M-24 Chaffee Light Tank

The M-24 Chaffee Light Tank was named by the British after General Adna R. Chaffee, who was the chief proponent of armored warfare in the United States before the start of WWII. See more tank pictures.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The M-24 Chaffee Light Tank grew out of British experience in North Africa with the M-3 Stuart. The light tank's agility and speed was very desirable, but the M-3/M-5 series was too lightly gunned to be of much value after Germany introduced the Pz.Kpfw III, Pz.Kpfw IV, and Pz.Kpfw V Panther.

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In April 1943 design studies began for a new light tank that would retain the best features of the M-3/M-5 but couple them to a heavier gun. The lightweight 75 millimeter M6 gun developed for the B-25 Mitchell attack bomber was selected. Its short recoil mechanism was ideally suited for the close confines of a tank's turret.

The Cadillac Division of General Motors, which had been so instrumental in the development of the M-5 Light Tank, was chosen as the major designer. They first tested the 75mm M6 gun on the M-8 Howitzer Motor Carriage -- which used the M-5 hull and chassis. The concept worked, but the M-5's hull and chassis were not large enough.

Another design, taken from the T-7 experimental light tank, was selected instead. The T-7 chassis was larger and heavier but still within the overall 18-ton weight limit. The same twin Cadillac V-8 engines and hydromatic transmission used in the M-5 were fitted to the new chassis. They were mounted on rails for quick access and removal.

The M-24 Chaffee Light Tank succeeded the M-3 Stuart/M-5 Light Tank in May 1944.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Armor protection was kept low, from a maximum of 2.5 inches in the turret to a minimum of .9 inch on the hull top, to save weight. But the new light tank's armor was rounded and sloped to achieve greater armor protection than the M-5. In keeping with the theory behind the use of light tanks, the M-24's speed and agility were to make up for what it lost in armor protection.

The new tank was designated the T-24 for testing, which started in October 1943. Initial tests proved so successful that an order for 1,000 was placed immediately. The order was later increased to 5,000. The M-24 -- as it was designated for operational purposes -- was produced by both Cadillac and Massey-Harris. A total of 4,415 were manufactured before the war ended in 1945.

The first M-24s reached American armored units in November 1944 and served throughout the European theater until the end of the war. British forces also received the new M-24, although in nowhere near the numbers of either the M-3 or M-5, and named it after General Adna R. Chaffee, the first commander of the United States armored forces. The United States subsequently adopted the name.

These American tankers and their M-24 Chaffee Light Tank guard a strong point near Degu in northwestern Italy.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The M-24 saw extensive service in Korea as part of the "combat team" approach, adopted in 1944. In the combat team, one tank design in each category -- light, medium, and heavy -- was standardized, and its chassis, hull, and power plant served as the basis for the special-purpose vehicles needed to support the tanks in the combat team.

The Light Weight combat team Included the antiaircraft tank M-19 Gun, Motor Carriage, which mounted twin 40mm antiaircraft guns, and a self-propelled howitzer -- either the M-41 Howitzer Motor Carriage, mounting a 155mm Ml howitzer, or the M-37 Howitzer Motor Carriage, mounting a 105mm M4 howitzer. A recovery vehicle was also intended as part of the team, but it was never produced.

The M-24 was widely used by the United States and other countries, including Great Britain, long after World War II. Even in the late 1980s the M-24 could still be found in operation with a number of smaller nations.

Continue to the next page to learn the specifications of the M-24 Chaffee Light Tank.

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