This is the fourth release of the Chaffee by Bronco, the first being the WWII version
, the second the British version
and the third the post-War Asian version
History of the M24 in Korea
The M24 Chaffee was the ultimate light tank of WWII, though the light tank concept was already outdated by the time of its first combat use during the Battle of the Bulge. 4731 were produced by the end of August 1945, when production stopped. After the war the M24 was well liked by its crews for occupational duties and served in the constabulary forces both in Germany and Japan. Due to the bridges in Japan not being strong enough to carry heavier tanks, American occupation forces were exclusively equipped with the M24 at the time of the outbreak of the Korean War on 25 June 1950.
The M24 was therefore among the first heavy equipment sent to Korea to counter the North Korean onslaught. The first were 14 tanks of Company A, 78th Heavy Tank Battalion, supporting the 21st Infantry Regiment of the 24th Infantry Division. They were intended to counter the Russian-supplied T34/85, a role for which the Chaffee was never designed and in which it failed utterly. Two were lost the first day of combat (10 July 1950) due to poor maintenance, another three were lost the next day. By August all but two were lost.
As the US Army rushed M4A3E8, M26 and M46 tanks – some of which were taken from monuments and quickly refurbished – to Korea, the M24 was gradually relegated to its intended role as a reconnaissance tank and slowly regained the trust of its crews and proved once again to be a popular design.
After the end of the war, the M24 was quickly replaced by the M41 Light Tank. The M24 was supplied to nations around the world under MDAP (Military Defense Assistance Program), the subject of the post-War Asian version of this model.
The kit comes in the typical Bronco box, however this one is considerably larger than the original release. The logical conclusion that there is more in this box however, turns out to be wrong: there are fewer sprues because the crew figures from the first release are absent.
The sprues in the box are all known previously, with most from the first release and the rest from the post war Asian version. As all M24 were produced during WWII the differences were minimal and with this kit you actually get all parts to model any WWII and almost any Korean War version. The box contains:
1 lower hull tub
7 sprues containing all the major parts for the tanks
5 sprues for the road wheels
14 sprues of single link tracks
2 ea. slide molded idlers and drive sprockets
1 slide molded .50 cal machine gun receiver
1 plastic spring for the gun recoil system
1 sprue with stowage
1 clear sprue for the periscopes and lights
1 piece of string (tow cable)
1 decal sheet
1 PE fret (the same as in the post war Asian release)
1 24 page instruction booklet in full color
1 print of the box art
EDIT by Author:
There were two types of tracks for the M24. The all-steel T72 as included in this release was the only one available during WWII and the most common during the Korean War. The T85E1 had rubber chevrons and is the track included in the Post War Asian release. Though this track seems to have been the standard on vehicles based on the M24 (such as the M19 or the M41), it was very uncommon on the M24. In fact, during my research I found only one picture of an M24 that can safely be said to be in Korea with the T85E1 track, see Ref1, p. 43
, depicting a vehicle of 73rd Tank Battalion, 7th Infantry Division. A second picture was added to the discussion thread of this review and later identified as belonging to the 1st Cav Division, with soldiers from the 187th Airborne RCT. In any case, it is quite probable that at some point a broken track would be replaced by a T85E1.
The only really new part of this kit is the decal sheet, so I will concentrate on the four marking options (all U.S.) and the pitfalls to look out for. The resources used are cited by number (see below for the list of sources) and page.
Option 1: 24th Reconnaissance Company, 24th Infantry Division, Chonui, July 1950
This option has only one decal on either side: the tank’s name “Rebel’s Roost”. This was one of the very first tanks rushed to Korea in July 1950 and it is believed to be one of the first three in combat. A picture of it can be found in Ref1, p. 10
and Ref2, p. 12
. In the picture one can faintly see a unit ID on the LHS (driver’s side) fender but it is not clearly legible. Ref1
claims it to be the ID of the 24th Reconnaissance Company, 24th Infantry Division while Ref2
claims it to be of the 78th Heavy Tank Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment of the 24th Infantry Division. Both claim it to be the sole survivor of the first U.S. tank engagement of the Korean War, so the question finally is, which unit fought this first engagement? I have no independent information to confirm either claim, and the unit ID in the picture could be both.
EDIT by Author:
In the meantime I have found another Photo in Ref5, p. 29
(see addition below) of what is supposedly the same tank from the front. There the unit ID is clearly legible as 24-R21, which would support the ID of Ref2
No vehicle registration number is visible in the picture, but it can be assumed that there is one on the front hull side next to the crew hatches but is covered by the crew man in the picture.
Another difference between the photo and the kit is that the .50 cal. machine gun is still in its original position on the back of the turret. This is however easy to remedy, all you have to do is place the machine gun mount in step 39 on the brackets molded on the turret and not use parts P16 and P23. The .50 cal was often relocated later in the war, to counter the massed human wave attacks of the Chinese.
Option 2: 3rd Reconnaissance Company, 3rd Infantry Division, Songbongdong, Seoul, May 1951
This option carries the name “Eagle Claw” on both sides of the turret, as well as the regulation white stars (turret sides, front glacis and engine deck) and registration number. The markings conform well with the picture of the original vehicle, which can be found in Ref1, p.58, Ref2, p.66
and Ref4, p. 14
Two differences in the vehicle configuration are of note here: For one the fenders are without the sand shield mounts, meaning that in steps 22 and 25 you will have to leave off parts A22 and A28 respectively. The second difference concerns the front antenna mount, which is mounted on what seems to be a simple sheet metal U-shape instead of directly on the turret. This should be easy to replicate with some left-over PE.
