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Wehrmacht - German Armed Forces

Armed Forces of Germany


The Wehrmacht's emblem, the straight-armed Balkenkreuz (beam-cross).


Founded: 21 May 1935

Allegiance: Kaiser Wilhelm III von Hohenzollern

Service Branches:

Headquarters: Wünsdorf


Supreme Commander: Kaiser Wilhelm III von Hohenzollern

Reich War Minister: Generalfeldmarschall Kurt von Seeckt

Chief of the Armed Forces Supreme High Command:
Generalfeldmarschall Bernhard Graf von Moltke

Chief of the Operations Staff of the Armed Forces Supreme High Command:
Generaloberst Albert Beck


Military age: 17

Conscription: Yes, but suspended indefinitely

Active personnel:

Reserve personnel:

Deployed personnel:



Percent of GDP:


Domestic suppliers:

Foreign suppliers:

The Wehrmacht is the unified armed forces of Germany from 1935 to the present day. It consists of the Heer, the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe. The designation Wehrmacht replaced the previously used term Reichswehr.

The Wehrmacht was first established by Adolf Hitler in 1935 as a modern offensively-capable armed force. Fulfilling Germany's long-term goals of regaining lost territory and defeating hostile neighbors such as France required the reinstatement of conscription and massive investment and spending on the armaments industry. In December 1941, Hitler designated himself as commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht and held this position until his death during the events of Operation Valkyrie. The supreme command, ehich was then vested in the title of Führer, was passed on to Reichsregent Karl Otto Paetel. After the Hohenzollern Restoration, the supreme command was ultimately vested in the Kaiser.

The Wehrmacht is a modern, logistical and professionalized army, as the militarization of German society allows for the recruitment of a large amount of professional soldiers. Until recently, conscription was mandatory for all men 18 and above. This is not for the purpose of sending waves of infantry at an enemy, but to ensure that all Germans pass through the military and are indoctrinated in the Prussian virtues, as well as introducing a body of skilled and disciplined persons into collegiate and corporate life. Service in the army usually begins at the age of 20, but recruitment may commence as early as 16 for those interested in preparatory courses, which are a precondition for gaining access to some sectors of the armed forces. It is possible to postpone service up to four years given adequate reasons (e.g. study abroad). Any further delaying of service could incur fines. Conscripts are advised to either carry out their service in a single long stretch or to fraction their time by undergoing recruit training first and serving in a later phase. Furthermore, civilian specialists such as doctors, lawyers, judges, accountants, scientists and engineers can be inducted upon enlistment as commissioned officers as in technical and administrative departments, but cannot be transferred to any command or staff roles unless they attend the standard officer academies.

Command Structure

The German military system is the core institution of the German state, and as the State is the vehicle through which the will of the Leader is carried out, the supreme commander-in-chief is the head of state, the Kaiser. Although the military is legally obliged to follow the principle of civilian control of the military, in practical terms the Wehrmacht is under the absolute control of the Hohenzollern monarchy as the officer corps is drawn from the Junker aristocratic caste and as thus is fiercely loyal to the monarchy. The de facto separate division of military establishment from the civil administration allows the former to act as a state within a state.

The Reichskriegsministerium (Reich Ministry of War) operates under the executive authority of the head of state as the highest body formally concerned with military matters. It exercises control over the Wehrmacht proper by exercising command authority over the general staff, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Supreme Command of the Armed Forces), as well as the subordinate military agencies concerned with related matters, such as intelligence and counterintelligence. Keeping in line with the Führerprinzip, the Reich Minister of War is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and has absolute command responsibility over the armed forces. However, his superior is the Kaiser, who in turn has absolute authority over him, and thus ultimate command authority. By law, the Reich Minister of War can be a civilian at his appointment, but he must have served in the armed forces beforehand and retired with at least an OF-9 rank. The Reich Ministry of War furthermore serves as a liason between the military and the civilian administration, especially the Reich Ministry of Armaments and War Production and the Reich Ministry of Economics, the latter of which controls the "Metallurgical Research Corporation", which produces trade bills that serve as promissory notes for armaments production.

Subordinate to the OKW are the commands of the 3 main branches of the armed forces: the army (Heer), the navy (Kriegsmarine) and the air force (Luftwaffe). Furthermore, there are 3 supporting branches, the medical service, the joint support service and the cyber warfare service. The main branches possess a general staff and offices for dealing with service-specific matters. The actual field units are commanded by unified combatant theater commands which report directly to the OKW. There are 3 such commands in existence: Supreme Command West (OB West), Supreme Command East (OB Ost), and Supreme Command South (OB Süd).

The German armed forces also possess a network of political instructors to maintain ideological control of the Wehrmacht. The officers, called Führungsoffiziere, instill ideological conviction and reinforce combat morale through training lessons and teaching. They had no direct influence on combat decisions as had the political commissar in the Soviet Army. In 2004, the political commissars were called by the former name of the position, NS-Führungsoffiziere, despite the fact that the political ideology being taught has long been changed.

