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 at the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park, in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton. It is one of several armored vehicles that guard the grounds of the former mansion of Robert R. McCormick, a colonel in the First Division who fought in the Battle of Cantigny, France, in 1918, and was the editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune.

This Chaffee was photographed in front of the Patton Museum at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

M24 Chaffee front right M24 Chaffee left side M24 Chaffee rear M24 Chaffee right rear

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