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  • Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
    Then, the main thesis of the Volsky's (*) report is that mechanized formations were used do defend or conduct delaying actions on a broad front alone independently of infantry - a task for which were not designed and nor prepared. Which was not something unusual

    * The first signatory was actually general Vasily Volsky.
    Artyom, I'm interested in your source, and especially the date, for the Volsky report. General V.T. Volsky commanded the 4th Mech Corps in the Stalingrad counteroffensive. His unit linked up with Kravchenko's 4th Tank Corps at Kalach to close the encirclement around Stalingrad.

    In preparation for the operation, he complained to Stalin that his army commander was using his trucks to move other units, and he could not complete his tasks in preparation for the offensive. Stalin questioned the Stavka representative and Front commander on the issue. His complaint proved valid; the Stavka Representative asked Stalin what he wanted to do about Vasilevsky. Stalin said lets wait and see how he handles himself in the operation.

    Volsky later replaced Rotmistrov as the commander of the 5th GTA for a short period; he suffered from tuberculosis back to Stalingrad.

    Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

    Comment


    • The document (signed by generals Volsky and Morgunov and commissar Chuchukalo) first saw a publication in 1957 as a part Collection of Battle Documents (Issue 33) - typically for that period a limited access series:
      http://www.teatrskazka.com/Raznoe/Sb...ssue33_60.html
      I believe, it was quoted or mentioned by several authors.

      Comment


      • A general a commonplace before the war or even early in WW2 was that the tank is an offensive weapon. Hence even in defensive battle/operation tank units had to be employed offensively in counterattacks. Defensive positions were to be held mostly by by infantry. A Soviet textbook from 1940 said:
        "Employment of tank forces in offensive battle is a normal situation, but defensive actions of a group of tank formations and even more of a single tank formation should be considered a contingency measure".
        Hence the statement by Volsky that tank officers were not taught defensive combat. Even though wartime Soviet wartime regulations paid a lip service to an above-mentioned doctrine, the practice turned out to be vastly different. In very many cases, like "Citadel" or Balaton lake tank armies or corps were employed as a "shield" passively absorbing a blow of hostile forces and in most cases this type of employment was more successful and cost-effective than "doctrinal" counterattacks. I guess, military academy lecturers from the year 1941 would have a heart attack if they saw the combat at Balaton lake, because it was totally contrary to their teachings, but still it worked. The same process happened more or less universally in all belligerent armies, see a British example:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Alam_el_Halfa

        Comment


        • Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
          The document (signed by generals Volsky and Morgunov and commissar Chuchukalo) first saw a publication in 1957 as a part Collection of Battle Documents (Issue 33) - typically for that period a limited access series:
          http://www.teatrskazka.com/Raznoe/Sb...ssue33_60.html
          I believe, it was quoted or mentioned by several authors.
          Thanks, I happen to have that volume. The report is in Section III Battle Operations Tank and Mechanized Force in the Southwest Direction with reports mostly for June 1941 after the invasion to December 1941.
          Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

          Comment


          • The same process happened more or less universally in all belligerent armies, see a British example:
            As German comrades wrote based on their experience (summer of 1943):
            As much as tank employed in large numbers from both sides are a decisive means of offensive, it is equally beyond any doubt that tanks or assault guns should support every attack, otherwise it is doomed to failure. It was found that any attack is stopped by just 2-3 enemy tanks which paralyze the attackers using their superior guns before towed anti-tank guns are able to undertake anything. Assault guns as a the only effective anti-tank weapon should take part in every attack.

            It follows from this that the assault gun is the backbone of defense of the main line of resistance. It is not sufficient to employ assault guns as a mobile reserve in depth and commit them in counterattacks against hostile breakthroughs. Several assault guns placed on reverse slopes of hills immediately behind the MLR were able to stop any attack of tanks or infantry, since each tank or infantry unit limbing the crest of the hill was engaged by their fire.

            Thanks to this tactics small number of assault guns could produce a great effectiveness of fire. In cases when no assault guns were available on the MLR the hostile breakthroughs were almost always successful and could be eliminated only with great strains, since Russians employed the same anti-tank tactics - they allowed out tanks to climb hill crests to knock them out. Such events were repeated almost every day in defensive combat beginning from 11.7. It demonstrates unequivocally that the assault gun from a decisive means of attack became a decisive means of defense against any hostile force.

