6,550,000 (peak in 1943)
14,800,000 (total who served)
Oberkommando des Heeres
"Gott mit uns"
Spanish Civil War
World War II
Commander-in-chief of the Army
Chief of the Armed Forces
Other Commanders of the Army
(30 April 1945 to 8 May 1945)
Walther von Brauchitsch
(4 February 1938 to 19 December 1941)
Werner von Fritsch
(Inception to 4 February 1938)
Ranks and insignia
Ranks and insignia of the Army
Infantry unit flag
German Army (German: Heer, German pronunciation: [ˈheːɐ̯]) was
the land forces component of the Wehrmacht, the regular German Armed
Forces, from 1935 until it was demobilized and later dissolved in
August 1946. Though often erroneously restricted to the ground
Wehrmacht also included the
Kriegsmarine (Navy) and the
Luftwaffe (Air Force). During World War II, a total of about 13
million soldiers served in the German Army. Most army personnel
Only 17 months after
Adolf Hitler announced publicly the rearmament
Army reached its projected goal of 36 divisions. During
the autumn of 1937, two more corps were formed. In 1938, four
additional corps were formed with the inclusion of the five divisions
of the Austrian
Army after the
Anschluss in March. During the
period of its expansion by Adolf Hitler, the
German Army continued to
develop concepts pioneered during World War I, combining ground (Heer)
and air (Luftwaffe) assets into combined arms teams. Coupled with
operational and tactical methods such as encirclements and the "battle
of annihilation", the German military managed quick victories in the
two initial years of World War II, prompting the use of the word
Blitzkrieg (literally lightning war, meaning lightning-fast war) for
the techniques used.
German Army entered the war with a majority of its infantry
formations relying on horse-drawn transport.[verification needed] The
infantry remained foot soldiers throughout the war; artillery also
remained primarily horse-drawn. The motorized formations received much
attention in the world press in the opening years of the war, and were
cited as the main reason for the success of the German invasions of
Poland (September 1939), Norway and Denmark (April 1940), Belgium,
France and Netherlands (May 1940), Yugoslavia (April 1941) and
Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941).
However their motorized and tank formations accounted for only 20% of
the Heer's capacity at their peak strength. The army's lack of trucks
(and petroleum to run them) was a severe handicap to infantry movement
especially during and after the Normandy invasion when Allied air
power devastated the French rail network north of the Loire. Panzer
movements also depended upon rail: driving a tank over 150 kilometers
wore out its tracks.
1.1 Organization of the field forces
1.2 Select arms of service
Doctrine and tactics
2.2 Weapons and equipment
3 After the war
4 See also
Adolf Hitler with generals Keitel, Paulus and von Brauchitsch,
discussing the situation on the Eastern Front in October 1941
Oberkommando des Heeres
Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH) was Germany's
Army High Command from
1936 to 1945. In theory the Oberkommando der
Wehrmacht (OKW) served as
General Staff for the German Reich's armed forces,
Army Heer, Navy Kriegsmarine, and the Air
Force Luftwaffe) operations. In practice OKW acted in a subordinate
role as Hitler's personal military staff, translating his ideas into
military plans and orders, and issuing them to the three services.
However, as the war progressed the OKW found itself exercising
increasing amounts of direct command authority over military units,
particularly in the west. This created a situation where by 1943 the
OKW was the de facto command of Western Theatre forces while the Army
High Command (OKH) is the same on the Eastern Front.
Abwehr was the
Army intelligence organization from 1921 to 1944.
Abwehr (German for "defense", here referring to
counter-intelligence) was used as a concession to Allied demands that
World War I
World War I intelligence activities be for "defensive"
purposes only. After 4 February 1938, its title was Overseas
Department/Office in Defence of the Armed Forces High Command (Amt
Abwehr im Oberkommando der Wehrmacht).
Nazi Germany used the system of military districts (German: Wehrkreis)
to relieve field commanders of as much administrative work as
possible, and to provide a regular flow of trained recruits and
supplies to the field forces. The method OKW adopted was to separate
Army (OKH) from the Home Command (Heimatkriegsgebiet), and
to entrust the responsibilities of training, conscription, supply and
equipment to Home Command.
Organization of the field forces
German soldiers in Greece, April 1941
German Army was mainly structured in
Army groups (Heeresgruppen,
Army groups of the German Army) consisting of several armies that
were relocated, restructured or renamed in the course of the war.
Forces or allied states as well as units made up of non-Germans were
also assigned to German units.
Operation Barbarossa in 1941, the
Army forces were assigned to
three strategic campaign groupings:
Army Group North with
Leningrad as its campaign objective
Army Group Centre with
Smolensk as its campaign objective
Army Group South with
Kiev as its campaign objective
Below the army group level forces included
Field armies – (see List
World War II
World War II military units of Germany), panzer groups, which later
became army level formations themselves, corps (see List of German
corps in World War II), and divisions (see List of German divisions in
World War II). The army used the German term
Kampfgruppe which equates
to the English 'combat group' or battle group. These provisional
combat groupings ranged from an
Corps size such as Army
Detachment Kempf to commands composed of several companies and even
platoons. They were named for their commanding officers.
