The German Army (Deutsches Heer) is the land component of the armed forces of Germany. The German Army was founded in 1955 as part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr together with the Marine and the Luftwaffe. As of 31 December 2015, the German Army has a strength of 59,021 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 Heerwas the official name of the German land forces. Following their defeat in World War I and the end of the German Empire the main army was dissolved. From 1921 to 1935 the name of the 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, but was a combat force under the Nazi Party’s own Schutzstaffel forces. The Heer was formally disbanded in August 1946.
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 Heer were fully integrated into NATOs command structure, while the Landstreitkräfte were part of the Warsaw Pact. Following the reunification of Germany in 1990 the Landstreitkräfte were partially integrated into the German Army. Since then they have been employed in peacekeeping operations worldwide and since 2002 also in combat operations in Afghanistan as part of NATOs International Security Assistance Force.
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 elite units during World War II 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. The East German military used uniforms that were very similar to the WWII era army uniforms.