            The higher command had solid reasons to worry that if assault guns are placed on the main line of resistance then no attack reserve would be left, as a result after elimination of hostile breakthroughs armor was immediately withdrawn to the rear
            .
            In Panzerjäger-Abteilung 8's battle for Ginki the result was that after our armor was pulled back the Russians repeated their tank attacks after several hours, their tanks broke through and were repulsed several times, as a result the Abteilung was completely mauled after several days.
            On the contrary it was enough to have several assault guns behind the MLR to prevent the hostile breakthrough at the very beginning.
            Long story short: counterattack tactics was not cost-effective and armor by force of circumstances had to be employed defensively.

            Comment


            • The reliance on armor counterattacks in the defense was the essence of what was called the mobile defense within a repertoire of defenses used by the Germans on the eastern front.* Commanders fought differently. Balck described, in an interview in July 1979, an encounter he had with Model on the eve of the Lvov-Sandomir Operation: "His position defense approach was completely opposed to my views on mobile defense. If I have six armored infantry battalions, I won't stick them into the defensive line. I'll hold them in reserve and, when the enemy attacks, I'll use my mobile reserves to throw him out."

              * Dept of Army pamphlet 20-233, Historical Study, October 1951, German Defense Tactics against Russian Breakthroughs, describes the variations in Active Defense, Passive Defense, Retrograde Movements, and Combination of Defense Tactics.
              Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

              Comment


              • Continuing with Losik.

                The Soviet counteroffensive around Stalingrad was the first operation in which tank and mechanized corps were used in accordance with the requirements of NKO Order No 325. Losik notes, "At various stages of the counteroffensive, 15 tank and mechanized corps were active in the Southwestern, Don, and Stalingrad fronts and played a decisive role in defeating the enemy groupings in the area of Stalingrad. ...in the Stalingrad counteroffensive and the overall Soviet offensive that developed in January 1943 on the southern wing of the Soviet-German front confirmed the theoretical validity and practical expediency of the basic provisions of Order No. 325. Therefore, right up until the Combat Regulations of Armored and Mechanized Troops were issued (1944), the NKO Order Nol. 235 remained the basic guidance for organizing and conducting combat actions by our tank and mechanized formations." [I would add that the Red Army tank/mech forces still had much to learn before 1944, particularly at the operational level with Manstein's backhand strike in the Donbas and before Kharkov taught the Red Army armor forces about protecting their flanks from counterstrikes and sustaining the momentum and initiative of the breakthrough.]

                Losik notes, at this point, "The consistent improvement of the organizational structure of separate tank and mechanized corps as well as those that were part of the tank armies, the increase in their fighting and maneuvering capabilities, the changes in the conditions and methods of fighting by ground forces in general, and the amassed experience led to the further development and improvement of the methods of combat and tactical use of tank corps and tank armies in offensive operations." [The corps is a unit level that can fight at the tactical level or operational level depending upon mission.]

                At this point, Losik moves into the operational art of separate tank corps and tank armies which made up the exploitation echelon (mobile groups) of the rifle/combined-arms and Fronts. This would probably make another interesting thread on the Red Army's operational level use of armored forces in WWII.
                Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                Comment


                • Some observations from the other side. From lectures given in the Wunsdorf tank school, March 1942

                  Throughout the Russian campaign the Russians didn’t practice attacks in a fashion prescribed by their regulations. Obviously, we cannot count on this anymore.
                  As a universal rule Russian tanks attacked in close cooperation with infantry, obviously attached to it. Usually a small tank detachment (5-10 vehicles) is followed by groups of infantry, infantry either rides tanks and tanks tow skiers.

                  Thus, Russians in their combat methods refused from massed attacks, but on the other hand they can employ tanks in all places.

                  We should discard the notion that the tanks can only pass terrain suitable for regimental-size attacks. Those small tank groups can attack even in areas unfavorable for tanks (sparse woods, glades, trails etc). Against such small tank detachments anti-tank obstacles installed several hundred meters behind the main line of resistance are meaningless, because tanks have enough small targets to engage within close range.