Reichskriegsministerium Command Structure

  • Reichskriegsminister: Generalfeldmarschall Kurt von Seekt (Heer, retired)

  • Staatssekretär:

    • Chef des Ministeramtes: Generalfeldmarschall David von Scharnhorst (Heer, retired)

    • Chef des Wehrmachtamtes: Generaloberst Philipp von Hammerstein-Equord (Heer)

  • Sonderabteilungen:

    • Amt Ausland (Abwehr)

    • Kommando Strategische Aufklärung (KSA)

    • Zentrum für Geoinformationswesen der Wehrmacht (ZGeoW)

    • Zentrum für Analytik und Statistik der Wehrmacht (ZASW)

  • Oberkommando des Wehrmacht (OKW): Chef - Generalfeldmarschall Bernhard Graf von Moltke (Heer)

    • Wehrmachtführungsstab (Wfst)

      • Abteilung Landesverteidigungsführungsamt (WFA/L)

      • Wehrmachtpropaganda (WPr)

    • Wehrmachtsamt

      • NS-Führungstab in OKW

      • Wehrwirtschaftsamt

      • Heereswaffenamt

      • Amtsgruppe Heerespersonalamt

    • Amtsgruppe Allgemeine Wehrmachtsangelegenheiten

      • Wehrmachtsauskunftstelle (WASt)

    • Teilstreitkräfte

    • Zentraler Sanitätsdienst der Wehrmacht

    • Cyber- und Informationsraum (CIR)

Individual Service Branches Command Structure

  • Heer

  • Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH)

    • Generalstab des Heeres

      • Amt für Heeresentwicklung (AHEntwg)

      • Abteilung Fremde Heere

    • Heeresamt

      • NS-Führung des Heeres

      • Der Beauftragte des Führers für die militärische Geschichtsschreibung

    • Heeresführungskommando

      • Generalinspekteur der Infanterie

      • Generalinspekteur der Gebirgstruppe

      • Generalinspekteur der Spezialkräfte

      • Generalinspekteur der Kavallerie

      • Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppe

      • Generalinspekteur der Nebeltruppe

      • Generalinspekteur der Artillerie

      • Generalinspekteur der Pioniere und Festungen

      • Generalinspekteur der Nachrichtentruppe

  • Kriegsmarine

  • Oberkommando des Marine (OKM)

    • Oberbefehlshaber der Marine

      • Seekriegsleitung

      • Marinekommandoamt

      • Marinenachrichtendienst (MND)

    • Marineamt

      • NS-Führung des Marine

      • Marinewaffenamt

      • Allgemeines Marineamt

      • Konstruktionsamt

    • Flottenkommando:

      • Befehlshaber der Rakete

      • Befehlshaber der U-Boote

      • Befehlshaber des Marineflieger

      • Befehlshaber der Kampfgruppen

      • Befehlshaber des Marineinfanterie

      • Befehlshaber des Spezialkräfte

  • Luftwaffe

  • Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL)

    • Generalstab der Luftwaffe

    • Luftwaffenamt

      • NS-Führung der Luftwaffe

      • Luftwaffenpersonalamt

      • Quartiermeisterabteilung

      • Luftnachrichtenabteilung

    • Luftwaffenführungskommando

      • Generalinspekteur der Rakete

      • Generalinspekteur der Kampfflieger

      • Generalinspekteur der Jadgflieger

      • Generalinspekteur der Aufklärungsflieger

      • Generalinspekteur der Transportflieger

      • Generalinspekteur der Fallschrimjäger

      • Generalinspekteur der Spezialkräfte

      • Generalinspekteur der Luftabwehr


The German Army (Heer) is the ground component of the Wehrmacht, the German armed forces. The Oberkommando des Heeres (Supreme Command of the Army) is the high command of the German Army, and reports to the OKW, which serves the function of general staff of the armed forces. The OKH possesses a general and operational staff, and exercises command authority over ground forces service functions inspectorates. Notably, the OKW separated the German Army (OKH) from the Home Command (Heimatkriegsgebiet), to entrust the responsibilities of training, conscription, supply, and equipment to Home Command, which uses a system of military districts in order 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 German Army is mainly structured in to army groups (Heeresgruppen) consisting of several field armies that can be relocated, restructured or renamed in the event of the war or peacetime reoganization. Forces of allied states, as well as units made up of non-Germans (foreign legions), were also assigned to German units historically, and the current policies still allow for this form of organization. German Army groups are subordinated to multi-service regional high commands (Oberbefehlshaber) which supervise the basing of troops and expeditionary operation in a certain area.

The German Army furthered concepts pioneered during World War II, the Cold War, and the insurgencies ever since, combining ground and air assets into autonomous combined-arms teams expected to attack simultaneously (swarming). Assault was to be carried out by highly mobile armored and air assault forces, to exploit weaknesses in enemy lines, in coordination with the aerospace, artillery and engineering arms, which had to be native to or integrated with attacking units to avoid unecessary dependence on high-level headquarters. Condusive to this approach is the German military tradition of mission-based tactics, with commanders having freedom to use any means to achieve an objective, with a set number of forces and within a timeframe set by higher commanders, who mostly concern themselves with strategical and operational matters rather than micromanaging smaller units.

