The M24 Chaffee was a US light tank which came into service during the last months of WWII. It was also used in a number of post–WWII conflicts including the Korean War and by the French in the First Indochina War. M24s were then used in limited combat by South Vietnam and its last major actions were during the Indian-Pakistani wars of 1965 and 1971.
In November 1942, US armored units for the first time engaged in combat against the German panzers in Tunisia. The inherent weaknesses of the 37mm armed M3/M5 Stuart light tank quickly became apparent to the US Armor Force. Various attempts made in mounting a 75mm gun on a M5A1 chassis met with little success and the projects were abandoned. At that time, it was impossible to mount a 75mm gun in a light tank turret and remain within the required weight limits of a light tank. The turret diameter had to be increased which in turn increased the weight of the tank. This was a lesson learned from the ill-fated T7 light tank.
The USAAF developed a new lightweight cannon the T13E1/M5 which was later mounted in the nose of the B-25H Mitchell bomber and was used in the PTO as a anti-shipping attack aircraft. The 75mm M6 cannon was a derivative of the T13E1/M5 with a short thinner walled barrel and low muzzle velocity but fired the same ammunition as the Lee/Grant/Sherman tanks. The M6 cannon had a different recoil mechanism.
In early 1943, Cadillac Motor Car (a division of General Motors Corporation) began work on a prototype which was designated the T24. The proven rear mounted liquid cooled Cadillac engines and hydraulic transmission were used along with a number of features from the earlier T7 light tank. For improved cross country mobility, the suspension was changed from the vertical volute type to a torsion bar suspension based on the M18 Hellcat tank destroyer. The running gear consisted of five sets of paired road wheels, three return rollers, a front mounted drive sprocket, and a rear mounted idler wheel which kept the track tension. One of the most prominent identifying features of the M24 was the large steering assembly access hatch in the glacis plate. It was octagonal in shape, rimmed with bolts, and had lifting handles on both sides.
The pilot model was completed in October 1943 and testing immediately began. The tests were successful and the US Army issued a production contract for 1,000 tanks designated as the M24 light tank. Later the contract was revised increasing the number to 5,000 tanks with the production to be split between Cadillac and the Massey-Harris company. In keeping with the practice of naming tanks after deceased American generals, the M24 was named the Chaffee after the mechanized cavalry legend Brigadier General Adna R. Chaffee, Jr also known as the “Father of the US Armored Force”. General Chaffee died from cancer on 22 August 1941 in Boston,
A total of 4,731 M24s were built from early 1944 to August 1945.
– Crew: 4
– One 75mm M6 cannon, 48 rounds
– A gyro-stabilizer for the 75mm M6 which improved gun laying.
– One coaxial and one bow mounted .30 caliber M1919A4 MG, 3750 rounds
– One pintle mounted .50 caliber M2HB AA MG, 440 rounds
– A 2″ Smoke Mortar M3, fixed in turret, 14 rounds (eliminated after WWII)
– Powerplants: Two 110 hp Cadiillac V8 gasoline engines
– Cadiillac Twin Hydramatic Transmission, 8 speeds forward and 4 reverse
– Maximum Armor: 25mm (1.0″) with sloped armor on hull and turret faces
– Maximum weight: 38,750 pounds (17576.7 kilograms)
– Maximum Speed: 35 mph (56 kph)
– Range: around 100 miles (160 km) on roads
M24 Early and Late front features.
Late M24s with the reinforced bulldozer mounting pads on the front were able to be fitted with the M3 Bulldozer blade. There was little service use of the bulldozer kit by operational M24 units.
16″ (41 cm) wide, Center guide, single pin, rubber bushed, steel, parallel grouser
14″ (36 cm) wide, Center guide, double pin, rubber bushed, rubber, chevron
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Video: Chaffee Movie
Video: M24 Chaffee Tank Firing
M19 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage (MGMC)
A lengthened M24 hull with engine moved to the center and twin 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns (336 rounds) mounted at hull rear. In August 1944, 904 were ordered but only 285 were built by the end of the war. The M19A1 had an auxiliary engine and generator to operate the 40mm guns when the main engine was shutdown, and fixtures for carrying two spare gun barrels. It saw service in the Korean War along side the M16 half-track MGMC and the 40mm guns were especially effective against Chinese mass infantry charges.
M37 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage (HMC)
Developed in 1945. it mounted a 105mm howitzer M4 (126 rounds) was intended to replace the M7 105mm HMC Priest which was based on the Sherman chassis. 448 were ordered but only 316 were built by the end of the war. The M37 was too late to see action in WWII but it did see action with US forces during the Korean War along side the M7 Priest. The M37 was much more sluggish due to the amount of ammunition it carried (126 rounds), its recoil system, and the weight of the 105mm M4 howitzer.
M41 155mm Howitzer Motor Carriage “Gorilla”
The engine was moved to the center of hull and the155mm M1 howitzer was mounted at the rear. 250 were ordered but only 85 were built. M41s were used in action in the Korean War where they were useful in providing support during the early mobile phase of the conflict. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army captured two M41s employing them against US forces in the Battle of Maryang San. One of them can be seen on display at the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution in Beijing. Some M41s were also passed on to the French Army but they were quickly replaced by newer designs.
