After Federal Germany’s entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in May, 1955, the Federal German Armed Forces came into being under the name Bundeswehr. At first, it consisted of 101 new recruits, the rest perhaps a bit wary because total disarmament had been in force since Germany’s capitulation had ended the War in Europe in 1945.
The new army was utterly different to any that had gone before; the Bundeswehr was and is subordinate only to the German Parliament. Conscripts were seen as ‘citizens in uniform’. The new force was virtually encased within the NATO command structure, but the Bundeswehr very rapidly became the biggest single element in NATO, with 340,000 soldiers and 8,600 tanks of the latest design. There were more than 100,000 airmen flying or servicing more than 400 aircraft. There were also nearly 40,000 seamen in the newly structured navy.
After reunification (1990) came at last, with the consequent disappearance of the foreign-controlled zones and sectors, the Bundeswehr also absorbed the not inconsiderable remnants of the old East German army. Germany under Chancellor Merkel remains the most powerful unit within NATO, though it is used in action rarely, if at all. During the recent Balkan crises, and the ongoing horrors in Syria, Iraq and the Yemen, Bundeswehr participation has been weak.