The Commander’s Voice (History of the 82nd Signal Battalion WWI and WWII)

Review by: Todd Shugart

Author: Christopher “Moon” Mullins

Publisher: Self PublishedPrice: £26.53ISBN: 9798638988494Date: 2020 (2nd Edition)Pages/Format: 187 page softback

Summary: Communication has often been said to be the key to success in battle. If a commander cannot pass orders to troops in the field and the troops cannot report back to the upper echelons of command then the battle is all but lost. The 82nd Signal Battalion has a rich and combat hardened history of being the “commander’s voice” for the 82nd Airborne Division.

Battles such as Meuse-Argonne, Sicily, Salerno, Normandy, and Operation Market Garden to name just a few showed the necessity for communication (commo) troops in the front lines with the infantry to provide the crucial relay between units, commanders, and other formations. It was known first as the 307th Field Signal Battalion serving the 82nd Infantry Division in 1917 and later in France after the entry of the United States in World War One. The 307th was equipped with the communication equipment of the times namely wire, field telephones, telegraph equipment and primitive radios. There was a radio company, three regular companies and a HQ and Supply detachment. The unit fought from June 1918 to November 1918 to include the famous Meuse-Argonne Offensive in late 1918 just before the Armistice was signed. Several soldiers were decorated and one in particular, Private First Class Goumas was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The unit fought with distinction in the First World War and the author goes to great lengths to show his depth of research down to several individual soldier stories, colour maps, and several period photographs. After the war the 82nd Division was demobilised and reconstituted in the Reserves in 1921 with the 307th Field Signal Battalion being renamed and reorganised as the 82nd Signal Company. The 82nd Signal Company was activated once again in time of war in 1942, along with the rest of the new 82nd Airborne Division. And this is where the body of the book rests in the heat of many famous battles in World War Two. The division commander, Matthew Ridgeway picked a fellow West Point classmate, Bill Moorman to be the Division Signal Officer. He later rose to become the G4 for the 18th Airborne Corps and even later retired as a Major General. He was also one of only two Division Signal Officers to jump into combat. The book chronicles the company’s efforts across Sicily, Salerno, Normandy, and in Holland during Operation Market Garden. Communications are challenging for any combat formation however for paratroopers who can become widely dispersed during the airdrop or infiltration phase of a battle this leads to even more challenges. Mullins really dives deep into the many personal accounts of valour while also showcasing what the average signal trooper experienced. The section on Normandy is a particularly good section that will leave readers in awe of how these men faced overwhelming odds and how vital they were to 82nd leaders like Jim Gavin. The level of detail is further evidenced by showing which C-47 serials some of the company flew in and which gliders carried the rest of the company. Several individual soldier accounts are included in the World War Two section. Operation Market Garden is also covered however the author does a deep dive into what went wrong with this operation and less about the Signal Company’s involvement. The book finishes with the 82nd’s call up for the Battle of Bulge in December 1944, to counter the German offensive. The 82nd was in reserve and then rushed to the front as reinforcements to stem the tide of the initially successful German advance. Moon Mullins, an 82nd Signal Battalion veteran himself, takes on a subject not often seen in military history. And that is communications within a division sized unit. It’s even more unique considering the unit it was assigned to being the famous All American 82nd Airborne Division. The book is in an easy to read format with several photographs, tables, and maps. There is a great section on the insignia worn by the Signal troops, a bibliography, and a further reading section. A standout feature of the book is the number of personal accounts that the author has compiled. And it is this combined with the level of detail that makes this book a must have for any airborne historian, readers with an interest in combat communications history, and 82nd Airborne Division veteran’s and historians alike.

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