T77 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage
The T77 was an anti-aircraft weapon that carried six .50 (12.7 mm) caliber machine guns mounted on a modified M24 Chassis. It was an attempt to replace the M16 MGMC which was based on the M3 half-track. Most of the work went into the T89 mount for the machine guns which used similar technology of the remote controlled turrets on the B-29 Super Fortress. The project was cancelled after the war ended partly because it was unable to shoot down fast moving attack jets.
Deliveries of production M24s began in April 1944 and new M24s were quickly issued to armored units in training for deployment to Europe. By the summer of 1944, production M24s were delivered to light tank units in Europe to replace the 37mm armed M5 and M5A1 Stuart tanks. The first 34 M24s reached Europe in November 1944 and were issued to the US 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 17 M24s. During Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein (“Operation Watch on the Rhine” AKA 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 US 1st Army.
Due to the Chaffee’s torsion bar suspension which was very similar to German panzers, M24s were driven around to US units during the winter of 1944-45 to familiarize the troops with the new design to hopefully prevent friendly fire incidents. Here, soldiers of the 39th Infantry Regiment, US 9th Infantry Division are being instructed on the recognition points of the M24 tank. In front of the driver’s hatch is the foul weather windshield installed minus the canvas hood. Behind the sign on the front left hull is the sleeve cover for the 75mm gun barrel. Note the white star on the front hull.
Film: M24 Chaffee Light Tank
On 14 January 1945 during the advance into Germany, the crew of M24 named “Ally Oop III” pauses and scans ahead for any enemy activity. The dark Olive Drab paint and white stars made the M24 highly visible against the surrounding snow covered terrain.
These two M24s of F Troop, 4th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron load up infantry for an attack outside of Broich, Germany on 2 March 1945. The Chaffee on the right has an air identification panel draped over the storage on the rear hull.
On 4 March 1945, the 4th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron had taken Ückerath and Straberg to the east of Broich and then advanced southeast to Hackenbroich and Hackhausen (just south of Dormagen). The M24 on the left has a large wooden stowage bin mounted on the rear hull with a basket sitting on top of it. The crew of the M24 on the right is searching for something in the rear turret stowage bin and there is an expended 75mm shell on the ground behind the right track.
On the outskirts of Dormagen, Germany located along the west bank of the Rhine River about midway between Düsseldorf and Colonge, a pair of M24s of F Troop, 4th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron stumbled upon a pair of German panzers that were identified as Tigers (some sources stated they were Panthers). The German crews were surprised as the M24 had the advantage of speed and a faster turret traverse. Before the panzers could traverse their turrets towards their smaller faster opponents, the M24s fired several high-explosive (HE) rounds against the thinner side and rear armor of both panzers which were enough to set off internal fires destroying both panzers.
On 5 March 1945, M24s of the 4th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron rolled down the Kölner Strasse in Dormagen. It is not known if the engagement with the two panzers occurred before entering Dormagen or after leaving Dormagen.
One of the M24s of the 4th Squadron of the 4th Cavalry Reconnaissance group.
Note the .50 Caliber machine gun is mounted in front of the commander’s cupola.
Battle of Rheinberg 1945
The Germans had intended to defend Rheinberg strongly in order to withdraw as many men andas much equipment as possible behind the temporary safety of the Rhine River. In Rheinberg, the Germans had employed anti-tank guns en masse. The entire city was ringed with 88mm guns supported by 20mm and 40mm guns. Along all routes and approaches to the town the enemy had prepared positions. The enemy troops were dug in and well armed with automatic weapons and Panzerfausts. The area (nicknamed ’88 Lane’) was under direct anti tank and heavy artillery fire so each gun emplacement or house had to be cleared by dismounted infantry.
Combat Command B (CCB) of the US 8th Armored Division consisted of: 49th Armored Infantry Battalion (AIB), 36th Tank Battalion and the 399th Armored Field Artillery Battalion. CCB was detached from the division and assigned to the US 35th Infantry Division so an attack could be mounted in the direction of Rheinberg and Wesel to prevent the Germans from escaping across the Rhine River.
On 5 March 1945, CCB attacked Lintfort and Rheinberg with the 35th Infantry. Heavy fighting took place in and around Rheinberg. Company D (M24s) of 36th Tank Battalion, left 17 of its 18 tanks knocked out along the road between Lintfort and Rheinberg and one surviving M24 was withdrawn.
Click here for more details about the Chaffees at Rheinberg in 1945 .
Elements of the 116th Panzer Division was defending Rheinberg and the area around it. The Americans did not correctly identified the units until 6 March 1945. The 2nd Battalion of the Panzer Grenadier Regiment 60 under the command of Hauptmann Bröcker and the 1st Battalion of the Panzer Grenadier Regiment 156 under the command of Hauptmann Schneider were the German units which defended Rheinberg and the area around it. During the heavy fighting, the last reserves and a few panzers and Jagdpanzers were called in and helped halt the American attack. Since the two battalions were ultimately unable to withstand the onslaught of the Americans, the Germans withdrew to a new defensive line north of Rheinberg on the evening of 5 March 1945.
