The German army relied heavily on machine guns. They entered the war with a superb multi-purpose machine gun--the MG34. This finely crafted gun was a true work of art and a testament to German manufacturing precision. It was made from milled and turned steel parts. The gun could be used on a bipod as a light machine gun by infantry units, it could be mounted on a Lafette tripod for use as a heavy machine gun, and it could be mounted on an anti-aircraft tripod for use against enemy airpower. Furthermore, it was ideally suited to vehicle applications because of the way the barrel was changed from the rear of the shroud. As the war progressed, the German army was looking for an alternative-enter the MG42. This was a simplified and improved machine gun that could be used in all of the same applications except for vehicle use. This gun was cheaper and faster to manufacture due to the use of a large number of stamped and welded parts. The firearm was also vastly improved in design from the MG34. In fact, the improvements were so significant that the gun was able to continue to be used with only minor modifications for decades by Germany, Yugoslavia, Nato forces, and other militaries in the second half of the 20th century. In addition to improvements in manufacturing the rate of fire was raised from 900 rounds per minute to an astonishing 1200! This cyclic rate is so high that the human ear cannot distinguish the sound of individual rounds being fired and the sound resembles that of a piece of cloth being ripped.
The machine gun was the cornerstone of every infantry squad. Each squad was built around the Machine gun. The purpose of most members of the infantry squad was to carry ammunition and to support the Machine gun. The MG was intended to do most of the heavy lifting in combat.