The standard of training has been raised through a bridging program which aims to make light infantry, alpine, and air assault special-operations capable, and to employ the knowledge base of the special forces to the mechanized forces whenever applicable. The Heer collaborates with the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine, who control the paratrooper and marine corps respectively, as well as their own special forces, to fufill the bridging program. The German foreign legions (Osttruppen) was re-established as a service arm of the Heer, to allow for the exploitation of the large numbers of unemployed military personnel after the end of the Cold War in NATO and ex-Soviet nations.

Air Force
The Luftwaffe is the aerial warfare branch of the Wehrmacht, the German armed forces. The Luftwaffe high command is known as the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (Supreme Command of the Air Force), which is subordinate to the OKW. The OKL encapsulates all the essential command functions of the air force, including general and operations staff and the weapons inspectorates. Training, administration, technical design are handled by the OKL as well, although the OKW has delegated civil defense to the Home Army. One of the unique characteristics of the Luftwaffe (as opposed to other independent air forces) is the possession of an organic paratrooper force called Fallschirmjäger.

The Luftwaffe is divided operationally into geographic air commands (Luftkommando). Each air command was a self-contained entity. The leader of each air command was in charge of overall area air operations and support activities. Each air command was in charge of several air corps, which were in charge of operational matters related to combat such as unit deployment, air traffic control, ordnance and maintenance, as well as several air districts, which are responsible for providing administrative and logistical structure as well as resources to each airfield. Since this structure was making ground support structure available to flying units, the flying units were freed from moving the support staff from one location to another as the unit relocated. Once the unit arrived at its new location, all the airfield staff would come under the control of the commander of that unit.

The Luftwaffe has shifted from its historical focus on fighters and tactical bombers, and towards exploiting the Linkweak air defenses of possible opponents, with more emphasis placed on drones, cruise missiles, long-range ballistic missiles and strategic bombers, as well as intelligence support such as reconaissance aircraft and satellites, making for a balanced and modern force structure.

The Kriegsmarine is the navy of Germany. The Oberkommando der Marine, or OKM, serves as the chief office concerned with naval affairs, with a Commander-in-Chief (Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine), a Chief of Naval General Staff (Chef des Stabes der Seekriegsleitung), a Chief of Naval Operations (Chef der Operationsabteilung) and type/service branch commanders. The OKM reports to the OKW like the other service commands, and notably, carries out ship design through the Marineamt, which also draws up the design specifications meant to guide private yards for naval requirements.

Subordinate to the OKW were regional, fleet and task force commands. Regional commands covered significant naval regions and were themselves sub-divided, as necessary. The Kriegsmarine used a form of encoding called Gradnetzmeldeverfahren to denote regions on a map. Major naval operations are carried out by a fleet, a unit in charge of operational matters related to naval combat such as unit deployment, ordnance and ship. maintenance. A fleet is commanded by an officer known as a Flottenchef who controlled the fleet and organized its actions during the operation. Smaller operations could be handled by a smaller subdivision known as a task force.

Over time, the Kriegsmarine reoriented from an submarine-centered force to a balanced power projection force with equal emphasis on aircraft carriers, surface combatants and amphibious forces, with a robust logistics and intelligence supporting structure. Thought has been given not only to projecting power, but also to littoral warfare and the idea of "smothering" the sea with cheap platforms. To this end, there is a large body of work on cheap and relatively long-ranged platforms, such as amphibious aircraft and airships, in German naval circles, mostly to use these as intelligence gathering and anti-submarine platforms.


Further information: List of equipment of the German Army, List of active ships of the Kriegsmarine, List of aircraft of the Luftwaffe, List of missiles and guided munitions of Germany and List of personal equipment of the German Army

The Wehrmacht has reorganized itself several times, usually in anticipation of a crisis, or a reaction to such. The results of these reorganizations are varied, with reactive preparations resulting in massive off-the-shelf purchases that add logistical strain, and crash development programs. However, German industry is able to produce spare parts for foreign equipment, which eases the logistical strain, as well as acquire a production license. Furthermore, crash development programs attempt to make use of existing weapon systems to save development time and ease logistical strain. Off-the-shelf weapons help to keep R&D costs down, allowing for more pressing requirements such as strategic capabilities to receive funding.


General Officer Ranks









SS-Großmarschall und Reichsmarschall der Waffen-SS





SS-Volksmarschall und Generalfeldmarschall der Waffen-SS





SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer und Generaloberst der Waffen-SS


General der Infanterie
General der Artillerie
General der Kavallerie
General der Panzertruppe
General der Pioniere
General der Gebirgstruppe
General der Nachrichtentruppe


General der Flieger
General der Fallschirmtruppe
General der Luftnachrichtentruppe
General der Flugzeugabwehr
General der Luftwaffe

SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS





SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS





SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS


Officer Ranks












Kapitän zur See




















Oberleutnant zur See





Leutnant zur See




See also