This M24 is parked at an 8th Armored Division Command Post (CP), location and date is unknown. This division carries the unit codes on the turret mantlet and the gun barrel is obscuring the battalion number. Just below the gun sight port, barely visible is “D” over “17” indicating tank 17 of Company D (light tank). Note the spare tracks draped over the front hull as extra protection.
Company D, 36th Tank Battalion, 8th Armored Division, was in reserve in Aldekerk, Germany on the morning of 5 March 1945. This M24 was probably in Aldekerk waiting for orders to move northeast to Lintfort. Note the position of the serial number “USA 30119666” painted on lower edge of the turret.
This M24 has stalled or is knocked out on the road between Lintfort and Rheinberg.
This is the same M24 above from the front. Note the 1 ton trailer behind it.
This M24 along side the road was hit and the stored gear on the engine decking had caught fire. Note the metal frame stowage rack mounted on the rear hull similar to the ones on British tanks in North Africa.
M24 named “Bob” probably in Rheinberg was knocked out by a German anti-tank shell which penetrated the side hull just below the assistant driver’s hatch.
These GIs are examining the battle damage on M24 number “30112712” in Lintfort on 9 March 1945.
A M24 of the 117th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (formly the 102nd Cavalry Regiment of the New Jersey National Guard) firing on a test range during training in Lutzelbourg southwest of Saint-Jean-Saverne, France, 8-10 March 1945. The segmented circled star was not commonly seen in the ETO in 1945.
This is another view of M24s of the 117th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron on a test range in Lutzelbourg. On 13 March 1945, the squadron was attached to the US 42nd Infantry Division for an attack northeast through the Hartz Mountains across the German border towards the Rhine River. This photo shows details of the open pistol port on the M24 right rear side of the turret.
CROSSING THE RHINE
A M24 tank number 18 of Company D, 18th Tank Battalion, 8th Armored Division reversing into an LCM(3) number 337. This battalion was the first to cross the Rhine River on 24 March 1945 in the area of the 9th US Army. Note the sandbags on the front hull of the M24 and around the turret side.
This is the other side of LCM(3) number 337 with a M24 landed on the east bank of the Rhine River. Note the missing fender sections on the M24.
Two more LCM(3)s landing M24s. On the right is LCM(3) number 331. Note the spare road wheel on the front hull of the M24 on the left.
This is a view of a M24 climbing up the river bank after leaving the LCM. Note the spare track on the front hull and sandbags around the hull and turret sides.
On 24 March 1945, the 120th Infantry Regiment, US 30th Infantry Division crossed the Rhine River south and southwest of Mehrum, Germany. The infantry advanced and captured, Mehrum, Löhnen, Götterswickerhamm, and Möllen (west of the Rhine River south of the Lippe River) and eliminated two battalions of Panzer Grenadier Regiment 60, 116th Panzer Division. The LCMs that were due to be at the crossing site at 0300 hours did not arrive until 1030 hours. As a result, the crossing of tanks, tank destroyers, and vehicles larger than quarter tons were greatly delayed. It was planned that all the supporting tanks would be attached to the 1st battalion but at 1430 hours all the armor that crossed (Company B, 744th Light Tank Battalion and 3rd Platoon, Company B, 823th Tank Destroyer Battalion) was ordered to the 3rd Battalion in order to exploit a breakthrough. One rifle company was mounted on the M24s and the column started east towards Rotthaushoff at 1630 hours. The rest of the battalion followed on foot and in the few available vehicles. The armor first engaged the Germans at Rotthaushoff and east thereof. German troops were caught flatfooted, destroyed or captured in place. One M24 literally ran astride a trench and shooting the occupants. A five gun battery of horse drawn artillery was completely destroyed while trying to escape. At 1800 hours, Rotthaushoff was captured.
GIs of the 120th Infantry Regiment passing a M24 probably of the 744th Tank Battalion during attacks against the 116th Panzer Division. The front hull of the M24 is covered with dirt from burst sandbags indicating it had engaged the enemy.
M24s of 744th Tank Battalion move pass the wreakage of a German Pak 40 75mm AT gun on a fog shrouded road near Haulthausen or Kirchhellen, Germany, March 1945.
Supporting the 30th Infantry Division: a 744th Tank Battalion M24 on the left, a M10 of the 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion in the center, and on the right is a knocked out Sd.kfz. 251/17 ausf.D, Kirchhellen, 25 March 1945.
M24s IN ITALY
M24s of the 81st Reconnaissance Squadron, 1st Armored Division among the ruins of Vergato (southeast of Bologna), Italy on 14 April 1945.
