There is no doubt that German machine guns of World War II were superior to American machine guns of the period. The BAR, with its 20-round magazine and fixed barrel was much under-equipped for use as a light machine gun. The Browning 1919, while good as a mounted gun, was rather awkward in its 1919A6 light machine gun adaptation. The German MG42, on the other hand, was a superb design that was reliable, easily manufactured, and equally capable of being maneuvered and advanced by a two-man team or laying down a barrage of fire from a fixed position.
The US Army took note of the MG42, and decided to built its advantages into the next main US machine gun. They managed to lose all the good attributes along the way, but that’s not really to focus of this article. The first US attempt at co-opting the MG42 design was with the T24 experimental machine gun. The T24 was basically a captured MG42 rechambered for .30-06 with a new American bipod, tripod, and rear sight. You can see photos and the original testing report on the T24 machine gun page in the Vault – but it failed largely because the rechambering failed to consider the greater length of .30-06 compared to 8×57 Mauser cartridges (you’d think that would be an obvious thing to plan for, but no).
After the war, US arms development took the feed mechanism of the MG-42 and the operating system of the FG-42 and merged them together in to the T44 experimental machine gun. The T44 was chambered in .30-06 still, and featured an unusual belt feed mechanism which ran belt vertically up the left side of the receiver. When it was decided to drop the .30-06 round in favor of 7.62×51 NATO (at the time called the T65 cartridge), the T44 machine gun gave way to the T52. The T52 was chambered for the new cartridge, and used a more conventional horizontal feed with the typical top cover design (again pulled form the MG42). The T52 went through three more formal iterations (E1, E2, and E3) and then several variation under the designation T161 before ultimately being adopted as the M60.
Today, we have an original manual on the T52E3 prototype of the M60 machine gun. It was written in February 1952, and does an excellent job detailing all the components and subassemblies of the gun, with descriptions and photos. It is interesting to note the influence of the FG42, which you can see in the pistol grip shape and the barrel-type rear sight. It also bears a resemblance to the Johnson light machine gun (handguard and front sight), although this is only aesthetic and not functional.