                  The German tank hunter must understand that he is attacked by rules of Russian tank tactics, not by German.

                  Small tank groups mostly consist of 4-5 tanks of various types. Mixture of light and heavy tanks seemingly became a principle.

                  Attack tempo is very slow. Already from large distance (2000 meters and more) Russian tanks frequently opened fire, sometimes against expected targets.

                  In tank-to-tank combat they tried to keep at large distance. This tactics present a correct assessment of their superior weapons. German tanks should try to use their excellent operational qualities and better observation capabilities to control the distance of firefight.
                  Russian tanks advanced slowly from one intermediate line to another with a mutual fire support. That was observed even for groups of 2 tanks. Since observation from Russian tanks is completely inadequate, Russians usually observe from a turret using binoculars (shoot them). Turret hatch is frequently opened (snipers on trees, hand grenades).

                  When making a penetration the heaviest tank (habitually KV) halted for observation, and light tanks advanced left and right of it. That forced anti-tank guns to open fire. If they were spotted by a heavy tank, which didn’t always happen, then the tank almost without fire advanced to crush anti-tank guns with tracks or knock them out with grenades.
                  In other cases the heavy tank penetrated to the position and tried to neutralize anti-tank weapons, while the light tanks went to attack.

                  Anti-tanks guns which were spotted were destroyed by ramming. Single standing tanks should be immediately attacked by close-range weapons.

                  According to many reports tanks used to advance “like blind”. Obviously that can be explained by accidental damage to driver’s observation device by machine gun fire (should be made a principle).

                  Small Russian groups also attacked at night. They used strongly masked headlights. Experience of the Eastern Front and practical tests demonstrated that headlights are very difficult to hit (rifles with optical sights are beast to be used). One should expect that night tank groups will continue to be encountered further. Usually the headlight was installed on the most heavily armored tank. Naturally it attracted hostile fire. Then light tanks on the sides opened fire against anti-tank guns, spotted by flashes.

                  If Russians managed to spot an anti-tank gun or similar target within the area illuminated by the headlight, then the tank advanced to that direction, turned off the lights and blinded attacked the gun and tried to crush it with its tracks.
                  Translated from "German docs in Russia"

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
                    Some observations from the other side. From lectures given in the Wunsdorf tank school, March 194

                    Translated from "German docs in Russia"
                    Very interesting document, thanks for posting. After a couple of reads, two points come to mind:

                    I recall reading German comments that Americans did not follow their manuals. Having served in the American army for 27 years ('70's-'95), I found the leadership would have vague notions or varied interpretations of the field manuals--it was very idiosyncratic. I recall witnessing an argument during a field exercise in the 70's, when the army was fashioning its 'Active Defense' doctrine, between two armor generals on the difference between movement and maneuver.

                    The date, March 1942, of the Wunsdorf lecture is significant because after the collapse/loss of the mech corps in the summer of 1941, the Red Army was building tank brigades and did not field in combat the tank corps until Kharkov May '42. The Red Army had to fight in small packets. For operational level mobility in the Moscow counteroffensive, tank brigades had to be augmented with other tank brigades, cavalry, ski, and airborne units with varying degrees of success.
                    Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 14 Feb 19, 08:46.
                    Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                    Comment


                    • Thanks for this thread. Rick and Art are writing a book of sorts here for me to educate myself. I especially like that the both of you can translate from the Russian to English which benefits me.

                      Going back to the opening week of the war (hope you both don't mind), the Soviets had many deficiencies in their mechanized corps. This would rear its head along the whole front but I will limit my observances to the southwest and southern fronts (5th Army/6th Army), and the mechanized corps subordinate to them. I believe these two Soviet fronts, although having teething problems, achieved the best resistance against the Germans in the opening week of Barbarossa.