Another M24 of the 81st Reconnaissance Squadron, 1st Armored Division near Salvaro on 17 April 1945. The outlined number on the side of the turret is the vehicle number indicated by the unit codes on the rear of the turret. The circular object just above the kit bag on the turret side and next to the Antenna base is unknown. Note a circled star is painted on top of the turret storage bin.
An M24 of Company D, 13th Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Division is loaded onto a ferry to cross the Po River in the Brede area, Italy, 24 April 1945.
This is the same M24 disembarking from the ferry on the north bank of the river. The twin hoops protect a “donkey sight” above the commander’s sight which was used for indirect artillery fire.
Bougainville Campaign (Operation Cherry Blossom)
Between October and December 1944, the US ground forces handed over operations on the island to the main body of the Australian II Corps. The Australian 3rd Division and the 11th Brigade were on Bougainville reinforced by the Fiji Infantry Regiment while the 23rd Brigade garrisoned neighbouring islands. In December 1944, B Squadron of the 2/4th Armoured Regiment equipped with Matildas was sent to Bougainville Island to support the Australian II Corps and first saw action on 31 March 1945. The Regimental HQ and A Squadron (Matildas) arrived on Bougainville in May 1945 and the regiment continued to provide support to the infantry units. The Matildas took part in a number of battles during the advance towards Buin in the southern sector.
The Australians received two M24 tanks numbers 330690 and 330691 for trail testing. The two M24s arrived in Australia in April 1945 without any spare parts. M24 number 330690 had one faulty battery which was replaced with 15 plate before leaving Australia. Both M24s arrived on Bougainville in June 1945 while fighting on the southern end of the island was still going on. Both M24s were first used to convert and train crews to a new standard for the M24. Then the trail testing began and the 2/4th Armoured Regiment Matildas were used in the trails for comparsion.
The two trail M24s in an open jungle tank park on Bougainville.
The trails revealed a few shortcomings in tropical conditions. Scrub bashing was not a role for the M24 because of the inability to use the main armament due to the limited amount of turret traverse available. Often the turret could not be traversed more than 15 degrees either way in heavy undergrowth, and the restricted visibility for the crew was another difficultly, either one of which would prevent an M24 from fulfilling its role as an offensive vehicle. The belly armor of the M24 would not give adequate protection against mines likely to be encountered in the SWPA. The M24 was a recce tank and was not suitable for the infantry support role because the hydramatic transmission could not work at low speed as the transmission would always be hunting for a gear.
An Australian Army research film was produced by the Military History Cinema Section and was directed by G Armoured Corps on behalf of the War Office. This film was photographed during the trials and provided a graphic illustration of the facts submitted in a report to the War Office. The film was completed in November 1945 and was filmed on the following Pacific Islands: Solomon Islands, Bougainville, Central Bougainville, and Torokina. Although the film showed the M24’s capabilities, the Australian Army did not purchase any M24s.
In early 1950 Japan, the US Infantry Divisions that were on occupation duty were the 7th, 24th, 25th and 1st Cavalry Divisions with attached armor support from the 77th, 78th, 79th and 71st Tank Battalions. The Infantry Divisions were under strength with young ill-equipped inexperienced troops. Due to a lack of military funds after WWII, the tank battalions were reduced to only company A and because the Japanese roads and bridges could not support the M4 Sherman, the tank companies were re-equipped with M24 light tanks. No Armor Piercing (AP) or High Explosive (HE) rounds were available for the M24 75mm guns, only smoke and practice rounds and the tanks were poorly maintained.
On 25 June 1950, the North Korean army spearheaded by Soviet supplied T-34/85s and SU-76Ms crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded South Korea. Soon afterward elements of the US 24th Infantry Division were air lifted to Korea where the 21st Infantry Regiment went to Osan and the 34th Infantry Regiment went to Chonui. M24s of the 79th Tank Battalion were the first shipped to the port of Pusan and then rushed to the front by rail and road.
Film: U.S. Tanks in Korea
M24s moving up to the front lines in July 1950.
M24s on a South Korean road. Note the sandbags and the T85E1 rubber tracks.
On 5 July 1950 at Osan, Task Force Smith consisting of 406 men of the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, US 24th Infantry Division fought the first US action of the Korean War supported by six 105mm howitzers of A Battery, 52nd Field Artillery Battalion against the 4th North Korean Infantry Division supported by T-34/85s. The battery had 1,200 HE rounds which were ineffective against tank armor and only six High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) rounds, all of them allocated to the number six howitzer located at the most forward position. When the T-34 column came into range, the forward 105 fired its HEAT rounds. The first two T-34s were damaged and one was set on fire. After depleting the HEAT rounds, they began firing HE rounds which were not effective and the howitzer was destroyed by the third T-34. Task Force Smith positions were overrun by the North Koreans infantry and the survivors retreated. This was the first combat action for US
troops in the Korean War.
An M24 of the US 24th Infantry Division, 7 July 1950. The unit codes are “24-X” on the right front fender and “24-R-32” on the left front fender.
An M24 probably of Company A, 79th Tank Battalion in a hull down position south of Seoul, 9 July 1950.