Select arms of service
Panzergrenadier (Armoured infantry troops)
Panzerwaffe (Armoured troops)
Army propaganda troops
Experimental command Kummersdorf
Foreign Armies East
Feldgendarmerie (Military field police)
Geheime Feldpolizei (Secret Field Police)
Prussian Military Academy
Kriegsschule (War college)
Doctrine and tactics
This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this
section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material
may be challenged and removed. (March 2016) (Learn how and when to
remove this template message)
German operational doctrine emphasized sweeping pincer and lateral
movements meant to destroy the enemy forces as quickly as possible.
This approach, referred to as Blitzkrieg, was an operational doctrine
instrumental in the success of the offensives in Poland and France.
Blitzkrieg has been considered by many historians as having its roots
in precepts developed by Fuller, Liddel-Hart and von Seeckt, and even
having ancient prototypes practiced by Alexander, Genghis Khan and
Napoleon. Recent studies of the
Battle of France
Battle of France also suggest
that the actions of either Rommel or Guderian or both of them (both
had contributed to the theoretical development and early practices of
what later became blitzkrieg prior to World War II), ignoring
orders of superiors who had never foreseen such spectacular successes
and thus prepared much more prudent plans, were conflated into a
purposeful doctrine and created the first archetype of blitzkrieg,
which then gained a fearsome reputation that dominated the Allied
leaders' minds. Thus 'blitzkrieg' was recognised after the
fact, and while it became adopted by the Wehrmacht, it never became
the official doctrine nor got used to its full potential because only
a small part of the
Wehrmacht was trained for it and key leaders at
the highest levels either focused on only certain aspects or even did
not understand what it was.
Grossdeutschland Division soldiers during the Operation Barbarossa,
The military strength of the German army was managed through
mission-based tactics (Auftragstaktik) (rather than detailed
order-based tactics), and an almost proverbial discipline. Once an
operation began, whether offensive or defensive, speed in response to
changing circumstances was considered more important than careful
planning and coordination of new plans.
In public opinion, the German military was and is sometimes seen as a
high-tech army, since new technologies that were introduced before and
World War II
World War II influenced its development of tactical doctrine.
These technologies were featured by propaganda, but were often only
available in small numbers or late in the war, as overall supplies of
raw materials and armaments became low. For example, lacking
sufficient motor vehicles to equip more than a small portion of their
army, the Germans chose to concentrate the available vehicles in a
small number of divisions which were to be fully motorized. The other
divisions continued to rely on horses for towing artillery, other
heavy equipment and supply-wagons and the men marched on foot or on
bicycles. At the height of motorization only 20 per cent of all units
were fully motorized. The small German contingent
fighting in North Africa was fully motorized (relying on horses in the
desert was near to impossible because of the need to carry large
quantities of water and fodder), but the much larger force invading
the Soviet Union in June 1941 numbered only some 150,000 trucks and
some 625,000 horses (water was abundant and for many months of the
year horses could forage – thus reducing the burden on the
supply chain). However, production of new motor vehicles by Germany,
even with the exploitation of the industries of occupied countries,
could not keep up with the heavy loss of motor vehicles during the
winter of 1941–1942. From June 1941 to the end of February 1942 the
German forces in the Soviet Union lost some 75,000 trucks to
mechanical wear and tear and combat damage – approximately half
the number they had at the beginning of the campaign. Most of these
were lost during the retreat in the face of the Soviet
counter-offensive from December 1941 to February 1942. Another
substantial loss was incurred during the defeat of the German 6th Army
at Stalingrad in the winter of 1942–1943. So there were periods in
which the percentage of motorized units was reduced to as few as 10%.
In offensive operations the infantry formations were used to attack
more or less simultaneously across a large portion of the front so as
to pin the enemy forces ahead of them and draw attention to
themselves, while the mobile formations were concentrated to attack
only narrow sectors of the front, breaking through to the enemy rear
and surrounding him. Some infantry formations followed in the path of
the mobile formations, mopping-up, widening the corridor manufactured
by the breakthrough attack and solidifying the ring surrounding the
enemy formations left behind, and then gradually destroying them in
concentric attacks. One of the most significant problems bedeviling
German offensives and initially alarming senior commanders was the gap
created between the fast-moving "fast formations" and the following
infantry, as the infantry were considered a prerequisite for
protecting the "fast formations" flanks and rear and enabling supply
columns carrying fuel, petrol and ammunition to reach them.