Option 3: 187th Airborne Regiment, Yong-Dong-Po, Seoul, April 1951
This is another regulation marked M24 with white stars and vehicle registration number. It caries no vehicle name, however there is an airborne insignia painted on the turret. The decal has a white parachute and yellow surround. Whether the surround is yellow or white remains unclear: The B/W photograph available in Ref1, p.56
is inconclusive (however, the surround does seem slightly darker) while the color plate in Ref2, p.34
shows a more elaborate white surround and the color plate in Ref3
conforms with the decal. There may have been several versions of the insignia though. The vehicle registration number seems to conform to the color plate in Ref3
The line up of vehicles in the picture in Ref1, p.56
, shows that all vehicles had the .50 cal. machine gun mounted in the original position on the back of the turret. Again, easily remedied as described for Option 1. The vehicles further show both variants, with or without the sand shield mounts.
Option 4: 79th Tanks Battalion, Han River, 1950
This is probably the most famous marking option for the M24. It carries the tiger face on yellow background on the front of the hull and turret. Tiger faces are actually what make modeling the Korean War so interesting as it is a welcome change from the drab OD and other camouflage colors. Such faces were often painted on tanks during the spring 1951 Operation Ripper from March 6 – April 4. The idea was to scare the supposedly superstitious Chinese and North Koreans, however the effect was probably more for the crew’s morale. Of course the title of the option is wrong, as no tanks carried any tiger markings before Operation Ripper and therefore none during 1950. The 79th was attached to the 25 Infantry Division at this time.
Pictures of M24s with this marking are rare, and I know of only two. The first and most distinct (though a bit grainy) can be found in Ref3, p.3
. It shows a Tiger face which closely matches the one in the kit, though the red demarcation line on the turret side is a bit more random and the eyes have a somewhat different shape. Notable differences to the kit configurations are again the missing sand shield mounts and the different front antenna mount (see Option 2 for remedies for both).
The second picture can be found in Ref1, p.54
and Ref2, p.64
. This is clearly a different vehicle, as it has no pontoon mounts on the front glacis and is therefore an early production variant. Thanks to the fact that the kit also includes the parts of the first release, this can be easily remedied by using part Da8 in step 1 instead of part Db5. Another notable difference is that the .50 cal. is mounted on the back of the turret while there is what appears to be a .30 cal. machine gun on the front left of the turret. The photo is unfortunately not clear enough to discern the exact type of mount used. The tank also does not have the sand shield mounts.
Due to the fact that obviously several vehicles were painted with similar faces, there are several options regarding the exact extent of the yellow background and details of the tiger face. The Photos are not clear enough to give a definite answer, with dirt covering the lower glacis.
There are two color plates available. One is in Ref1, p.40
. This one is based on the first picture described above and represents that well. The yellow extends to the lower glacis and also covers the sides of the mouth. The picture is inconclusive about whether the pontoon mounts were also yellow; the color plate has them left in OD. The kit instructions leave them OD. In the color plate, the yellow also doesn’t extend all the way to the lower edge of the glacis, instead it follows the shape of the lower lip of the mouth. The demarcation line on the turret side is quite a bit more irregular as mentioned before.
The second color plate is in Ref2, p.38
. It shows a much simplified demarcation line on the turret side with one side red and the other with no line. The yellow surround stops at the height of the lights with the glacis below that being OD. This is based on the picture on p.64 of the same book but it is unclear whether the lower glacis is in fact OD since it’s covered with mud and stowage.
The kit has 12 decals to replicate the tiger face. These cover the demarcation lines, eyes, nostrils, lips and teeth. The yellow background and the black mouth will have to be painted. As noted above, the red demarcation lines seem a bit too regular but there seems to be some leeway regarding this matter. It should prove quite hard to paint the yellow and black to match the decals, therefore I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to paint the red lines by hand? Personally this was the way I did it on my Italeri M24 several years ago, though more because of the fact that there were no such decals available.
Further decals for this version are the unit ID numbers. Though correct, they seem a bit large and the pictures clearly show a dash (-) between the numbers 25 and 79. No vehicle ID is provided though most likely one was painted on the vehicle. None are discernible on any photos. I recommend covering this section (on the side of the crew hatches) with some stowage.
Since nothing has changed on the basic kit, it is certainly still a great kit. The Korean War version carries some nice marking options, in particular the Tiger face. If you take care getting the right details of the kit and source some further decals you can model a very accurate Korean War Chaffee.
In the making of this review, the following resources were used:
1) Armor in Korea, A Pictorial History
by Jim Mesko, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1984.
2) Tank Warfare in Korea 1950 – 53
by Steven J. Zaloga and George Balin, Concord Publications, 1994.
3) M24 Chaffee in action
by Jim Mesko, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1988.
4) M24 Chaffee Light Tank 1943 – 1985
by Steven J. Zaloga, Osprey Publications 2003.
5) At War in Korea
by George Forty, Bonanza Books, 1982.