On 10 July 1950, between Chonui and Choch’iwon several M24s arrived from Pusan to support the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, US 24th Infantry Division during a counterattack against the North Korean 4th infantry division which was supported by T-34/85s. The M24s disabled one T-34 while two M24s were destroyed during the day. They probably used their speed advantage and got a lucky hit which knock off a track or set the T-34 on fire. This engagement was the first tank vs tank action of the Korean War.
M24 “Rebel’s Roost” was credited as being the first US tank to see action in Korea. The M24’s armor with so thin that when they returned to re-arm, tent pegs were used to plug the holes from hits from North Korean Anti-tank (AT) rifles. Note the crew is using the 75mm gun barrel as a clothes line.
M24 “Rebel’s Roost” has markings “24 X” on the right front fender and “24-R21” on the left front fender.
Crew of an M24 along the Naktong River front on 17 August 1950. Sitting on top behind the .50 Caliber MG is tank commander. PFC Hugh Goodwin, Decature, Mississippi. Sitting on the driver’s hatch holding a M3 Thompson submachine gun (SMG) is the Gunner/loader, Private Maynard Linaweaver, Lundsburg, Kansas. On the ground leaning against the front left sprocket holding a M3A1 SMG “Grease Gun” is PFC Rudolph Dotts, Egg Harbor City, New Jersey. This M24 belonged to the 24th Reconnaissance, US 24th Infantry Division.
A M24 of the US 24th Infantry Division is ferried across the Naktong River by engineers, late September 1950. Note the frame on the fenders for stowage and barely visible is a white star on the engine deck.
Seoul changed hands four times during the Korean War.
28 June 1950 – North Korean army invaded Seoul.
25 September 1950 – USMC liberated Seoul after the Inchon landings.
4 January 1951 – UN abandoned Seoul and captured by the Chinese.
14 March 1951 – US 3rd and ROK 1st Infantry divisions liberated Seoul.
US vehicles and M24s crossing the last pontoon bridge on the Han River south of Seoul, 4 January 1951.
Film: Universal Newsreel
During Operation Ripper, March 1951, M24s on a ridge line firing at the Chinese. Note the tiger face on the front of the M24 turret. The GI in the foreground is manning a M1917A1, water-cooled, .30 Caliber Browning heavy machine gun. On at least one occasion, GIs urinated on the gun barrel when water-cooling had failed in the frigid temperatures of the Korean winter.
During the battle of the Imjin River, 22-25 April 1951, the 1st Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment on Hill 235 was cut off and surrounded by Chinese forces. On April 24th, an armoured column consisting of four M24s of the 10th Battalion Combat Team (Philippine Expeditionary Force Korea) leading six C squadron 8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars Centurions followed by Filipino infantry attempted to rescue the isolated Gloster battalion by advancing along a narrow track labeled 5Y which ran through a gorge leading up to Hill 235. When the column got about halfway up the gorge, there was an explosion up front where the leading Filipino M24 stopped and caught fire. The track was blocked preventing the following tanks to pass and Chinese troops were on the upper slopes over the tanks. None of the tanks had AA MGs mounted and they were too close to elevate their guns, so they reversed and backed down the track abandoning the disable M24. This photo of the disabled Filipino M24 was taken weeks later after the battle. It has been pushed off to the side of the track. The text on the turret rear storage bin is not legible.
M24 named “EAGLE CLAW” of the 3rd Reconnaissance Company, US 3rd Infantry Division near the village of Sougboug-dong, May 1951.
An M24 with early T72E1 steel tracks in a prepared position providing fire support.
From the barely visible numbers on the front right fender, this M24 most likely belonged to the 245th Tank Battalion of the US 45th Infantry Division. The 45th ID was an Oklahoma National Guard division which arrived in Korea in December 1951 and fought until the end of the war.
An M19 of the 82nd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion, US 2nd Infantry Division. The crew are not scanning the sky for enemy aircraft. They are scanning the surrounding hill tops for Chinese infantry. For extra fire power, mounted on the front hull is a .50 Caliber M2HB heavy MG with a “tombstone” M2 ammunition can which held 200 rounds and weighed 89 pounds (40.4 kg).
M37 HMC named “For Hell Fire” of the 58th Field Artillery Battalion, US 3rd Infantry Division along the Imjin River providing fire support to UN units, April 1951.
An M41 of Battery C, 92nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion “The Red Devils”, US 10th Corps, 1952. The crew is hanging up their laundry to dry on a cold winter day.
Just as WWII has ended, the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed by Ho Chi Minh on 2 September 1945. During the following weeks, the emerging Viet Minh govenment was overwhelmed by Britain and China. Preferring the restoration of the French colonial rule, the British forced out the Viet Minh of Saigon with aid of armed Japanese units. During October 1945, units of the French Expeditionary Corps landed in Saigon with orders to re-occupy French Indochina. The first French armored units to arrive were initially equipped with M8 armored cars, M5A1 light tanks, half-tracks and received vehicles supplied by the departing British. By February 1946, the French had re-occupied all of southern Indochina. After the March agreements with the Viet Minh, France recognized North Vietnam comprising of Tongkin and Annam as part of the “Indo-Chinese Federation” within the French Union. In return, the French received approval for a military presence in North Vietnam for 5 years and French units rapidly seized control of the region. After further talks between France and Ho Chi Minh failed to reach an agreement about the future of Vietnam, the Viet Minh resumed hostilities on 18 December 1946. The First Indochina War had just begun.
