Saturday, June 9, 2012
The Bundeswehr (German for "Federal Defence Force"; is the unified armed forces of Germany and their civil administration and procurement authorities. The States of Germany are not allowed to maintain armed forces of their own, since the German Constitution states that matters of defense fall into the sole responsibility of the federal government.
The Bundeswehr is divided into a military part (armed forces or Streitkräfte) and a civil part with the armed forces administration (Wehrverwaltung). The military part of the federal defense force consists of Army (Heer), Navy (Marine), & Air Force (Luftwaffe).
Former German military organisations have been the old German state armies, the Reichswehr (1921–1935) and the Nazi Wehrmacht (1935–1945). The Bundeswehr, however, does not consider itself as their successor and does not follow the traditions of any former German military organisation. The official Bundeswehr traditions are based along three major lines: the military reformers of the 19th century such as Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and von Clausewitz, the members of the military resistance against Adolf Hitler such as Erwin Rommel, Claus von Stauffenberg and Henning von Tresckow and its own tradition since 1955.
As its official symbol the Bundeswehr uses a form of the Iron Cross. The Iron Cross has a long history, having been awarded as a military wartime decoration for all ranks since 1813, and earlier associated with the Teutonic Knights. The name Bundeswehr was proposed by the former Wehrmacht general and liberal politician Hasso von Manteuffel.
One of the most visible traditions is the Großer Zapfenstreich, a form of military tattoo that goes back to the landsknecht era. Another expression of the traditions in the German armed forces is the ceremonial vow (Gelöbnis) of recruits, during basic training. Annually on July 20, a date significant to German history as it is the date of the assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler by Wehrmacht officers in 1944; recruits of the Wachbataillon vow at the Bendlerblock, where the officers had their headquarters but recently the national commemorations in Berlin are now held at the grounds of the Reichstag, and there are similar ones held all over the Federal Republic on that day. The wording of the ceremonial vow of conscripts was and still is:
"I pledge to serve the Federal Republic of Germany loyally and to defend the right and the freedom of the German people bravely."
"Ich gelobe, der Bundesrepublik Deutschland treu zu dienen und das Recht und die Freiheit des deutschen Volkes tapfer zu verteidigen."
Professional soldiers and officers of the Bundeswehr have to swear an oath with the same words, but beginning with "Ich schwöre, ..." ("I vow to...").
After World War II the responsibility for the security of Germany as a whole rested with the four Allied Powers: the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union. Germany had been without armed forces since the Wehrmacht was officially dissolved and abolished on 20 August 1946. When the Federal Republic of Germany was founded in 1949, it was without a military force. Germany remained completely demilitarized and any plans for a German military were forbidden by Allied regulations. Only some naval mine-sweeping units had continued to exist, but unarmed, under Allied control, and not as a national defence force. Even the Border Guards were only established in 1951. A proposal to integrate West German troops with soldiers of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Italy in a European Defence Community was proposed but never implemented.
There were detailed discussions between the United States, the United Kingdom and France over the issue of a revived West German military. In particular, France was reluctant to allow Germany to rearm in light of the two nations turmultuous recent history (Germany had invaded France twice in living memory, in 1914 sparking World War I and 1940 during World War II, and Germany had also defeated France in the Franco-German War of 1870/71. However, after the project for a European Defence Community failed in the French National Assembly in 1954, France agreed to West German accession to NATO and rearmament.
With growing tensions between the Soviet Union and the West, especially after the Korean War 1950-1953, this policy was to be revised. While the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was already secretly rearming, the seeds of a new West German force started in 1950 when former high-ranking German officers of the abolished Wehrmacht were tasked by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer to discuss the options for West German rearmament. The results of a meeting in the monastery of Himmerod formed the conceptual base to build the new armed forces in West Germany. The Amt Blank (Blank Agency, named after its director Theodor Blank), the predecessor of the later Federal Ministry of Defense, was formed the same year to prepare the establishment of the future forces. Hasso von Manteuffel, a former general of the Wehrmacht and liberal politician, submitted the name Bundeswehr for the new forces. This name was later confirmed by the West German Bundestag.
After an amendment of the Basic Law in 1955, West Germany officially joined and was accepted as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance on 9 May 1955.
The Bundeswehr was officially established on the 200th birthday of General Gerhard von Scharnhorst on 12 November 1955. In personnel and education terms, the most important initial feature of the new German armed forces was to be their orientation as citizen defenders of a democratic state, fully subordinate to the political leadership of the country. A personnel screening committee was created to make sure that the future colonels and generals of the armed forces were those whose political attitude and experience would be acceptable to the new democratic state. There were a few key reformers, such as General Ulrich de Maiziere, General Graf von Kielmansegg, and Graf von Baudissin, who reemphasised some of the more democratic parts of Germany’s armed forces history in order to establish a solid civil-military basis to build upon.
The first public military review took place at Andernach, in January 1956. A U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) helped with the introduction of the Bundeswehr's initial equipment and war material, predominantly of American origin. In 1956, conscription for all men between the ages of 18 and 45 was reintroduced, later augmented by a civil alternative with longer duration. Wehrdienst (Military Service) or Zivildienst (Civil Service) respectively. In response, East Germany formed its own military force, the Nationale Volksarmee (NVA), in 1956, with conscription being established only in 1962. The Nationale Volksarmee would eventually be dissolved and it's personnel and materiel absorbed into the Bundeswehr upon the reunification of Germany in 1990.
During the Cold War, the Bundeswehr was the backbone of NATO's conventional defense in Central Europe. It had a strength of 495,000 military and 170,000 civilian personnel. The Army consisted of three corps with 12 divisions, most of them heavily armed with main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers. The Air Force was equipped with significant numbers of tactical combat aircraft and took part in NATO's integrated air defence (NATINAD). The Navy was tasked and equipped to defend the Baltic Approaches, to provide escort reinforcement and resupply shipping in the North Sea and to contain the Soviet Baltic Fleet.
During this time the Bundeswehr did not take part in combat operations. However there were a number of large-scale training and operational casualties. The first such incident was in June 1957, when fifteen paratroop recruits drowned in the Iller river, in Bavaria.
After reunification of Germany in 1990, the Bundeswehr was reduced to 370,000 military personnel in accordance with the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany between the two German governments and the Allies (2+4 Treaty). The former East German Nationale Volksarmee (NVA) was disbanded, with a portion of its personnel and material being absorbed into the Bundeswehr.
About 50,000 Volksarmee personnel were integrated into the Bundeswehr on 2 October 1990. This figure was rapidly reduced as conscripts and short-term volunteers completed their service. A number of senior officers (but no generals or admirals) received limited contracts for up to two years to continue daily operations. Personnel remaining in the Bundeswehr were awarded new contracts and new ranks, dependent on their individual qualification and experience. Many received and accepted a lower rank than previously held in the Volksarmee.
In general, the unification process of the two militaries—under the slogan "Armee der Einheit" (or "Army of Unity") has been seen publicly as a major success and an example for other parts of the society.
With the reduction, a large amount of the military hardware of the Bundeswehr, as well as of the Volksarmee, had to be disposed of. Most of the armored vehicles and fighter jet aircraft were dismantled under international disarmament procedures. Many ships were scrapped or sold, often to the Baltic states or Indonesia (the latter received 39 former Volksmarine vessels of various types).