M24 Chaffee (Early)
Italeri Kit No. 6431
1/35th Scale
First Look Review by Peter Brown

Italeri originally released their M24 Chaffee kit back in 1986 as kit no 244. It depicted a vehicle with several post-war features, notably the two-pin rubber block T85E1 pattern track, which meant that to model a wartime vehicle the tracks had to be replaced. There were also several minor details which were more typical of "later" than "early" vehicles.

This new edition of the kit gives us the original, all-metal T72 track which reduces the effort and cost of modelling a tank in WW2 or Korea, or indeed one of the many countries who received the Chaffee in the 1950s. A small additional sprue contains new sprockets to match the track, plus spare track links to match the band tracks as well as two stowage boxes and two tarpaulins. At first sight these new items appeared to be the only change, as the sprues are still marked with the original mould numbers. However, close inspection shows that the pads on the top of the transmission bulges on the hull front have been removed, they now come as separate parts on the turret sprue together with the driver's windshield (a small sheet of clear plastic is also included to make the glass itself) and set of access steps. The screen is a nice extra, and having the pads separate means they can be left off or fitted as required.

Otherwise, the kit itself is the same and the only changes to the instruction sheet are a new background history and the changes to reflect the additional parts.

ItaleriA new decal sheet is provided, this gives five options. These are not well described, but checking photos in books these can be identified as:

  1. US Army "ALLY OOP III" in Germany in early 1945 which I cannot identify, no unit markings are given anyway
  2. US Army F Troop, 81st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron in 1st Armored Division in Italy 1945. This tank had extra stowage boxes on the fenders which could be adapted from the kit ones
  3. US Army "EAGLE CLAW" serving with 3rd Reconnaissance Company of 3rd Infantry Division in Korea, May 1951.
  4. British Army 1st Battalion Royal Tank Regiment in Germany in May 1945, only serial numbers and the lettering AFV1 in white. This is the same tank as in the original issue's decal sheets though earlier in its career and not the full set of 22nd Armoured Brigade, 7th Armoured Division markings as seen during a parade in late 1945 and which are also seen the Tank Museum, Bovington's example. Note that the stowage boxes are not correct for a British vehicle, as they do not follow the hull side's inward slope and the real boxes were not the same length while the kit ones are.
  5. French Army 1ere Regiment de Chasseurs a Cheval in Indo China 1953. This is a Bison (as 1RRC called them) named METZ, it was illustrated in colour plates in the old-series Osprey Vanguards No 40 "US Light Tanks 1944-94" by Steve Zaloga and No 42 "Armour of the Vietnam Wars" by Simon Dunstan though the plates differ slightly in the details of the markings. The markings are colourful with unit shield on one side of the turret and playing card symbol on the other.

For comparison, kit 244 covered a US Army tank SKEETER in Germany 1945 as seen in the old Profile, the 1RTR tank in full parade scheme, another 1RCC tank in Indo China called OUDENARDE, an Italian Army tank in the Ariete Division 1953 and a Japanese Self-Defence Forces tank dated 1957. Of these, the French and possibly the Japanese examples had the rubber-block track as in the original kit, the others should have the all-metal style from the new kit.

As is usual with Italeri, no crew are included and this is regarded generally as one of the company's better kits. The M24 Chaffee was the last wartime American light tank and only came into use in 1945, it was soon replaced in production and service in the US Army by the larger M41 Walker Bulldog but was widely exported - nine out of ten going abroad to NATO, Middle Eastern and Far Eastern countries - and it served in original and modified forms with new engines and even new armament in the case of the Norwegian Army for many years, seeing action in the Pakistani Army as well as with France in Indo China and in the later Vietnam conflict. As the kit is available again we can model one or more of these subjects, though many post-war tanks will need the kit tracks replacing with either aftermarket items or ones from the original issue.

References are readily available, the most detailed being R P Hunnicutt's "Stuart: A History of the American Light Tank Volume 1" which covers all American light tanks and derived vehicles up to and including Chaffee, while Osprey New Vanguard 77 by Steve Zaloga has just been released which will be ideal for use with the kit. Photos and colour plates for several alternative finishes can be found in various books by Steve Zaloga as well as the two Vanguards referred to above.

The Sprues

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  • STUART A History of the American Light Tank
    R.P.Hunnicutt. Presidio Books
    ISBN 0-89141-462-2
  • M24 Chaffee Light Tank 1943-1985
    Osprey New Vanguard No 77
    Steven J. Zaloga. ISBN 1-84176-540-6
  • Stuart U.S.Light Tanks in action
    Squadron Signal Publications #2018
    Steven J.Zaloga. ISBN 0-89747-084-2
  • M24 Chaffee in Action
    Squadron Signal Publications #2035
    Jim Mesko. ISBN 0-89747-205-5
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Page Created 11 July 2003

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