During the late 1940’s, the US viewed the French occupation of Indochina as a colonial power attempting to regain control over its former territory. After the communists invaded South Korean in 1950, the US attitudes quickly changed to move favorable to the French position. The fighting in Indochina was viewed as another struggle against a common enemy and massive military aid was provided to the French. M24s re-equipped French units which were still using WWII era M5A1 Stuarts. The low ground pressure of the M24 allowed it to traverse marshes, swamps, and rice paddies which were inaccessible to the Stuart. The M24s were assigned to either newly organized Groupment Blinders (GB – Infantry support groups) or Groupes d’Escadron de Reconnaissance (GER – reconnaissance groups). From its first introduction into combat in 1950 until the final French withdrawal, M24s were in constant use for convoy security, infantry support, static defense, patrolling, and in offensive armor/infantry sweeps against the elusive Viet Minh.
Vehicles paused on a winding narrow road during Operation Tulip, 1951. These M24s of the 2éme Escadron, 1er Régiment de Chasseurs à Cheval have Légionnaires of III/5e Régiment Étranger d’Infanterie riding on their rear decks.
Film: Operation Tulip (1951)
M24 VIENNE of 1er Régiment de Chasseurs à Cheval negotiates over waterlogged terrain near Trung Ha during Operation Lorraine, October 1952.
M24s of the 2e Escadron, 1er Régiment de Chasseurs à Cheval return fire in an ambush during Operation Mouette about 55 miles (88.5 km) from Hanoi in October 1953. Note that M24 number 14 has the early T72E1 steel tracks while number 4 has the later T85E1 Rubber tracks.
The French armor units did not have any armor recovery vehicles. This M24 of the 2e Peloton, 2e Escadron, 1er Régiment de Chasseurs à Cheval got mired during Operation Gerfaut during December 1953. It was recovered by other tanks in the platoon attached together in a chain by tow cables. Sometimes, as many as a dozen tanks pulling in concert were needed to extricate a mired M24.
Over 80 percent of the vehicles damaged or destroyed were by mines. The Viet Minh usually attacked with command-detonated mines. Rarely the hull would be ruptured and causalities to the crew were few. Maintenance personnel were able to repair such damage in a short time but were hampered by a logistical system that suffered long supply delays.
M24 ANGERS somewhere in Indochina leading a column of half-tracks. The half-track immediately behind ANGERS has the A shaped canvas tilt which acted as an anti-grenade screen.
Operation Castor – Diên Biên Phu
By the end of 1953, the French High Command decided to seek out and engage the Viet Minh in a pitched battle in enemy territory. A strong fortress would be established in the mountains of Tongkin which would be supplied by air and overland from Laos. Its location along the Laotian border would threaten the Viet Minh supply lines to Laos and the south. Over a decade later, the US Army would use the same strategy but on a larger scale.
Diên Biên Phu was an offensive base from which mobile units and tactical aircraft can strike at the Viet Minh. To augment its offensive capability, a composite squadron of ten M24 tanks were airlifted to the isolated base. The French did not have any aircraft which could transport a M24 tank. Each M24 was dismantled into 180 sub-assemblies in Hanoi and then were flown to the base. Shipping each M24 required six C-47 Dakotas and two Bristol freighters with frontal clam shell doors to accommodate the stripped tank hull and turret. Even when stripped of every nut and bolt, the M24 hull weighed more than the Bristol’s maximum load capacity and to enable it to gain sufficient altitude over the mountains of Tongkin many components had to be removed from the aircraft to reduce weight.
On 16 December 1953, Operation Rondelle II began when Légionnaires of 2e Compagnie de Réparation d’Engins Blindés de la Légion Etrangére (CREBLE) set up an assembly area for the tanks beside the dusty, windblown airstrip at Diên Biên Phu. Two days later the first tank (in pieces) arrived. Two M24s were reassembled on the 24th and on Christmas Day the first platton was formed from personnel of the Régiment d’Infanterie Colonial du Maroc. On 15 January 1954, the operation ended with the completion of the ten M24s two weeks ahead of schedule.
On January 20, the squadron became operational and assumed the title ‘Escadron de Marche du 1er Régiment de Chasseurs à Cheval’. As per standard French practice the M24s were named after French cities, places, Generals or battles, painted in white capital letters on the turret sides. The names were also used as radio callsigns but to the garrison troops the tanks were called ‘the Bisons’ (the Viet minh called them ‘Oxen’).
