my opinion, Klass, Gervais, the shoot down story, and a lot of other stuff is just so much BRAVO SIERRA.

      All best,

      William

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      1. David Atchason

        William,
        I agree our government could have done nothing but deny, deny the Japanese Capture, but they haven’t. Since I took an interest inthe AE story 8 or 9 years ago, I have seen a steady drumbeat of disinformation, principally regular press releases from TIGHAR with Hilary’s endorsement mostly concerning the Nikumaroro fable with Ballard’s boondoggle which is to be repeated this year, I read. Then there was the Les Kinney History channel setup which was obviously planned well in advance uncluding the bogus debunking of the photo. There is the apparent suspicion that AE was broadcasting from Tokyo, where Putnam was apparently sent to China to listen in so that he could deny the voice was Amelia’s.

        Recently, the Sasebo story appeared which indicated the japanese kept her in Japan. I would think that when she was sent home to USA after 8 years in captivity she probably was, at 48 yo, probably gray haired and frazzled, so she could easily have passed as an average American, even visiting her sister in Medford, which might account for the bizarre treatment of Devine when he came to visit. There is the curiosity of the Saipanese calling her Tokyo Rosa as if they knew where she was sent after her capture.

        I don’t pretend to have a clue why she would land on Mili Atoll (possibly she was genuinely lost) or why the JApanese would hold her in Japan for 8 years. I have said here that, as you say, she had seen too much for them to just let her go. I do find it strange that Japan, a small nation with no natural resources, would take on the USA and China at the same time in a land war in Asia. What were they thinking?

        What I do find is that the American people will believe anything they are told, the more preposterous the lie, the better. In fact that is the technique used with endless repetition that actually works quite well. Hitler knew that, and we see that with the 9/11 story which is a better example than the JFK assassination. As William Casey said, when everything the American public believes is a lie, then we will have achieved success. Or something like that. I think the Bolam book did achieve the demise of the AES which may have been one of their aims as the AES was hot on the trail of the real AE story.

        So, some faction thinks that disinformation is a better plan of action then straight denial. We don’t even know for sure that the Itasca’s logbook is not largely fiction. Very strange that Amelia made no comment that she was lost, unless maybe she really wasn’t. I am confident it won’t be too long before President Harris reveals the complete truth about Amelia.

        All Best,
        David

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      2. William H. Trail

        David,

        I understand where you’re coming from on this. And yes, our government has conspired to deny the truth, and cover up their involvement with AE’s RTW flight and her and FN’s subsequent disappearance. No doubt about that. However, my personal belief is, when everything’s a conspiracy, nothing’s a conspiracy. That said, I do not believe that the “Irene Craigmile Bolam-is-Amelia Earhart-returned” insanity promulgated by Messrs. Klaas and Gervais was a USG initiated and directed conspiracy. The assertion that Bolam was AE is too absurd, too ridiculous, and stretches credulity to the absolute breaking point. Additionally, photo analysis comparing images of AE and Bolam does not support the claim. Some things are conspiracy, and some things are just bull.

        As for “Tokyo Rosa,” please see pages 89 and 90 of TTAL (2nd Ed.) for a full explanation. In short, “Tokyo Rosa” meant “American spy lady” in 1937 parlance, not radio propaganda broadcaster. The term “Tokyo Rose,” as it pertains to WWII Japanese radio propaganda broadcasts to the South Pacific and North America, actually originated in U.S. newspapers in 1943. The sobriquet was never used by the Japanese themselves. (Source: Wikipedia.) Also, consider this question: What would be the propaganda value of having Amelia Earhart, “America’s First Lady of the Air,” make radio broadcasts for the Japanese if she was not identified as Amelia Earhart? The simple answer is, none. Without being identified as AE, she’d just be another English speaking voice among many.

        Regarding the Imperial Japanese Empire initiating a war with the United States, Great Britain, and all of their allies (less the Soviet Union), you may want to check out Jeffrey Record’s “A War It Was Always Going To Lose” (2011) Potomac Books, Inc. From the front inside flap of the dust jacket…. “[Record] argues that the Japanese were driven by an insatiable appetite for national glory and economic security via the conquest of East Asia. The scope of their ambitions and their fear of economic destruction overwhelmed their knowledge that the likelihood of winning was slim and propelled them into war with the United States.” Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that, but I think that’s a pretty good nutshell summation.

        You mentioned William J. Casey’s 1981 quote, “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.” Here’s another interesting quote — this one from an earlier CIA Director (and OSS veteran as was Casey), William E. Colby who said, “The Central Intelligence Agency owns everyone of any significance in the major media.” It’s an intriguing thought.

        All best,

        William

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      3. William,
        I’ll start with Colby’s statement. It’s so true I don’t even have to recall it when reading a newspaper. When I tell my friends of this certainty they are shocked and say, “That can’t be true!” I don’t argue the point. There probably is no CIA monitor sitting in an office at the newspaper building, but the reporters are well aware what can’t be said. I think back to Dan Rather reporting on the JFK assassination and it’s so obvious he has been well briefed on how he’s supposed to report it, and there’s Cronkite, they’re in on the real stories about the Vietnam war’s false flags and report whatever myth they’re told to. That was when I still looked at TV news, then I got tired of the propaganda. There are plenty of whistle blowers out there, if they’re lucky they only get jail time and not bumped off, so when you say, “If such and such secret were true, somebody would have exposed it.” Well, sure, they did, but the MSM will never cover it, that’s why we never hear the truth.

        Anyway, getting back to my point about Japan biting off more than they could chew, if you believe the book “Day of Dceit” the Japanese were more or less forced into the war with the US, I don’t think that was in their long range planning in 1937. So, if Amelia’s flight was a provocation, and it could have been, similar to the Russian U2 overflights, then the Japanese were put into a dilemma, they were not ready for military action against the U.S. at that time so maybe the best policy was to pretend they were ignorant of her whereabouts at that time. I think I am partially answering my own question. Getting back to Amelia doing “Tokyo Rose” broadcasts, I don’t think I mentioned Putnam’s alleged visit to China to listen to the voices to ascertain they were not hers. Somebody must have given some credence to the possibility even if, as you say, “What would be the point, if she didn’t identify herself?” Yes, but that doesn’t rule out her doing them.

        If the Irene Bolam story was ridiculous, and I agree it was, in my thinking that was the whole point, it was meant to be ridiculous, so that when somebody reported they thought they saw Amelia back in the U.S. after the War, everybody automatically thinks, “Oh another one of those ridiculous Amelia returns stories. I’m not paying any attention any more.” So the propaganda is successful.
        I’m not a student of WW2 or any war, so there is plenty I don’t know. Just yesterday. I was listening to a woman hiking friend of mine, a little younger than me, relate her father’s experiences in a German POW camp and I honestly never had heard of such atrocities the Amerians were subject to, especially when theGermans knew they had lost. I remember as a little boy, sitting secretly at the head of the living room stairs listening to a neighbor of ours who was a POW in Germany relate his experiences. I couldn’t catch much of it, but I gathered it was clearly not enjoyable and was chilling, unlike how TV shows later portrayed it. Maybe the MSM was told what to say years after WW2.

        All Best,
        David

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  2. Thanks for another great essay debunking the myths surrounding AE, Mike. Great job.

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  3. Stuart R. Brownstein | Reply

    Thanks again, Mike, keep up the great work ! Stay safe ! Your friend up north, Stuart !

    Like

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