The M24 Chaffees were considered a breakthrough factor on the battlefield if the Viet Minh dared to attack Dien Bien Phu stronghold

M24 Chaffee was present in the Vietnam battlefield since the First Indochina War

Presented at the earliest in the Vietnam War, since the Vietnam-France war period, the M24 Chaffee is considered one of the first American tanks used on the Vietnam battlefield. These tanks were American aid to France.

Weighing only 18 tons and the thickest armor was only 38 mm with the 75 mm main gun, the armor and firepower of this tank were only average.

Despite poor armor protection, the Americans and the French believed that the Viet Minh army would not be able to confront these light tanks. They could not have expected that, with only primitive weapons, the Vietnamese caused these war machines to fail.

M24 Chaffee in the Vietnam battlefield
M24 Chaffee in the Vietnam battlefield

M24 Chaffee American light tank

The M24 Chaffee was a light tank made by the United States from 1944 to 1953, and entered service during World War II. It was only produced for a short period of time, 9 years, but was widely used. After World War II, M24 was used in the Korean War, and by the French during the First Indochina War and the Republic of Vietnam Army during the Vietnam War. M24s were mostly removed from U.S. and NATO armies by the 1960s, but remained in service with some Third World countries. As a light tank, the M24 Chaffee mainly performed armed reconnaissance and infantry support when required.

The M24 Chaffee was designed to replace the M5 Stuart light tank. The tank weighed 18.37 tons, length was 5.56m, width was 3m, and height was 2.77m. It required a crew of 5, including: commander, gunner, loader, driver, assistant driver/radio operator.

The main weapon of the M24 was a 75mm gun with 48 rounds. Additional weapon was 2 0.30 caliber machine gun, one was set next to the main gun, the other at the bow. A 0.50 caliber M2 Browning heavy machine gun could be fitted over the rear right side of the turret and operated externally for local air and vehicle defense. A 51mm smoke grenade-launching mortar was used to provide screening against enemy eyes.

M24 Chaffee was equipped with a Twin Cadillac Series 44T24 engine, producing 220 horsepower, combined with Hydramatic transmission system, 8 forward, 4 reverse speeds. The vehicle can reach a top speed of 56 km/h, a range of 160 km.

On the whole, the M24 Chaffee combined firepower, speed, and agility in a complete battlefield package. Low Profile gave the tank good hiding, the 75mm main gun was more efficient than the M5’s 37mm. However, the armor was underestimated because it was too thin, it was easily penetrated by most self-propelled anti-tank guns and anti-tank mines.

M24 Chaffee in the hands of the French in the First Indochina War

Like other successful World War II tanks, the M24 was delivered to many countries around the world, until it was gradually replaced by the M41 Walker Bulldog. This tank was extremely suitable for dealing with an enemy with poor firepower and lack of anti-tank weapons. Basically, the M24 was able to withstand all types of conventional infantry fire, but it was easily defeated by just a single shot from Bazooka.

This tank served for the French army in the First Indochina War from 1945 to 1954 as American aid. In December 1953, 10 M24s were mobilized to participate in the Dien Bien Phu campaign. At that time, the M24 Chaffee light tank was decommissioned by the US. These tanks were delivered to France as a way to dispose of obsolete products – an intelligent American attempt. The M24 Chaffees were considered a breakthrough factor on the battlefield if the Viet Minh dared to attack Dien Bien Phu stronghold, deep in the hills of northwestern Vietnam.

M24 Chaffee at The Battle of Dien Bien Phu

On December 16, 1953, France launched Operation Rondelle II. Due to the difficult terrain in the mountainous regions of northern Vietnam, the French army had to disassemble the M24 tanks and parachute them into Dien Bien Phu. These tanks were divided into 3 divisions of the 3rd company, belonging to the 1st light cavalry regiment.

These tanks caused many difficulties and damage to the Vietnamese army. In the battle of Independence Hill, on March 15, the French launched a counterattack under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Langlais, mobilizing 2 paratroop battalions, a total of 1,000 soldiers and up to 5 tanks, but was repelled by artillery.

The fate of these 10 light tanks was quite tragic. The Viet Minh was equipped with homemade Bazookas. A total of 8 tanks were destroyed, the remaining two were captured by the Viet Minh as booty. According to French statistics, 10 M24s fired a total of 15,000 rounds during the entire The Battle of Dien Bien Phu.

In addition to Dien Bien Phu, the French also used many other M24 tanks throughout North Vietnam during the first Indochina war. These tanks were then sent to the South and used in the payroll of the Saigon army during the Vietnam War.

Until the battle of Hue in 1968, the M24 tanks of the Saigon army continued to fight, and this was the last battle of the M24 Chaffee tanks in the Vietnamese territory.

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