Volume 9, Issue 2
July 15, 2013


Welcome to the 25th issue of "Heavy Metal" -- the newsletter of the

Virginia Museum of Military Vehicles (VMMV.) Our mission is our motto -- by working to restore armored fighting vehicles, artillery, small arms, uniforms, and accoutrements of the US military and other countries, we hope to share the legacy of the sacrifice and courage of our fighting men and women with future generations of Americans. Located in Northern Virginia, our collection has grown to over 90 vehicles, starting out with the first US tank, the M 1917 through such legendary US vehicles as the M4A1 and M4A3 Sherman , M3A1 and M5A1 Stuart , M24 Chaffee , M3A1 Half-track , M36 Jackson and M3 Lee along with a few vehicles you might not know existed -- such as a prototype of the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) tank.

Get to know your VMMV staff & vehicles

In this section we introduce you to the people and armor of the Virginia Museum of Military Vehicles. We will chat with the VMMV staff, so that you can get to know the people who "keep 'em running" and work so hard behind the scenes. And also provide a behind-the-scenes look into the history of individual vehicles in the VMMV collection. In this, our 25th newsletter, we highlight an ongoing restoration done by VMMV staff and volunteers. This time, the vehicle is an American M-24 Chaffee light tank WWII.

As World War II continued on, the popgun 37mm cannon on the M3 and M5-series of Stuart light tanks was unable to deal with the thickly-armored German panzers. In addition, the 37mm high explosive round was very anemic. So the Ordnance Department in late summer of 1942 began initial design studies trying to incorporate the specifications of the US Army's Armored Force officers for a new light tank.

After a series of fits and starts, the Ordnance Department settled on the 75mm gun T13E1, originally developed as a lightweight nose gun for the Army Air Corps' B-25H medium bomber, as the main armament. Once the gun and recoil system had been decided on, a new turret was built around it.

The new cannon/turret combination obviously required a new chassis. So the Ordnance Department designed a welded armor chassis and incorporated a torsion bar suspension system. Powering it all were two gasoline engines taken from Cadillac. Yep, the M-24 is truly a Cadillac in every sense of the word.

The M-24 had a five-man crew. The turret crew consisted of the Vehicle Commander, Gunner and Loader. The Driver sat in the left front of hull. Unique among American tanks of WWII, the fifth crewman also had a set of driver controls, sitting in the right front of the hull manning a bow machine gun.

Based on the placement of the vehicle's serial number (SN), we believe VMMV's Chaffee was built by Cadillac. The only other builder was Massey-Morris. The SN is only three digits, and by examining the monthly production totals of Cadillac, we believe our M-24 was probably built in the first week of November 1944. Overall, 4,731 Chaffees were built in 1944 and 1945.

It is possible that our tank was rushed overseas. The M-24 Chaffee saw its combat debut in December 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge. So our M-24 may have seen service in that epic battle. Contrary to popular perception, it was not named Chaffee by the US, but by the British-in honor of MG Adna Chaffee, the first commander of the US Armored Force.

Post-war, many M-24 Chaffee's were sent to US Allies under the Mutual Assistance Act to stave off Soviet aggression. VMMV's vehicle found its way into French Army service. Sometime during this period, several modifications were made to the vehicle. Modifications for the most part were done by the US.

These modifications include removing the 2 inch smoke mortar in the right front of the turret and replacing it with a radio antenna. Inside the turret, a new radio rack under the antenna was mounted. A pintle mount for a .50 BMG machine gun was placed on center top of the turret. And a phone box at the rear of the hull for the following infantry to communicate with the crew. Along with lots of miscellaneous brackets scattered over the hull.

photos of the these modifications to be added

VMMV acquired our M-24 from the French via an intermediary over a decade ago. And she has driven many miles during the Open House. It was time for the old girl to freshen up.

VMMV wanted to restore our vehicle to her WWII glory. So our specialists are beginning the laborious process of carefully removing these post-war modifications. Of course, we will keep these parts as they are part of the vehicle's heritage.

As part of the restoration, our M-24 will receive a new coat of paint. But at VMMV that doesn't mean we just slap on a coat of house paint and call it done. Th restoration process begins with sanding the old paint as part of basic surface preparation. VMMV does not stop there. Our staff and volunteers want to preserve history, so our technicians very carefully sand down each layer of paint, to document and to look for historical markings. So far we have found nine layers of paint.

In this case, we hit the jackpot on the M-24's turret. Slowly, painstakingly by hand, our crew uncovered an old French insignia and markings that leads us to believe our M-24 served at one point in time as part of a French parachute unit. In order to document such a historical find, VMMV takes numerous photos throughout the restoration process. In addition, we found the French registration number and flag on the front glacis.

