The German Army was founded in 1955 as part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr together with the Marine (German Navy) and the Luftwaffe (German Air Force). As of 31 May 2015, the German Army has a strength of 60,857 soldiers.
A German Army, equipped, organized and trained following a single doctrine, and permanently unified under one command dates from 1871, and the unification of Germany under the leadership of Prussia. From 1871 to 1919 the title Deutsches Heer (German Army) was the official name of the German land forces. Following the German defeat in World War I and the end of the German Empire the name army dissolved. From 1921 to 1935 the name of the German land forces was Reichsheer (Army of the Realm) and from 1935 to 1945 the name Heer was used. The Heer was one of two ground forces of the Third Reich during World War II, but unlike the Heer the Waffen SS was not a branch of the Wehrmacht. The Heer ceased to exist in 1945.
After World War II Germany was split into two sovereign states and both formed their own militaries: on 12 November 1955 the first recruits began their service in the West German Heer, while on 1 March 1956 the East German Landstreitkräfte der NVA (Land Forces of the National People's Army) were founded. During the Cold War the West German Army was fully integrated into NATOs command structure, while the Landstreitkräfte were part of the Warsaw Pact. Following the German reunification in 1990 the Landstreitkräfte were partially integrated into the German Army. Since then the German Army has been employed in peacekeeping operations worldwide and since 2002 also in combat operations in Afghanistan as part of NATOs International Security Assistance Force.
Traditions can be traced between the Imperial Deutsches Heer, the Weimar Reichsheer and the Third Reich Heer. However after World War II the architects of the new Heer chose not to continue any traditions of any of the previous armies. The only permitted historical antecedents for today's Heer are the 1807 to 1814 Prussian military reformers and the servicemen who participated actively in the resistance against the Nazi regime, specifically the officers involved in the 20 July plot.
While the modern German army prefers to distance itself from the World War II era, it still retains certain uniform accessories from that era and before. For example, the iconic Stahlhelm remains in service, as do the arabesque general collar tab designs. Cufftitle designs used by the Waffen-SS now appear on both cuffs. The German Army also continues to use the MG3, a machine gun that looks much like the MG42 used during World War II.
Founding of the Army
See also: Tank formations during the Cold War
Bundeswehr soldiers with MG1 and HK G3 during a 1960s maneuver. In the background is a Schützenpanzer Kurz.
Following World War II the Allies dissolved the Wehrmacht with all its branches on 20 August 1946. However already one year after the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in May 1949 and because of its increasing links with the West under German chancellor Konrad Adenauer, the Consultative Assembly of Europe began to consider the formation of a European Defence Community with German participation on 11 August 1950. Former high-ranking German Wehrmacht officers outlined in the Himmeroder memorandum a plan for a "German contingent in an international force for the defense of Western Europe." For the German land forces the memorandum envisioned the formation of a 250,000 strong army. The officers saw the need for the formation of twelve Panzer divisions and six corps staffs with accompanying Corps troops, as only armored divisions could muster a fighting force to throw back the numerically far superior forces of the Warsaw Pact.
On 26 October 1950 Theodor Blank was appointed "officer of the Federal Chancellor for the Strengthening of Allied Troops questions". This Defence Ministry forerunner was known somewhat euphemistically as the Blank Office (Amt Blank), but explicitly used to prepare for the rearmament of West Germany (Wiederbewaffnung). By March 1954 the Blank Office had finished plans for a new German army. Plans foresaw the formation of six infantry, four armoured, and two mechanised infantry divisions, as the German contribution to the defense of Western Europe in the framework of a European Defence Community. On 8 February 1952 the Bundestag approved a German contribution to the defense of Western Europe and on 26 February 1954 the Basic Law of the Republic was amended with the insertion of an article regarding the defence of the sovereignty of the federal government.
Following a decision at the London Nine Power Conference of 28 September to 3 October 1954,