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New Vanguard 77: M24 Chaffee Light Tank 1943–85

by Steven J Zaloga

Iillustrated by Jim Laurier

Osprey Publishing Ltd.

ISBN 1-84176-540-6

In this book, Steve Zaloga gives us a very readable account of the Chaffee. Its development to replace the obsolescent M3 and M5 light tanks is clearly described, together with brief mention of the T7 “light” which metamorphosed into the M7 medium tank before being cancelled. Work to develop the new tank was approved on 29 April 1943, less than 2 months after the M7 was cancelled, and progressed rapidly. A mock-up was completed in May and the first pilot tank delivered in October 1943, with full production beginning in April 1944 although the first shipment did not reach France until December that year.

The first M24s to see combat were two that were somehow acquired by Company D of 740th Tank Battalion and deployed on 20 December 1944 in the Battle of the Bulge. They had been scrounged from the transport column delivering the first batch of M24s to the 744th TB, which had been expecting 20 tanks but did receive the remaining 18 on 24 December. The 744th was completely re-equipped with M24s by mid-February 1945 and went into action with them before the end of the month. Its report on the new tanks was quite favourable in respect of mobility, ruggedness and other factors but the thin armour was criticised and the 744th made several improvements, including developing its own belly armour kit against mines. Other issues included cavalry recon units, who had much the same mix of praise and wanted improvements.

With relatively late deployment to Europe its not surprising that the combat use sections of the book concentrate on Korea, Indo-China and the India-Pakistan wars. There is also good coverage of M24 exports around the world. These sections are followed by a look at improvements made by various nations to their own M24s.

Then come the US modifications in production, notably the pontoon-attachment points at front and rear – the respective serial numbers are given for the first fitting of these, though the pontoons were never actually used. A final section deals with the M19 anti-aircraft variant, M37 105mm howitzer motor carriage and M41 155mm HMC, as well as other artillery projects which did not go into production.

The photographs are well-chosen to show various features, and clearly captioned, and the colour plates give a good spread on users and times. They show a US Army M24 in Germany, March 1945, a British one in 1946, a French one at Dien Bien Phu, a Spanish one in the Sahara in 1957, a French one in Algeria in 1962, a Greek one in 1985, a Pakistani one the 1971 India-Pakistan war, and a re-engined Uraguayan one in 1985 as well as the New Vanguard trademark cutaway. All good stuff for modellers, showing colours and markings and avoiding the all-too-common concentration on of US Chaffees in Korea.

Highly recommended, especially for those wanting to build the new “early M24” kit from Italeri as photos of the early ones are not exactly thick on the ground – you’ll find some here. It’s just as good for the late version, of course.

Osprey Publishing website, New Vanguard 77 page

John Prigent