German Army (German Empire)
The German Army (German: Deutsches Heer) was the name given to the combined land and air forces of the German Empire or German Reich. The term Deutsches Heer is also used for the modern-day German Army, the land component of the Bundeswehr.
The Imperial German Army was formed after the unification of Germany under Prussian leadership after the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, and dissolved in 1919, after the defeat of the German Empire in World War I and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
- 1 Structure
- 2 Chiefs of the German General Staff (1871–1919)
- 3 Ranks of the Imperial German Army
- 3.1 Enlisted ranks (Mannschaften/Gemeine)
- 3.2 Non-commissioned officers and warrant officers / Unteroffiziere
- 3.3 Warrant Officers and Officer Cadets
- 3.4 Officer corps
- 4 See also
- 5 Further reading
- 6 External links
- 7 References
The basic peacetime organizational structure of the Imperial German Army was based around the Army inspectorate (Armee-Inspektion), the army corps (Armeekorps), the division, and the regiment. During wartime, the staff of the Army inspectorates formed field army commands, which controlled the corps and subordinate units. During World War I, a higher command level, the army group (Heeresgruppe) was created. Each army group controlled several field armies.
- Protecting the German Empire, and its interests, by using ground and sea assets
- Protecting Germans worldwide
- 500,000 (Normal)
- 13,000,000 (World War I)
Germany, with the exception of Bavaria, was divided into army inspectorates. There were five in 1871, with three more added between 1907 and 1913. The Bavarian Ministry of War maintained its own command, which functioned as the inspectorate for that kingdom. Each inspectorate would be considered the equivalent of an army area and controlled a number of corps.
After World War I began, armies were formed from the army inspectorates. They included:
- 1st Army formed 2 August 1914 from VIII Army Inspectorate
- 2nd Army formed 2 August 1914 from III Army Inspectorate
- 3rd Army formed 2 August 1914
- 4th Army formed 2 August 1914 from VI Army Inspectorate
- 5th Army formed 2 August 1914
- 6th Army formed 2 August 1914 from IV Army Inspectorate
- 7th Army formed 2 August 1914 from II Army Inspectorate
- 8th Army formed 2 August 1914 from I Army Inspectorate
- 9th Army formed 18 September 1914
- 10th Army formed 26 January 1915
- 11th Army formed 9 March 1915
- 12th Army formed 9 February 1915 as Armee-Gruppe Gallwitz
- 14th Army formed 9 September 1917
- 17th Army formed 1 February 1918
- 18th Army formed 22 December 1917
- 19th Army formed 4 February 1918
- Army of the Bug formed 8 July 1915
- Army of the Niemen formed 26 May 1915
- South Army formed 11 January 1915
The Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte, known before 1916 as the "Imperial German Flying Troops" (German: Die Fliegertruppen des deutschen Kaiserreiches), was the over-land air arm of the German military during World War I (1914–1918). Although its name actually means something very close to "The German Air Force" it remained an integral part of the German army for the duration of the war.
Chiefs of the German General Staff (1871–1919)
- Helmuth von Moltke 7 October 1857–10 August 1888
- Alfred von Waldersee 10 August 1888–7 February 1891
- Alfred von Schlieffen 7 February 1891–1 January 1906
- Helmuth von Moltke (the younger) 1 January 1906–14 September 1914
- Erich von Falkenhayn 14 September 1914–29 August 1916
- Paul von Hindenburg 29 August 1916–3 July 1919
- Wilhelm Groener 3 July 1919–7 July 1919
- Hans von Seeckt 7 July 1919–15 July 1919
Ranks of the Imperial German Army
The German Army from 1871 to 1914 inherited the various traditions and military ranks of its constituent states, thus becoming a truly federal armed service.
Enlisted ranks (Mannschaften/Gemeine)
- Musketeer (Musketier - Prussian army infantry regiments), Infantryman (Infanterist - Bavarian army infantry regiments), Soldier (Soldat - Saxon army infantry regiments), Gunner (Kanonier - foot artillery), Pioneer (Pionier - pioneer branch). Other unit-specific enlisted ranks were: Fusilier (Füsilier), Grenadier (Grenadier), Huntsman otherwise Light-Infantryman (Jäger), Dragoon (Dragoner), Hussar (Husar), Cuirassier (Kürassier), Uhlan (Ulan), Fusilier Guard (Garde-Füsilier), Grenadier Guard (Garde-Grenadier), etc.
- Lance Corporal (Gefreiter); up until 1918 the only rank (with exception of Obergefreiter in the foot artillery) to which an enlisted soldier could be promoted, the rank was a deputy rank to the Corporal (Unteroffizier) rank.
- Senior Lance Corporal otherwise Second Corporal (Obergefreiter); foot artillery rank introduced from 1859, the rank replaced the earlier in 1730 introduced artillery Bombardier rank.