                      Some of the problems were as follows: The "red envelopes" to be opened by the commanders near the border in case of a German attack (instructions to defend the post 1939 border) were pre - ordained. This is proved useless. The commanders opened these letters with their orders and immediately began to follow them and advance to their "pre-designated" areas. This had most of the forces going in directions counter to where they should be going. Once an attack starts you should react to the enemies main areas of advance.
                      These "red envelopes" were a bad idea. The most important thing was communications with Stavka explaining the situation at the front and reporting the main axes of the enemy and also their perceived objectives, the Panzerstrasse(s), and then receive orders to best counter and deny the enemies objectives. I know this is not a tactical observation but I just had to throw it out there as it resulted in the mechanized corps moving in the wrong directions, wasting gasoline and time, while putting unnecessary wear and tear on their mechanized vehicles.From 0315 to approximately 0915 the commanders followed the orders because if an order was not followed, resulting in large losses, you could be shot (some of the commanders were shot and a few shot themselves).

                      While the above could lead one to believe the Stavka, who ultimately was responsible for the confusion during the first 6 hours or so of the war, were fools for writing these emergency counter measures for defense, and would shoot commanders who did not follow them, this was generally not the case and they certainly were not fools. As soon as reports started to come in from the front new orders and directives were sent out regularly from Stavka.

                      Here the most glaring problem was not the pre - orders or Stavka, but the surprise attack which caught the Soviets off guard. Some of the deficiencies I observed after the initial shock and confusion period were still, in some cases, the receiving of new orders that still sent some of the mechanized corps in the wrong direction. Ryabyshev's 8th Mechanized corps was ordered to move west some 75km and then turn around and come back to another area near their original starting point. 1/4 of their tanks, trucks, and artillery towing tractors were lost to mechanical breakdowns during the 150km roundtrip.

                      On the night of 23 -24 June things were getting better but not much. The morning of 24 June some of the heavy armor clashes in what is commonly called the Dubno tank battle or bloody triangle - Brody - Dubno - Lutzk started to unwind. for the most part the tank divisions of the mechanized corps did ok at creating a thorn in the side of AGS. They were defeated in all the major clashes of armor from 24 - 30 June but they destroyed many German tanks and inflicted many casualties on German soldiers. The Soviet Air Force also played a major role in the depletion of German machines and men.

                      During the tank clashes it was the Germans use of artillery and infantry, and the Soviet lack of it, that made the difference. The KV tanks, both versions, could be knocked out by direct artillery fire of large caliber and the artillery units attached to the German infantry were much more mobile then the Soviets so they were brought up quickly to the areas of armor attacks. The T-34 tanks were also knocked out in the majority of these clashes in the same manner. If the Soviets had their artillery and infantry in sufficient numbers to support their tanks things would have been better.

                      The Germans also had an advantage with communications tank to tank and tank to infantry/artillery. The Soviets non - employment of communications via radio or wire proved very detrimental while tryin to thwart a never ending fluid battle of maneuver. They relied for the most part on "runners" to go back and forth between units which delayed communications to the respective units to respond in mass to a breakthrough. This resulted in tanks being deployed piecemeal.

                      individual tank divisions in mechanized corps were ordered by Stavka to deploy in different directions as reports came which split up units and the majority of these deployments were useless as when they reached their assigned areas they were engaged in either larger combined panzer and infantry units or even smaller Kampfgruppes created on the fly to cover the main road junctions and supply routes already secured that the Soviet tank divisions were intended to cut off. The Germans had a few of these kampfgruppes comprised of elements of infantry, artillery, and tank units. These kampfgruppes were very mobile and well organized in responding to a crisis situation with mission orders followed by the commander at the spearhead - Auftragstaktiks - there goes that word again while the Soviets had "set orders" to follow and were not allowed to deviate (if they did and it went to hell it was your head on the block) from them unless ordered to from command.

                      The Soviets had to constantly react to new situations and their tactical doctrine was detrimental in these cases. As an example General Ryabyshev commanding the 8th mechanized corps which was doing very well considering all of the above (his corps had the most T-34's available at the start of the war) was approached by a senior commissar with new orders to attack Dubno at once without hesitation while his tank divisions and artillery were in different areas and would need some time to bring them back together to a jump - off point. He explained this to the commissar who exploded in a mad rage ordering him to head directly to Dubno with the men and machines directly at hand and attack. Ryabyshev and his commissar (I believe his name was Popel) had fought bravely from the front often leading into a battle in a tank and was undeserving of this tirade of this senior commissar (I cant recall his name but he shot himself a day later IIRC). Ryabyshev did as ordered and it was fruitless.