Each of the French strong points were given a girl’s name: Gabrielle, Beatrice, Anne-Marie, Huguette, Dominique, Francoise, Eliane, Claudine, and Isabelle. The squadron HQ tank and two of the three tank platoons commanded by Sergents Carette and Guntz were located in the center at Diên Biên Phu while the third platoon commanded by Lieutenant Henri Préaud was located at strong point Isabelle, 2.5 miles to the south. Each Peloton (Platoon) was named after the platoon commander.
After the period of running in and final adjustments, all of which were carried out under cover of the morning mist to avoid revealing their locations, the tanks conducted patrols around the valley to familiarize themselves with the surrounding terrain. When not in use, the tanks were concealed in sandbagged revetments which had separate dug-outs for the crews, ammunition and fuel. The first combat was on February 1st during an action northwest of Gabrielle. Thereafter, the tanks undertook numerous offensive patrols escorted by the paratroops along the slopes of the surrounding hills, to engage enemy weapon emplacements which were invulnerable to French artillery fire.
The Bisons of Diên Biên Phu
|Peloton||M24 Name||Battle Notes|
|HQ||CONTI||Mine damage on April 5 during counter-attack at ‘Huguette 6’. Recovered and used as a pillbox south of the airstrip.|
|Carette||MULHOUSE||Bazooka hit in turret during counter-attack at ‘Eliane II’ on March 31. Continued to fight and was operational until the end.|
|Carette||BAZEILLES||Bazooka hit during same action as MULHOUSE. Burnt out and abandoned.|
|Carette||DOUAUMONT||Received direct 105mm shell hit, penetrated assistant driver position, 3 crewmen KIA, April 29. Used as a pillbox at ‘Huguette 3’.|
|Guntz||SMOLENSK||Hit twice by 57mm recoilless rifle fire during action at ‘Eliane II’ on March 31. Sebsequent gearbox failure and out of action by May 7.|
|Guntz||POSEN||Bazooka hit in turret on March 24 while securing road to ‘Isabelle’ but was operational until the end.|
|Guntz||ETTLINGEN||Hit SIX times by 57mm recoilless rifle fire during action at ‘Eliane II’ on March 31. Bazooka hit on April 5, two WIA. Bazooka hit in turret on April 15, two KIA. Operational until the end.|
|Préaud||AUERSTAEDT||Operational until the end.|
|Préaud||NEUMACH||Bazooka hit in turret at Ban Kho Lai on March 31 during sortie from Isabelle. Operational until the end.|
|Préaud||RATISBONNE||Hit twice by 105mm shells at Isabelle on April 29. Operational until the end.|
This is the Squadron Headquarters M24 named CONTI commanded by Capitaine Yves Hervouët (WIA on March 31).
This is M24 AUERSTAEDT before and after the application of the camouflage scheme of earth yellow stripes. Note that camouflage paint scheme had obscured the name.
This is closeup of the rear of a M24 with the earth yellow camouflage stripes. Note the details of the infantry telephone box mounted on the right rear fender.
This M24 took a Viet Minh bazooka hit and is bellowing smoke. The Viet Minh received bazookas and 57mm recoil-less rifles from the Chinese who captured the weapons and ammo from UN forces in Korea.
One of the M24s at the airstrip at Diên Biên Phu in May 1954. The charred remains in the foreground is one of six French Grumman F8F fighters destroyed on the ground by Viet Minh artillery fire.
On 7 May 1954, Diên Biên Phu was over-whelmed by Viet Minh forces. Early that evening all the M24s were destroyed by the crews. Shown is the French crews surrendering to the Viet Minh troops.
After Diên Biên Phu fell, the Viet Minh captured the 10 M24s but only 3 have been restored. Two of them were shipped to Hanoi to be shown during the parade of Vietnam’s Independence Day on 2 September 1955.
A decaying M24 on Diên Biên Phu field today.
M24 wreck on Hill A1 at Diên Biên Phu.
Following the withdrawal of French forces from Indochina during 1955 as part of the Geneva Accord, the newly formed Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) received a number of M24s. Along with additional deliveries of Chaffees from the US, these M24s were used to equip four cavalry squadrons assigned to ARVN cavalry regiments. A small contingent of M24s were assigned to the ARVN armor school at Thu Duc for training armor officers with the assistance from American instructors.
When hostilities between the US backed regime of Ngo Dinh Diem and the communist Viet Cong (VC) broke out during the late 1950’s, ARVN military forces initially made littile use of the M24s against the elusive guerrillas. The M24s were normally used in static defense, an occasional fire support mission, or in propaganda parades. By the early 1960’s, opposition to the Diem government had reached a crisis in Vietnam and the M24s were used as shock vehicles to put down civil disturbances against the government.
Vietnamese armoured units were given the name ‘coup troops’. In the same vein, the tanks were called ‘voting machines’ because they influenced several early changes of government in Saigon.
On 2 November 1963, M24s from the Thu Duc Armor School assaulted the presidential palace during the successful coup against Ngo Dinh Diem Rebel. M24s were daubed with white blotches to identify them from the M24s of the presidential palace guards.
