M24 Chaffee

The Light Tank M24 is an American light tank used during the latter part of World War II and in postwar conflicts including the Korean War and, with the French, in the War in Algeria and the First Indochina War. In British service it was given the service name Chaffee, after the United States Army General Adna R. Chaffee, Jr., who helped develop the use of tanks in the United States armed forces. While long removed from American and British service, it is still found in service as a light tank in third-world countries, along with other hardware from that era.

M24 Chaffee
Class Vehicle
Type Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Manufacturer Cadillac
Production Period 1944 - 1945
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1944
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
United States of America 1944 1953 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Massey Ferguson 1944 1945 View
Cadillac 1944 1945 4731 View

British combat experience in the North African campaign identified several shortcomings of the M3 Stuart light tank, especially the performance of its 37mm cannon. A 75mm gun was experimentally fitted to an M8 Howitzer Motor Carriage - an M3 tank with a larger turret - and trials indicated that a 75 mm gun on the M5 light tank development of the M3 was possible. The M3/M5 design was dated though, the 75 mm gun reduced stowage space, and the armor was insufficient.

The T7 light tank design, which was initially seen as a replacement, grew in weight to more than 25 short tons taking it out of the light tank classification, and so was designated as the Medium Tank M7. The weight increase without increased power gave it unsatisfactory performance; the program was stopped in March 1943 to allow standardization on a single medium tank - the M4 medium. This prompted the Ordnance Committee to issue a specification for a new light tank, with the same powertrain as the M5A1 but armed with a 75 mm gun.

In April 1943, the Ordnance Corps, together with Cadillac (who manufactured the M5), started work on the new project, designated Light Tank T24. The powerplant and transmission of the M5 was used together with some aspects of the T7. Every effort was made to keep the weight of the vehicle under 20 tons. The armor was kept light, with the glacis plate only 25 mm thick but sloped to maximize effectiveness. A new lightweight 75 mm gun was developed, a derivative of the gun used in the B-25H Mitchell bomber. The gun had the same ballistics as the 75 mm M3 in use by American tanks, but used a thinly walled barrel and different recoil mechanism. The design also featured wider - 16 in (41 cm) - tracks and torsion bar suspension, similar to the slightly earlier M18 Hellcat tank destroyer. The torsion bar system was to give a smoother ride than the vertical volute suspension used on most US armored vehicles. At the same time, the chassis was expected to be a standard used for other vehicles, such as self-propelled guns, and specialist vehicles; known together as the "Light Combat Team".

It had a relatively low silhouette and a three-man turret.

On October 15, 1943 the first pilot vehicle was delivered. The design was judged a success and a contract for 1,000 was immediately raised by the Ordnance Department. This was subsequently increased to 5,000.

Production began in 1944 under the designation Light Tank M24. It was produced at two sites; from April at Cadillac and from July at Massey-Harris. By the time production was stopped in August 1945, 4,731 M24s had left the assembly lines. Some of them were supplied to the British forces.

The M24 Chaffee was intended to replace the aging and obsolete Light Tank M5 (Stuart), which was used in supplementary roles. The first thirty-four M24s reached Europe in November 1944 and were issued to the U.S. 2nd Cavalry Group (Mechanized) in France. These were then issued to Troop F, 2nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron and Troop F, 42nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, which each received seventeen M24s. During the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, these units and their new tanks were rushed to the southern sector; two of the M24s were detached to serve with the 740th Tank Battalion of the U.S. First Army.

The M24 started to enter widespread issue in December 1944, but they were slow in reaching the front-line combat units. By the end of the war, many armored divisions were still mainly equipped with the M3/M5 Stuart. Some armored divisions did not receive their first M24s until the war was over.

Reports from the armored divisions that received them prior to the end of hostilities were generally positive. Crews liked the improved off-road performance and reliability, but were most appreciative of the 75 mm main gun, which was a vast improvement over the 37 mm. The M24 was not up to the challenge of fighting German tanks, but the bigger gun at least gave its crews a much better chance to fight back when it was required. The M24's light armor made it vulnerable to virtually all German tanks, anti-tank guns, and hand-held anti-tank weapons. The contribution of the M24 to winning the war in Europe was insignificant, as too few arrived too late to replace the worn-out M5s of the armored divisions.

In the Korean War, M24s were the initial U.S. tanks directed to combat the North Korean T-34-85s. The occupation troops in Japan from which the tanks were drawn were inexperienced and under-equipped due to rapid demobilization after World War II. The M24 fared poorly against these better armed, better armored, and better crewed medium tanks, losing most of their number while inflicting only minor damage on the T-34 units. Managing a fighting withdrawal, they ended up as artillery in the Pusan Perimeter; in August reinforcements from the US and the Commonwealth brought heavier tanks that could easily dispatch the T-34s. M24s were more successful later in the war in their reconnaissance role, supported by heavier, more capable tanks such as the M4 Sherman, M26 Pershing, and M46 Patton.

Like other successful World War II designs, the M24 was supplied to many armies around the globe and was used in local conflicts long after it had been replaced in the U.S. Army by the M41 Walker Bulldog. France employed its M24s in Indo-China in infantry support missions, with good results. They employed ten M24s in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. In December 1953, ten disassembled Chaffees were transported by air to provide fire support to the garrison. They fired about 15,000 shells in the long siege that followed before the Viet Minh forces finally overcame the camp in May 1954. France also deployed the M24 in Algeria. Some Chaffees are known to have been passed down to the Army of South Vietnam, where they saw service at least until the Battle of Hu?. The last time the M24 is known to have been in action was in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, where 66 Pakistani Chaffees stationed in East Pakistan[citation needed] were lost to Indian Army T-55s, PT-76s, and anti-tank teams. Although both Iran and Iraq had M24s prior to the Iran–Iraq War, there is no report of their use in that conflict. South Korean Chaffees saw service in the Korean War, often performing hit-and-run raids on communist forces.

Other Designation(s)Light Tank M24 Chaffee
Production Quantity4731Production PeriodApr. 1944-Aug. 1945
TypeLight TankCrew4
Length hull/overall (m)5.56/5.03Barrel Overhang (m)0.53
Width (m)3.00Height (m)2.77
Combat Weight (kg)18400Radio EquipmentSCR508/528/538
Primary Armament75mm Gun M6Ammunition Carried48
Traverse (degrees)Hydraulic (360°)Elevation (degrees)-10° to +15°
Traverse speed (360°)15 sec.Sightn.a.
Secondary Armament1 x .50 caliber MG HB M2 (AA)Ammunition Carried440
2 x .30 caliber MG M1919A4 (coaxial, bow)3750

Engine Make & Model2 x Cadillac Series 44T24Track Links75/track
Type & Displacement2 x V8, 5.7 litersTrack Width40.6 cm
Horsepower (max.)2 x 148hp@3200rpmTrack Ground Contact285.8 cm
Power/Weight Ratio16.1 hp/tGround Pressure11.3 psi
Gearbox2 forward, 1 reverseGround Clearance (m)0.46
FuelGasoline (Petrol)Turning Radius (m)14.0
Range on/off road (km)161Gradient (degrees)31°
Mileage (liters/100km)311 on roadVertical Obstacle (m)0.91
Fuel Capacity (liters)500Fording (m)1.02
Speed on/off road56 km/hTrench Crossing (m)2.44
Armor DetailFrontSideRearTop/Bottom
Hull25mm@45°25mm@88° (front)19mm@48°13mm@0°
19mm@88° (rear)10mm@0°
Turret38mm@30-90°25mm@65° R25mm@90°25mm@0-22°
25mm@70° L

End notes