                      Set "jump - off" areas for an offensive order that were given were often already occupied by the Germans. This detriment repeated itself often and even up to the Kursk battle two years later. The optimal jump off points regarding terrain were altered resulting in disaster. This discrepancy was more often then not because of faulty reconnaissance.

                      Reconnaissance, whether by air, land, or combined is critical and must be updated routinely during the day. The Soviets would conduct reconnaissance and send the intelligence to command. Command gave orders based on this recon which was faulty. Example: An aerial reconnaissance group flies over hill 210, a critical high ground and the surrounding areas occupied by the enemy at 0900. At 1100 a plan is devised and units involved in the plan are given orders for an offensive attack to commence at 1500 including staging/jump off area at 1300 from an area with optimal terrain. Meanwhile, between 0930 and 1300, the enemy has moved half of its available assets into the assigned jump - off area undetected.

                      The Soviets use of aviation assets in the southwestern front during the first week of the war were adequate. IIRC, just 15% of their operational aircraft were destroyed while on the ground. They were highly instrumental in helping the ground units. This is recorded in many German divisional diaries and AAR's. After the first few days, by 26 June IIRC, they had equal control of the skies over the battles and in some cases superiority. Although the Luftwaffe fighter/bomber groups had a slight advantage in close air support this was not the main reason for the losses of their mechanized corps during the first week of the war which is often insinuated by many.


                      Last edited by Kurt Knispel; 18 Feb 19, 15:56.
                      Theo mir ist die munition ausgegangen ich werde diesen ramman auf wiedersehen uns in walhalla

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                      • Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
                        I recall reading German comments that Americans did not follow their manuals.
                        In the previous part of the lecture the author retells, more or less adequately, Soviet instructions for deep battle from mid-1930s.
                        http://wwii.germandocsinrussia.org/r...inspect/zoom/6
                        I guess, that is what he meant by "regulations", apparently unaware that those instructions were already obsolete by 1941. Employment of tanks by small groups in the winter 1941/42 is probably another thing which he considers "against the manuals".

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
                          I guess, that is what he meant by "regulations", apparently unaware that those instructions were already obsolete by 1941. Employment of tanks by small groups in the winter 1941/42 is probably another thing which he considers "against the manuals".
                          Interesting observation. I had the impression from my study of those who rose to command tank armies that as tank brigade commanders in 1941 late/ early '42, they improvised and/or extemporized based on their previous experiences.

                          Romistrov and Kravchenko fought in tank forces in Finland. Lelyushenko, cdr, 39th Separate Light Tank Brigade (Sept '39), was involved in the advance into Poland. Rybalko relied on his cavalry experience in the Civil War and Russo-Polish War (but he did lead a tank brigade and an instructor at Kazan tank school until May 1942 when assigned as the deputy cdr for infantry in the 3rd Tk Army (when he took extraordinary effort to self-educate himself on the latest tanks), then cdr, 5th TA (Jul '42), reassigned cdr 3rd TA to the end of the war). Bogdanov, although assigned to command a mech brigade in January 1937, was later that year caught up in the purging with time in prison. Katukov became a tanker in 1932 with company and battalion commands before receiving command of the 20th Tk Div, 9th Mech Corps by the beginning of Barbarossa (but I recall from his memoirs mentioning some of his tank commanders having experience in Khalkin Gol and Finland).
                          Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 16 Feb 19, 07:07.
                          Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                          Comment


                          • Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
                            Compare with:
                            126. If the armored division encounters enemy tanks during the attack, engaging them must take precedence over all other tasks. The tank brigade must quickly find covered positions from which it can fire effectively at the halt, while the enemy is compelled to fight at a disadvantage (attacking over open country, against the sun, with the wind). This method is particularly recommended when the enemy is superior in numbers of antitank weapons. Success in these circumstances can also frequently be gained by quick and determined attack, especially against the enemy flanks.
                            Described in more details in German manual for panzer-regiment and panzer-abteilung:
                            66. As soon as hostile tanks emerge they should be attacked and destroyed by actions of all armor-piercing weapons in priority to all other tasks, The sooner it is made the sooner hostile tanks would be destroyed and one would be able to return to original mission.

