Several times throughout history, the German army has been one of the most powerful in the whole of Europe. After a lot of struggle through the cold war, the army has now again emerged as one of the best equipped armies of the world. Although best remembered for the power it yielded during the reign of Hitler, the army has several other accomplishments to its credit. The army has always been known to be thoroughly aggressive, cold and a huge force to reckon with. Following the World War I and then after the World War II, the German army went through a very rough phase. The army went through further modifications and changes after the fall of the Berlin Wall and a united front was formed. The present German Army is called Deutsches Heer and is a part of Bundeswehr. Below given is the story of the German Army, beginning from 1871, when Germany got the status of being a unified state, to the present scenario of the German Army.
History of the German Army
The Prussian era for the army was one of the most disastrous. Weakness in the army was attributed to lack of proper leadership and organization in the army. The army then was subject to the whims and fancies of the kings and rulers. Following a string of defeats during this time, including the defeat by Napoleon Bonaparte, the German General Staff was formed in order to provide training to the armed forces. This institution went to work selecting the cream of Germany for the army by conducting examinations all over the country, which gave rise to an army that was one of the most feared in Europe.
The army continued to be a powerful force in Europe and maintained a constant set of men who could be called at the time of war. Military training was made mandatory for every healthy person in the age group of seventeen to forty-five. The entire army system was organized into four divisions, which were the Aktiv force, Reserve Force, Landwehr force and Landsturm force. Each city had its home Regiment.
The strength of German Army has been in its emphasis on training. Soldiers have always been trained for outright war. Their intention is always victory and never compromise or surrender. Like G. W. Stevens reported in the Daily Mail in 1897, the German army is a cold and composed set of soldiers who fear nothing and have been trained to kill. The officers of the army are strict and stringent and aim for perfection. The army had been scheming for attacks ever since Bismark was its Prime Minister. Plans were made for attacks into every European country. One of the most effective plans was The Schlieffen Plan, which was used in the First World War to attack France.
The German Army entered the World War I on 3rd August 1914, as a part of Central Powers, with a force of 700,000 men who were divided into twenty five corps and fifty two divisions. The army has eight commands to begin with. However, to be better prepared for the war, ten more commands were created. Every two divisions had a set of support forces and cavalry regiment. When the war actually began, the strength of the German Army increased to 3.8 million men. During the war, 1.7 million soldiers were posted to protect the Eastern Front and another 2.85 million soldiers were posted on the Western Front. However, when the war ended in 1918, the army has experienced massive loss of men and the 3.8 million strong forces were down to 100,000, as dictated by the Treaty of Versailles.
After the war began, the German army proved a very powerful force as they vanquished the Belgian army completely within a fortnight and entered France. The French lost Lorraine to the German army by August 20th. Although the French put up a fight after two days, the German forces proved tougher and the French had to bow out. The army was doing very well in war until Moltke, the then army General of Germany made a huge error of judgment. Having assumed that France was under control, he deployed million of soldiers to the Eastern frontier to protect the borders against Serbian attack. However, the French planned another attack on the now weakened army. The split up German army left the northern frontier without stringent protection.
France attacked from the north and shortly afterwards, England brought in forces. Moltke was left with no option but to pull back forces for the first time in the history of German Army. The ensuing battle that took place in Marne saw Germany facing defeat. The soldiers were the worst hit by the frequent movement of divisions between the different frontiers. One historian describes the German soldiers as looking like “scarecrows” with tattered uniforms and dust ridden body. The Schlieffen Plan failed hopelessly due to a single error in judgment.
Nevertheless, the German Army regrouped and used whatever resources were left with them in attacking France again on October 17th in the Battle of Yser and lost again. The new Army General Erich Falkenhayn realized that the French side frontier was impossible to defeat in the then existing conditions and ordered forces back east.
The major factor in the defeat of the Germans in World War I was that the army was not a unified force but a force that was made up of several disjointed battalions from the Prussian era. After the Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, Germany was left with four kingdoms, which were Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Saxony and Prussia. Each of these cities had its own armies with the King being the head. By the time World War I ended in 1918, Germany had 215 divisions but the force was insufficient to win the war.
After the World War I, a National Defense organization called Reichswehr was formed in 1919. This organization continued to develop the army until 1935, when it was given a new name – Wehrmacht. When Germany lost WWI, the army was completely destroyed. The soldiers then formed voluntary defense units. Instead of protecting the country, these paramilitary units ended up in border clashed during 1918 to 1923 and also revolted against the government. On the 6th of March, 1919, Weimar Republic organized two military groups called Vorläufige Reichsheer, which was the army wing and Vorläufige Reichsmarine, which was the navy wing. In the army wing, four hundred thousand men were recruited. However, following the Treaty of Versailles, the German force became limited to 100,000 men.
After the formation of Wehrmacht in 1935, Luftwaffe was added as a third front to the military in addition to the army and navy wing. The army strength was continuously expanded and by 1945, German army grew to sixteen million soldiers.
Germany played a major role in World War II and is also one of the major causes of the war. With Adolf Hitler riding at the helm, the German Army conquered a great part of Europe, including some parts of the Soviet Union as well. The army invaded France, which gave up without a fight. Poland was another country that was destroyed by the Nazis, under the orders of Hitler. All during the Second World War, German army was involved in mass tortures in the Nazi camps and Holocaust. Jews were killer mercilessly all over. With the fall of Hitler, who committed suicide in an underground bunker, the World War II almost came to an end and so did the power of the German army.
