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Why do the number of spartans not add up?

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Various sources contradict each other, especially at different points in time. Even the first novel, The Fall of Reach, does this; it claims that 33 Spartans survived augmentation, then later states that three are MIA and one is too wounded to continue duty, giving a number of twenty nine at Reach - but in First Strike, it claims that there were thirty Spartans in the pelican that brought them to the surface. Later still, we find that three Spartans went missing in Halo Wars, the three-man Grey Team is still behind enemy lines, at least five were killed earlier, and Black Team wasn't at Reach - if one number is to be accepted, then it would render the other obsolete. Its likely that this is merely the result of retconning on the part of Bungie, Eric Nylund and 343 Industries, and that the true number is much lower than the original.

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