During 1964, it was decided to replace the aging M24s in ARVN armored units with newer M41 Walker Bulldogs and the M24s gradually disappeared from the cavalry squadrons. A number of M24s were later used to guard important installations as static pillboxes with a fixed perimeter defense system. In this role, the M24s had their engine removed. This was done for two reasons; first there was a shortage of spare parts to keep them running and the second was to prevent them from being used in a possible coup.
There was one exception to this as there was a Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) security unit of ten fully operational M24s stationed at the Tan Son Nhut airport. The VNAF commander, General Nguyễn Cao Kỳ gave direct orders to kept them operational for the defense of Tan Son Nhu, however, their actual role was to protect the Ky regime from a possible coup attempt.
A VNAF M24 guards the main gate at the Tan Son Nhut air base from a sand bagged emplacement in 1968.
VNAF M24s were used to patrol the perimeter of the Tan Son Nhut air base.
USAF security police and an VNAF M24 search for VC sappers during the Tet assault on Tan Son Nhut air base on 31 January 1968.
A VNAF M24 fires at VC positions in the Old French Cemetery on the southwestern perimeter of Tan Son Nhut air base during the May Offensive on 7 May 1968.
An M24 pillbox guarding a bridge along Highway 1, 1969.
At the outbreak of war in 1965, Pakistan had about 15 armoured cavalry regiments, each with about 45 tanks in three squadrons. Besides the M47/M48 Pattons, there were about 200 76mm M4 Shermans, 150 M24s and a few independent squadrons of M36B1 tank destroyers. Most of these regiments served in Pakistan’s two armoured divisions, the 1st and 6th Armoured divisions. The Indian Army at the time had 17 cavalry regiments with 164 AMX-13 light tanks and 188 Centurions. Both sides took heavy losses.
In the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Pakistani M24s in East Pakistan (today’s Bangladesh) took heavy losses against the Indian Army T-55s, PT-76s, and anti-tank teams.
There was one exception. During the tank battle of Kushtia a vastly outnumbered tank infantry force of squadron company level inflicted heavy punishment on the invading Indian forces. In summary, Pakistani M24s of a squadron from the 29th Cavalry Regiment along with an infantry company of the 18th Punjab Battalion ambushed the Indian forces and the M24s destroyed 5 out of 6 Indian PT-76s of an Indian 45th Cavalry Regiment squadron along with completely mauling an battalion of the Indian 7th Infantry Brigade with no losses of Pakistani tanks.
MOVIES AND TV
Full Movie: Blondie’s Hero (1950)
(At 44:20 minutes in the movie, Blondie, Dagwood and Daisy (the dog) go for a wild ride in a M24 around the Army base.)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Go for Broke! (1951)
The Desert Rats (1953)
20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)
Me and the Colonel (1958)
Varan the Unbelievable (1958)
The Guns of Navarone (1961)
The Train (1964)
Battle of the Bulge (1965)
Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (1965)
Follow Me, Boys! (1966)
Is Paris Burning? (1966)
The Night of the Generals (1967)
The Battle of El Alamein (1969)
The Bridge at Remagen (1969)
A Bridge Too Far (1977)
The Biggest Battle (1978)
M*A*S*H, TV series finale, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” (1983)
Full TV Program: Tank Overhaul – Episode 6 – The M24 Chaffee
Battle of the Bulge (1965)
Commando Attack (1968)
Battle of Britain (1969)
Trail of the Pink Panther (1982)
MythBusters, TV 2008 Ep. 6.12
MODELS AND DECALS
AFV Club AF35054 U.S. WWII M24 Chaffee Light Tank – 2014
Bronco CB35069 US Light Tank M-24 ‘Chaffee’ (Early prod.) – 2012
Bronco CB35139 U.S. M-24 Chaffee Light Tank in Korean war – 2012
Bronco CB35148 US M19A1 Twin 40MM Gun Motor Carriage Korean War – 2018
Bronco CB35217 U.S. M41 “Gorilla” 155mm Howitzer Motor Carriage – 2019
Italeri 6502 M24 Chaffee – 2012
Resin Armor RA016 M41 Howitzer Motor Carriage “Gorilla” – 200?
Tamiya 37020 M24 Chaffee – 2015
Commander Models 1-034 US M37 Howitzer Motor Carriage – 2013
(Requires Trumpeter Track #02037)
Bison Decals 35175 US M24 Chaffee WWII
Bison Decals 35163 US Tanks in Korea #6 – M24 Chaffee
Kengi M24 Chaffee Early Production (Full Resin kit)
Hasegawa 31119 Light Tank M-24 Chaffee – 2008
FanKit Models FKM 72010 M19 Twin 40mm Gun – 2017
Star Decals 72-A1030 Indochine # 2. M24 Chaffee / Bison.
Matchbox 40079 M24/Chaffee – 1986
Revell 03213 M24 Chaffee – 2005
Milicast US060 M41 “Gorilla” 155mm SPG – 200?
Giesbers Models 012 US M37 105mm (Full kit) – 201?