Light tank legacy: Tracing the M24 Chaffee’s specifications, variants and operations

A key light tank in World War II, the M24 Chaffee’s influence was maintained in post-war engagements such as the Korean and Algerian Wars. It was given the name in honour of General Chaffee and operated with flexibility and effectiveness.

A vital tool in the latter phases of World War II, the M24 Chaffee, also known as the Light Tank, M24, went on to contribute significantly to post-war battles such as the Korean War. This American light tank made its way into military history when it was used by the French in the Algerian War and the First Indochina War. Originally called Chaffee in British service, it was named after the prominent US Army General Adna R. Chaffee Jr., who played a significant role in the development of tank combat in the US military. Despite the eventual development of the M41 Walker Bulldog as a successor, M24s persisted in U.S. and NATO armies into the 1960s. 

 

Specifications:

The M24 Chaffee is a light tank that weighs 40,500 pounds (20.3 short tonnes, or 18.37 tonnes) and is 18 feet 3 inches long (with the gun installed) and 16 feet 6 inches long (without the gun). It is nine feet one inch tall and nine feet ten inches wide. The crew of the tank consists of five members: a commander, a gunner, a loader, a driver, and an assistant driver/radio operator. The armour is between 0.40 and 1.50 inches (10 and 38 mm) thick. Mount M64 is equipped with a 75mm Gun M6 and 48 rounds of ammunition as its main weaponry. The secondary weaponry consists of two.30-06 Browning M1919A4 machine guns with a total of 3750 rounds and a.50 BMG Browning M2HB machine gun with 440 rounds. At 3,400 rpm, the Twin Cadillac Series 44T24 engine produces 220 horsepower (160 kW) and powers the M24 Chaffee. 12 horsepower per tonne is the power-to-weight ratio. A torsion bar suspension system provides stability, and the tank is equipped with a Hydramatic gearbox with eight forward and four reversible speeds. With a gasoline capacity of 110 US gallons (420 L), the tank can go 100 miles (160 km) on a single charge while maintaining a ground clearance of 6 inches. The M24 Chaffee light tank is a highly adaptable and efficient weapon in military operations, with a top speed of 35 mph (56 km/h).

 

Variants:

Multiple modifications were made to the M24 Chaffee light tank, which resulted in the creation of multiple variants. The Light Tank T24 was the initial prototype that was tested at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in January 1944 before being standardised as the Light Tank M24. An enhanced model, the Light Tank T24E1, had a Spicer torque converter gearbox and a Continental R-975-C4 engine, which proved to be more reliable but had problems with gearbox malfunction. Extending the M24 hull to accommodate twin 40 mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns at the back, the M19 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage was developed from the T65 40 mm GMC. Designed in 1945 to replace the M7, the M37 105 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage was equipped with a 105 mm Howitzer M4.

It was deployed during the Korean War. The engine was shifted to the middle of the M41 Howitzer Motor Carriage, also referred to as the Gorilla, and a 155 mm Howitzer M1 was installed at the back. With a revised turret design, the T77 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage was equipped with six 50-calibre machine guns. Based upon the T33, cargo tractors T42 and T43 had torque converter transmissions and a lighter variant, respectively.

A bulldozer kit was provided with the T9 version. Other foreign adaptations included the Chilean Army’s modified M24 equipped with an IMI-OTO 60 mm Hyper Velocity Medium Support gun, and the Norwegian NM-116, a reconnaissance vehicle that underwent extensive rebuilding and modification. Uruguay kept the M24 modernised, while the Japanese Self-Defense Forces upgraded one M24 with four Type 64 ATGMs in the late 1960s to improve its anti-tank capabilities. These variations highlight the M24 Chaffee’s adaptability and usefulness in a variety of roles and combat contexts.

 

Operations:

The versatile M24 Chaffee tank demonstrated its adaptability to diverse terrains by playing a noteworthy role in multiple conflicts and areas of operation. Initially deployed in the European theatre during World War II, the M24 saw service during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, with positive reviews from crews praising its improved off-road handling and the efficacy of its 75 mm main gun. Unfortunately, the M24’s late arrival and lack of numbers to replace the ageing M5 Stuart tanks restricted its assistance to winning the war in Europe. As the Korean War broke out, the M24 proved to be an invaluable tool for the U.S. Far East Command, as it was almost the only tank sent directly to the Korean Peninsula.

The M24 assisted in protecting Japan’s limited road system and bridges, despite obstacles such as the frontal armour of the T-34-85 and maintenance problems. Due to its flaws, the more powerful M4A3E8 medium tanks eventually took its place. After being used in the United States, the M24 was acquired by several countries throughout the world. In Indo-China, France employed the M24, most famously at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, when they supplied fire support for the siege.

A portion of the tanks were eventually transferred to the Army of South Vietnam, and they were later used in Algeria. Pakistani M24s were defeated by better-equipped Indian forces during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War. The M24 was also used in South Korea, Cambodia, Laos, Japan, Taiwan, and Greece; from 1950 until 1970, the Greek Army received M24s from the United States. The tank proved its versatility in a variety of operational scenarios by operating in both the harsh circumstances of the Korean Peninsula and the varied terrain of the European front.