to know your VMMV staff & vehicles
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
in our M-24 are in very good condition, and with this restoration
she should soldier on for many years to come.
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.