M24 Chaffee
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII

America's experience in North Africa with the M3 and M5 light tanks demonstrated that greater firepower would be needed against the Germans. A new 75mm gun gave more power than the 37mm in the previous light tanks, and a newly designed suspension, transmission system, and wider tracks gave the Chaffee more nimble handling. The tank, named after the first commander of the Armored Force, Maj. Gen. Adna R. Chaffee, went into production in April, 1944 and reached troops in limited quantities in the fall of 1944. It wasn't until the Battle of the Bulge that the tanks were widely used.

For a long time, the Italeri model from 1986 (#244) was the only game in town for the Chaffee, and it was generally respected as a better-than-average kit. Most complaints focused on the postwar tracks. (Correct T72E1 steel type tracks are available in resin from DES, and metal T72E2 individual track-links, drive sprockets, and idlers are made by Fruillmodelismo.) Royal Model offers a comprehensive resin and photoetch update set. In 2003, Italeri released the M24 Chaffee (Early) (#6431), correcting the track problem and removing the pads from the transmission cover. In the mid 2000s, Formations delivered a resin workover that used little more of the Italeri kit than the tub and the wheels.

In 2012, Bronco came out with a Chaffee that was widely praised for accuracy, though the turret took some hits for a misplaced weld seam that Bronco quickly corrected and made available to purchasers at cost. Some modelers complained about the intricate, multipart suspension components as being time consuming and fiddly.

So there are numerous options for modelers who are looking for a simple build or a more state-of-the-art kit. Both of the Italeri kits go in and out of production but are easy to find at shows or online.

I photographed this Chaffee in 2012 at the Ropkey Museum outside Crawfordsville, Indiana. It's a rather cramped situation with a couple dozen AFVs and other ordnance in a large shed, and one is not allowed to climb over the tanks. So I had my camera mounted on a monopod and shot overhead photos using the camera's timer. Some are a bit blurred but still provide some useful visual info.

This Chaffee contains many post-WWII features, beginning with the rubber chevron tracks that were used in the initial Italeri kit and replaced in their mid-2000s "early" version. This turret has the smoke mortar plugged to house another antenna base, and a .30 cal. machine gun is mounted on an extension that rests in the storage socket for the .50 cal. That weapon is mounted on a post-war pintle on the roof of the turret. The pivoting "shoulders" of the driver and assitant driver hatches also appear to be a post-war variant. The fender sports some interesting museum relics.

See other Chaffees from the First Infantry Division Museum at Cantigney Park and the Patton Museum at Fort Knox, Kentucky.


Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © Timothy S. Streeter