                            67. The task of battle reconnaissance is to determine hostile flank as soon as possible.

                            68. To destroy hostile tanks all forces are committed in a combined fashion. That determines how fast a strong front of fire is created to surprisingly meet the hostile force with fire and stop its attack. That creates favorable preconditions for commitment of rear echelons and waves. If they are committed against hostile front or flank or rear is dependent on own strength, terrain and weather.
                            One should always strive to have the sun behind a back and the wind blowing from the front and also to pin down hostile tanks from the front so that they expose their vulnerable sides to a counterattacking forces of the regiment. As a rule the regiment commander use his first echelon for feigned actions from the front and commit his second echelon for a surprise attack against hostile flank and rear using terrain and full speed.
                            Compare with diametrically different recommendations in the Soviet order No.325 of 16 October 1942:
                            5. If hostile tanks emerge on the battlefield they should be mostly engaged by our artillery. Tanks are committed against hostile tanks only in case of own superiority and favorable situation.

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
                              Described in more details in German manual for panzer-regiment and panzer-abteilung:
                              This was most definitely the German doctrine of dealing with enemy armor from the invasion of Holland, Belgium, and France in 1940 and continued with Barbarossa. Artillery including antitank and antiaircraft (88mm). Any artillery that an was compatible with APR rounds were used. They would use the 50mm and lower calibers on side or rear of enemy tanks and 88mm plus on frontal armor. Turrets were sometimes immobilized on the KV's and T-34 with lower caliber.

                              Compare with diametrically different recommendations in the Soviet order No.325 of 16 October 1942:
                              This is good but in the border battles at the start of Barbarossa they experienced a drastic shortage of towing vehicles to bring the artillery quickly to repel enemy armor attacks. Even when on the offensive, as I stated upthread, their artillery lagged behind the tanks as did their infantry. Ryabyshev, commander 8th Mechanized Corps was adamant about attacking with infantry and artillery support but things never worked out that way for the most part.

                              This was the most glaring problem ahead of any other problems in the opening weeks of the war. All of the border tank corps had a shortage of towing vehicles and many that were in their pools were broken down or would breakdown during transport.



                              Theo mir ist die munition ausgegangen ich werde diesen ramman auf wiedersehen uns in walhalla

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                              • In an effort to survive the German invasion, Red Army General Staff Officers, by mid-July '41, had already visited army level formations to study combat methods, employment of the combat arms and German tactics. Red Army leadership knew that current tactics and operational practices were dredfully wrong; the direction for change was the challenge.

                                For the first period of the war, 22 Jun '41 - 19 Nov '42, the Red Army suffered from three main weaknesses: poor combined arms tactics with tanks, infantry and artillery; uncoordinated and unfocused operations; and inexperienced tactical and operational level leaders who were too slow to exploit success.

                                Timoshenko, who assumed command of the Western Front on 2 July, outlined shortcomings in the Front's defense, such as insufficient coordination of artillery fire with man-made obstacles, premature response to German armor feints, and poor employment of reserves. Offering recommendations for improvement, the Front staff began its own process of recovery from battlefield defeats

                                The Northwestern Front commander issued a directive on 27 July '41 that criticized the poor use of tanks by the 11th and 27th Armies. Rifle unit commanders, noted the directive, do not take care of tank units. They do not take measures for successful conduct of the battle, and they offer no combat supplies, fuel, ammunition, nor the means for evacuation or repair of tank units. They leave a great number of tanks and crews in the enemy hands.

                                The Red Army General was organizing a broader approach to the collection of war experiences and directed chiefs of staff at all levels of command to submit quickly all materials reflecting combat experience by Red Army troops; new combat procedures of German troops;; conclusions and proposals about the organization, weapons, and combat employment of tactical units at corps and below; information about preparation and conduct of battles and operations; and material on troop command the their complete support.

                                TBC
                                Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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