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The Light Tank M24 was an Americanmarker light tank used during World War II and in postwar conflicts including the Korean War and with the Frenchmarker in the First Indochina War and war in Algeria. 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.

Development and production history

Combat experience indicated several shortcomings of the Light Tank M3/M5, the most important of them being weak armament. The T7 design, which was initially seen as a replacement, evolved into a mediocre Medium Tank M7 and was eventually rejected in March 1943, which 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 together with Cadillac division of General Motors started work on the new project, designated Light Tank T24. 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 at 60 degrees from the vertical). 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 M3, but used a thinly walled barrel and different recoil mechanism. The design also featured wider (16 inch) tracks and torsion bar suspension. It had relatively low silhouette and a three-man turret.

On October 15, 1943 the first pilot vehicle was delivered and 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.

Combat history

The M24 Chaffee was intended to replace the aging and obsolete Light Tank M5 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 F Company, 2nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Battalion and F Company, 42nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Battalion 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 M5. 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, as 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 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 first U.S. tanks to fight the North Koreanmarker T-34-85s. The M24 fared poorly against these much better-armed and armored medium tanks. M24s were more successful later in the war in their reconnaissance role, supported by heavier tanks such as the M4, M26, and M46.

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. Francemarker employed its M24s in Indo-China in infantry support missions, with good results. They employed ten M24s in the Battle of Dien Bien Phumarker. 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 conquered the camp in May 1954. Francemarker also deployed the M 24 in Algeria. The last time the M24 is known to have been in action was in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, where some 66 Pakistanimarker Chaffees stationed in Bangladeshmarker were easy prey for Indian Army T-55s, PT-76s and anti-tank teams. Although both Iranmarker and Iraqmarker had M24s prior to the Iran–Iraq War, there is no report of their use in that conflict.

In the mid-70s Norwaymarker upgraded some of their M24s, installing a 90-mm French gun, modern fire controls and a diesel engine. These vehicles, known as NM-116, served in the Norwegian Army until 1992–93.

The Chilean Army up-gunned their M24s in the mid-80s to the IMI-OTO 60mm Hyper Velocity Medium Support (HVMS) gun, with comparable performance to a standard 90mm gun. Chilemarker operated this version until 1999.

Uruguaymarker continues to use the M24, modernized with new engines and 76mm guns which can fire APFSDS rounds.

In Popular Culture

M24 Chaffees are featured in:



  • In the movie Shoot 'Em Up
  • In the movie Patton as US and British tanks
  • In the movie Decision Before Dawn as German Medium Tanks


Variants

  • Light Tank T24 - prototype, was standardized as Light Tank M24.
  • Light Tank T24E1 - prototype with Continental R-975-C4 engine and Spicer torque converter transmission. One vehicle was converted from the original T24 prototype and tested in October 1944. The vehicle had superior performance compared to the M24, but suffered from transmission reliability problems.
  • M19 Gun Motor Carriage
Engine moved to the center of hull, twin 40 mm M2 AA mounted at hull rear (336 rounds). 904 were ordered in August 1944, but only 285 were delivered.
  • M37 105 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage
Carried a 105 mm howitzer M4 (126 rounds). Was intended to replace the 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage M7. 448 ordered, 316 delivered.
  • M41 155 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage (Gorilla)
Engine moved to the center of hull, 155 mm howitzer M1 mounted at rear. 250 ordered, 60 delivered.
  • T77 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage.
Had 6 0.5" machine guns mounted in a new designed turret.
  • T9, T13 Utility vehicles.
  • T22E1, T23E1, T33 Cargo carriers.
  • T42, T43 Cargo tractors.
Based on the T33, the T42 had itorque converter transmission from the M18 Hellcat. The M43 was a lightened version of the T42.
  • T9.
Had bulldozer kit installed.
  • T6E1 Tank recovery vehicle.
  • NM-116
Norwegian upgrade from 1974-75.
  • In mid-1950s, in an attempt to improve the anti-tank performance of the vehicle, some French M24s had their turrets replaced with those of the AMX-13 light tank. Interestingly, AMX-13 variant with Chaffee turret also existed.
  • The M38 Wolfhound prototype armoured car was experimentally fitted with an M24 turret.


Additional Equipment
  • M4
Earth Moving Tank Mounting Bulldozer. Bulldozer kit for the M24 series.


Operators



See also



Gallery

Image:Chaffee light tank cfb borden 2.jpg|M24 at Base Borden Military Museummarker.Image:Chaffee light tank cfb borden 3.jpg|M24 at Base Borden Military Museummarker.Image:Chaffee light tank cfb borden 4.jpg|M24 at Base Borden Military Museummarker.Image:M24-Chaffee-latrun-3.jpg|M24 in Yad La-Shiryonmarker Museum, Israel.

References

  1. EJERCITO NACIONAL URUGUAYO - ORBAT
  2. "Las Fuerzas Blindadas del Ejército Uruguayo", DEFESA@NET, 22 November 2003.
  • Hunnicutt, R. P. Stuart: A History of the American Light Tank. Novato, California: Presidio Press, 1992. ISBN 0-89141-462-2.
  • Zaloga, Steven, and Jim Laurier. M24 Chaffee Light Tank 1943–85 (New Vanguard 77). Botley, England: Osprey Publishing, 2003. ISBN 1-84176-540-6.


External links




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