The tank's number plate indicates a year of 1961 and the French turret insignia traces the tank back to the 1st Hussars Regiment Parachute. The name painted on the turret is BERCHENY.

With these data points, VMMV's research staff dusted off their tomes and cracked open their reference books to find out more about the provenance of our M-24. Because French tanks were typically names after historical figures, or places, we believe that the name Bercheny is actually a reference to Ladislas Ignace de Bercheny, a Hungarian-born (1689) soldier who later became Marshal of France. In 1720, Count Bercheny raised a regiment of Hussard cavalry for then-King Louis XIV. In 1756 after firmly establishing the legacy of Hussars in French cavalry lore, he was made a Marshal, dying in 1778.

The 1st Hussars has a long and storied unit history serving in the French military. From what our research indicates, they were equipped with M-24s during the Algerian War and fought there as part of the 25th Parachute Division, operating as part of the general reserve. The unit arrived in 1956 and three armored squadrons at that time were equipped with M-24s.

Currently, the 1st Hussars is a French airborne calvary unit. For those of you that speak French, or have a Google translator, here is a link to the official website of the 1er Regiment de Hussards Parachutists-the modern day manifestation of Count Bercheny's Hussards.

The engines in our M-24 are in very good condition, and with this restoration she should soldier on for many years to come.

So, look for the M-24 in our Open House. But to see the M-24 in a Hollywood movie, check out "The Battle of the Bulge." Telly Savalas as Guppy mans an M-24 Chaffee. Unfortunately, the movie does an all-too accurate depiction of what happened to M-24 tankers when trying to slug it out with German panzers.



From the Files of VMMV......

In this section, we will examine historical records and files on armor in World War II from the perspective of the British liaison office to the US War Department. Some of this correspondence discusses the capabilities and performance of US armor, other files are the British view of German armor, reflecting their understanding of the technical capabilities of the panzers they faced. VMMV is proud to be the custodian of these historical treasures and wishes to thank Mr. Peter Upton for donating his father's war time papers.

These files represent the actual understanding of the Allies of German armored fighting vehicles and represent a critical link between the myths and propaganda of both sides and the post-war technical exploitation. Some of the data may be incorrect or missing, represent critical intelligence that was unknown to the Allies at the time. You the reader are presented with the data in raw form to allow you to see the ground truth of Allied intelligence.

In our 14th installment, we continue our examination of documents on the German tank known as the Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf. E or PzKw VI…more commonly known as the "Tiger." The Tiger is synonymous with the Panzer Divisions and struck fear into the heart of Allied tankers during the course of WWII. Because of the large number of documents, we will break up the PzKw VI Ausf. E file over several newsletters.

We present four compelling views of the Tiger Ausf. E. Because of the style of the WWII-era drawings, we at VMMV have labeled this series of scans "Blueprints."

Each of the blueprints shown below illustrates a different view of the Tiger Ausf. E. Particularly compelling is the detailed close-up of the track and suspension system. Enjoy!!!


VMMV Acronym

The lexicon of armored vehicles is filling with a bewildering amount of acronyms. And at VMMV we have a few of our own. Here we will have the VMMV word of the day so you may better understand the conversations you might overhear at the museum.

Turret lock…. No, VMMV doesn't put a lock on its tank turrets to keep somebody from stealing them. It would be pretty hard to remove a multi-ton turret with a 20 foot cannon!!!

A turret lock is a mechanism to lock the turret in one place, to keep it from wildly swinging about while moving. In general, the turret lock is inside the turret, down by the gunner's station. By engaging the turret lock, the pressure on the cannon tube from traveling over bumps is removed. This keeps the cannon and sight mechanism in alignment and calibrated-critical elements of tank gunnery.

At VMMV, we generally keep the turret lock engaged because the safety of our crew and friends is our number one priority.


Open House Imminent-Sign up Now

The Americans in Wartime Museum is having an Open House on 17 to 18 August 2013, supported by the amazing vehicle collection of VMMV. Come out, rain or shine. Bring the kids. Activities for all ages. Live vehicle demonstrations. Lots of living historians to interact with. Food, water and restrooms on site. But please go to, click on events and RSVP now, so we have an idea of the crowd size.

The VMMV staff and volunteers look forward to seeing all our friends again. We will be the folks in the bright gold T-shirts, so don't hesitate to walk up and ask a question, or shake our hand.

See You at the 2013 Open House!


Michael Panchyshyn-Editor