Additionally, the following voluntary enlistees were distinguished:
- One-Year Volunteer Enlistee (Einjährig-Freiwilliger); was a voluntary short-term form of active military service and designation open for enlistees up to the age of 25. Such volunteer enlisted soldiers were usually high school graduates (Matura, Abitur), who would volunteer to serve a one-year term rather than the regular two or three-year conscription term, with free selection of their chosen military service branch and unit, but throughout were obligated to equip and subsist themselves at entirely their own cost. In today's monetary value this could at bare minimum cost some 10,000 Euro, which purposely reserved this path open to officer-material sons from mostly affluent social class families wishing to pursue the Reserve-Officer path; it was the specific intention of Wilhelm II that such Reserve-Officer career path should only be open to members of so-called "officer-material" social classes. On absolving their primary recruit training and shorter military service term, those aspiring to become Reserve-Officers would have to qualify and achieve suitability for promotion to the Gefreiter rank and then would continue to receive further specialized instruction until the end of their one-year term, usually attaining and leaving as surplus Corporals (überzählige Unteroffiziere) (Reservists), with the opportunity to advance further as reservists. Enlistees who did not aspire to officer grade would leave at the end of their one-year term as Gemeine (Ordinary soldier) enlisted rank (for example Musketier or Infanterist) and a six-year reserve duty obligation. Eligibility for this specific one-year path of military service was a privilege approved upon examining the enlistee's suitability and academic qualifications.
- Long-Term Volunteer Enlistee "Capitulant" (Kapitulant); were enlisted soldiers who had already absolved their regular two or three-year military conscription term and had now volunteered to continue serving for further terms, minimum was 4 years, generally up to 12 years.
Note: Einjährig-Freiwilliger and Kapitulant were not ranks as such during this specific period of use, but voluntary military enlistee designations. They however, wore a specific uniform distinction (twisted wool piping along their shoulder epaulette edging for Einjährig-Freiwilliger, the Kapitulant a narrow band across their lower shoulder epaulette) in the colours of their respective nation state. This distinction was never removed throughout their military service nor during any rank grade advancements.
Non-commissioned officers and warrant officers / Unteroffiziere
Junior NCOs (NCOs without the lanyard) / Unteroffizier ohne Portepee
Senior NCOs (NCOs with the lanyard) / Unteroffizier mit Portepee
- Junior Sergeant-Major (Infantry: Vizefeldwebel/Vice-Feldwebel, Cavalry and Artillery: Vizewachtmeister/Vice-Wachtmeister)
- Sergeant-Major (Infantry: Feldwebel, Cavalry and Artillery: Wachtmeister)
- Staff Sergeant Major (Etatmässige Feldwebel)
Warrant Officers and Officer Cadets
- Military Cadet (Fahnenjunker) - served as cadets in the various military academies and schools.
- Deputy Officer (Offizierstellvertreter)
- Ensign (Fähnrich)
Subalterns / Hauptleute ("Head Men")
- Second Lieutenant (Feldwebelleutnant)
- Lieutenant (Leutnant in the infantry, cavalry and other arms, Feuerwerksleutnant in the artillery)
- First Lieutenant (Oberleutnant, Feuerwerksoberleutnant)
- Captain (Infantry and Artillery: Hauptmann / Kapitän II Klasse, Cavalry: Rittmeister II Klasse)
Field Officers / Stabsoffiziere (“Staff Officers”)
- Senior Captain (Infantry and Artillery: Hauptmann / Kapitän I Klasse, Cavalry: Rittmeister I Klasse)
- Lieutenant Colonel (Oberstleutnant)
- Colonel (Oberst)
- Brigadier General / Major General (Generalmajor)
General Officers / Herrenvolk ("Gentlemen")
- Lieutenant General (Generalleutnant)
- General of the Infantry, General of the Cavalry, General of the Artillery (General der Infanterie, General der Kavallerie, General der Artillerie)
- Colonel General (Generaloberst)
- Colonel General in the rank of General Field Marshal (Generaloberst mit dem Rang als Generalfeldmarschall)
- General Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall)
- Ranglisten der Königlich Preußischen Armee und des XIII. (Königlich Württembergischen) Armeekorps
- Rangliste der Königlich Preußischen Armee from 1785 until 1914
- Rangliste der Königlich Preußischen Armee from 1785 until 1928
- Dienstalters-Liste der Offiziere der Königlich Preussischen Armee und des XIII. (Königlich Württembergischen) Armeekorps until 1918
- Benton L. Bradberry: The Myth of German Villainy, AuthorHouse, 2012, ISBN 978-1477231838 [454 p.]
- Günter Wegner, Stellenbesetzung der deutschen Heere 1815-1939. (Biblio Verlag, Osnabrück, 1993), Bd. 1, pp.33-36
- Duden; Origin and meaning of "Korporal", in German. 
- "Gefreiter" - Allgemeine Encyclopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste, Erste Section, A-G, (Universal Encyclopaedia of the Sciences and Arts, First Section, A-G), Author: Johann Samuel Ersch and Johann Gottfried Gruber, Publisher: F. A. Brockhaus, Leipzig, 1852, Page 471-472, in German. 
- Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, 4th Edition, Volume 6, Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig 1885–1892, Page 659. in German
- Duden; Definition of "Gemeine", in German. 
- Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, 4th Edition, Volume 10, Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig 1885–1892, Page 116, in German
- Duden; Definition of "Kapitulant", in German.