In defensive operations the infantry formations were deployed across
the front to hold the main defence line and the mobile formations were
concentrated in a small number of locations from where they launched
focused counter-attacks against enemy forces who had broken through
the infantry defence belt. In autumn 1942, at El Alamein, a lack of
fuel compelled the German commander Field Marshal
Erwin Rommel to
scatter his armoured units across the front in battalion-sized
concentrations to reduce travel-distances to each sector rather than
hold them concentrated in one location. In 1944 Rommel argued that in
face of overwhelming Anglo-American air power, the tactic of employing
the "fast formations" concentrated was no longer possible because they
could no longer actually move quickly enough to reach the threatened
locations because of the expected interdiction of all routes by Allied
fighter-bombers. He therefore suggested scattering these units across
the front just behind the infantry. His commanders and peers, who were
less-experienced in the effect of Allied air power, disagreed
vehemently with his suggestion, arguing that this would violate the
prime principle of concentration of force.
Weapons and equipment
See also: List of German military equipment of World War II
It is a myth that the German army in
World War II
World War II was a mechanized
juggernaut as a whole. In 1941, between 74 and 80 percent of their
forces were not motorized, relying on railroad for rapid movement and
on horse-drawn transport cross country. The percentage of motorization
decreased thereafter. In 1944 approximately 85 percent was not
After the war
German Army was demobilized following the unconditional surrender
on 8 May 1945. Confronted with a huge number of German prisoners of
war after VE Day, the Western Allies kept Feldjägerkommando III,
which was a regimental-sized unit of German military police, active
and armed to assist with the control of the POWs. Feldjägerkommando
III remained armed and under Western Allied control until 23 June
1946, when it was finally deactivated.
Corruption within the Wehrmacht
Glossary of German military terms
War crimes of the Wehrmacht
Military production during World War II
^ Large, David Clay (1996). Germans to the Front: West German
Rearmament in the Adenauer Era, p. 25
^ Haskew, Michael. The Wehrmacht: 1923–1945, p 28.
^ Haskew, Michael. The Wehrmacht: 1923–1945, pp 61, 62.
^ Keegan, John Six Armies in Normandy, pp 156, 157.
^ Haskew, Michael. The Wehrmacht: 1923–1945, p 40, 41.
^ Harrison 2002, p. 133.
^ Rice Jr., Earle (2005). Blitzkrieg! Hitler's Lightning War. Mitchell
Lane Publishers, Inc. pp. 9, 11. ISBN 9781612286976.
^ Paniccia, Arduino (Jan 14, 2014). Reshaping the Future: Handbook for
a new Strategy. Mazzanti Libri - Me Publisher.
^ Grossman, DAVID A. Maneuver Warfare in the Light Infantry-The Rommel
Model (PDF). p. 3.
^ Lonsdale, David J. (Dec 10, 2007). Alexander the Great: Lessons in
Strategy. Routledge. ISBN 9781134244829.
^ Showalter, Dennis (Jan 3, 2006). Patton And Rommel: Men of War in
the Twentieth Century. Penguin. ISBN 9781440684685.
^ D. Krause, Michael D.; Phillips, R. Cody (2006). Historical
Perspectives of the Operational Art. Government Printing Office.
p. 176. ISBN 9780160725647.
^ Stroud, Rick (2013). The Phantom
Army of Alamein: The Men Who
Hoodwinked Rommel. A&C Black. pp. 33–34.
^ Caddick-Adams, Peter (2015). Snow & Steel: The Battle of the
Bulge, 1944-45. Oxford University Press. p. 17.
^ Vigor, P.H. (1983). Soviet
Blitzkrieg Theory. Springer. p. 96.
^ Zabecki, David T. (1999). World War Two in Europe. Taylor &
Francis. p. 1175. ISBN 9780824070298.
^ Thomas W. Zeiler; Daniel M. DuBois (2012). A Companion to World War
II. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 171–172.
^ Spencer C. Tucker (2009). A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the
Ancient World to the Modern Middle East: From the Ancient World to the
Modern Middle East. ABC-CLIO. p. 1885.
^ Williamson & Volstad 1989, p. 13.
Davies, W. J. K. (1973),
German Army Handbook, Ian Allen Ltd.,
Shepperton, Surrey, ISBN 0-7110-0290-8.
Evans, Anthony A. (2005), World War II: An Illustrated Miscellany,
Worth Press, ISBN 1-84567-681-5.
Haskew, Michael (2011), The Wehrmacht: 1935–1945, Amber Books Ltd.
Harrison, Gordon A. The Cross Channel Attack (Publication 7-4).
Retrieved July 9, 2016.
Hastings, Max (1999) , Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for
Normandy 1944, Pan, ISBN 0-330-39012-0.
Hastings, Max (2004), Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1945,
Macmillan, ISBN 0-333-90836-8.
Keegan, John (1982), Six Armies in Normandy, Viking Press
Williamson, Gordon; Volstad, Ron (1989). German Military Police Units
1939–45. London: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 0-85045-902-8.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to