After the war ended with disastrous consequences on the German army, reconstruction of the army began with the formation of Heer in 1955. Heer was the army of West Germany. The army of East Germany was also reformed. Cold war continued between the East and West Germany until the fall of Berlin Wall in 1990. It was in 1995 that Bundeswehr, the military unit, was formed. West Germany was made a member of NATO. With the fall of the Berlin wall in 1990, the two individual armies were disbanded and merged. The total army strength was 360,000 men. The system was divided into four Corps. From then on, massive reconstruction of the army has been taking place with downsizing and quality improvement as the major agenda. Efforts were renewed 2001 onwards. The army was made more organized and divided into a structure with seven divisions. Although three Corps were still left in 2003, they have all been disbanded and the seven division structure has been made into five division structure.
Present German Army
Bundeswehr is currently involved in a lot of military operations all over the world. Some of the prominent places where German operations take place are Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Coast of Lebanon, Sudan, the horn of Indian Ocean and Kosovo. The German Army was also involved in war against terror following the world trade center attack by Al-Qaeda. Troops were posted in Iraq as well.
The military armament of the German army is enormous. Bundeswehr, the German army, is one now of the most powerful and technically advanced armies in the world. It also has one of the best infrastructure and war machinery.
As of now there are 76,000 men in the army, who are all trained extremely well. Training takes place in one of the many training and combat schools which are situated in various parts of the country. Some of the training institutes are NBC Defence and Self Protection School and Military Police Headquarters Services School situated in Sonthofen, Artillery School situated in Idar-Oberstein, Army Combat Training Center in Letzlinger, Special Operations Training Center in Pfullendorf and Army Aviation School in Buckburg, to name only a few.
Combats units of the German Army consist of two mechanized divisions for infantry, two divisions for armor and a special division for Specialized Operations and Airmobile Division. Another important facet of the German army is Truppengattung, which is a set of eleven branches of army troops. Each branch is designated with a different colored uniform and a cord depicts rank.
The equipment and weapon division of the German army is very well equipped and can be said to be one of the most powerful in the world. The army owns machine guns Heckler and Koch MG4 5.56mm light, HK21E 7.62mm x 51, which is for use by Special Forces, M3M 12.7mm x 99 heavy, which is for use on CH-53 helicopters and armored vehicles, MP2 9 x 19mm submachine gun and Heckler & Koch MP5 9 x 19mm submachine gun. In addition, the army houses a host of sniper rifles such as G24, G22 and G82. Remington 870 is a shotgun that is for use by military police and Special Forces. Heckler &Koch P8 9 x 19mm pistol and HK MSG3 7.62mm x 51 designated marksmen rifle are the other important components of the German Army.
Besides these machine guns and rifles, the army owns Dynamit Nobel Panserfaust 3, which is a anti tank rocket launcher, MILAN, which is an anti-tank guided missile system, Raytheon Fliegerfaust 2, which is an infrared homing surface to air missile, Granatpistole 40mm grenade auto-cannon and AG36 grenade launcher. The army also has combat knife, which is tanto style blade, KM2000 172mm.
The combat vehicle range of the army is very impressive. Main Battle Tank divisions consist of Leopard 2, which is available in three styles – A4, A5, A6, a range of infantry fighting vehicles such as Marder 1 A3/A5 and Spz Puma, a whole range of armored vehicle carriers, numerous multi-armored vehicles like M113 A2 and GTK Boxer and armored transport vehicles. German army also has a good stock of rocket launchers and radar systems like COBRA, ATMAS and SIMA.
With a superb training regime and well stocked weapons, the German Army of the present is indeed a force to reckon with. Developments in the army are on and further improvements have been planned for the future.
Future of the German Army
Future plans of the German Army include massive training programs called Future Soldier Project, Infanterist der Zukunft in German, which translates to Infantrymen of the Future. This program is aimed towards providing higher level of training in various combat essentials such as mobility, ability to survive, being more lethal and battle command. Total funds of $102.9 million have been sanctioned for the program, which is being developed by EADS Defence Electronics. Futuristic equipments are being developed for better combat abilities of soldiers and the equipments are expected by 2014. Self protection is one of the major training essentials of the program. With numerous soldiers fighting in different parts of the world, this kind of training is sure to help them protect the country where they are placed as well as protect themselves.
The program will also deal with futuristic warfare methods such as use of chemical agents, enhanced communication systems and better navigation facilities. Artillery is another field where major improvements will be seen. As of now, the army is focused on reducing the size of the artillery and taking up reconstruction with several state of the art warefare machinery lined up. One of the concepts that are being emphasized in is Force Development, which is being seen as a major support for the artillery section. SASO, which is an abbreviation for Stability and Support Operations, is another area of focus. The training and equipment being planned for the future is based on the requirement to develop speed and reduce reaction time during crises. Fire support battery is a new concept that is being implemented in the system. Better battery organizations are being developed. Vehicles with network-centric capabilities are the future of the German army.
Vehicles are a major focus for the future. The basic vehicles such as UAVs and ROVs, in addition to several off-road vehicles are being developed in the Infantrymen of the Future program. Better weapons equipped with laser light modules have been ordered for G36. Night Vision weapons such as NSA80 have also been ordered. Development works are on for highly sophisticated weapons such as reconnaissance 40mm ammunition and video weapons. Weapons sights can also double as telescopes and can be used for several purposes. Knives have always been an integral part of the army and new developments have taken place for KM2000 standard combat knife.
The future of the German Army will be about better organization and management of resources, even as the managers look to fight the problem of declining fuel supplies. With an extremely powerful weapon lineup and focus on training, the German army looks strong. The focus on perfectly trained soldiers is the best strategy that any country can apply to secure a future. Like it is said, a weapon is only as powerful as the hand wielding it. The Infantrymen of the Future will strengthen the army. A lot of troops of the German Army are now serving abroad. Many of them have been stationed in those locations permanently. With special focus on fighting international terrorism, besides securing its own frontiers, the German army seems to be on the right service path.