Nationale Volksarmee (NVA), Not to be confused with the North Vietnamese Army.
The NVA was founded on March 1, 1956. Its early roots were laid in 1952 in the founding of the NVA's predecessor, the Kasernierte Volkspolizei (Barracked People's Police, KVP). The NVA was a professional, volunteer army until 24 January 1962 when conscription was introduced.
Conscription was for at least 18 months and adult males between 18 and 26 were eligible. There was no alternative civilian service for those opposing military service with weapons (e.g. for religious reasons). However, in 1964 the Bausoldat (construction soldier) program was introduced as an alternative. Some of these Bausoldaten worked indeed in the construction of military facilities, while others worked in hospitals or other social services. Bausoldaten were subject to official harassment during their service, and often after it, too. For example, university admission was often refused after Bausoldat service. True conscientious objection was illegal and was punished with imprisonment. Often the incarceration was followed by eviction to West Germany.
At its peak in 1987, the NVA numbered 175,300 troops. Approximately 50% of this number were career soldiers, while the remaining half were short-term conscripts. The NVA was modelled on Soviet military philosophy, relying primarily on the officer corps for the operation, as well as the leadership, of the military. The noncommissioned officer (NCO) corps was limited in terms of authority and responsibility, quite unlike the American model. Political officers were also stationed throughout the NVA to guarantee the loyalty of the military to the Socialist Unity Party (SED).
The NVA comprised four main branches:
The LandstreitkrÃ¤fte (Ground Forces) consisting of 120,000 soldiers.
The Volksmarine (People's Navy) consisting of 16,300 sailors.
The LuftstreitkrÃ¤fte / Luftverteidigung (Air Force / Air Defence) consisting of 39,000 airmen.
The Grenztruppen der DDR (Border Troops of the GDR), consisting of 50,000 border guards. Technically, the Grenztruppen der DDR was separate from the NVA; rather, it was under the direct command of the Ministry of the Interior as noted by the "MdI" equipment and uniform label rather than "NVA".
The NVA was merged into the Bundeswehr in October 1990 upon the reunification of Germany. The merging of the two postwar German militaries was not a one-to-one process. Much of the NCO corps and almost all commissioned officers were not accepted into the Bundeswehr, but instead were discharged from service. Former members of the NVA who were absorbed were usually demoted by one rank. Most of the barracks were closed and much of the NVA's equipment was sold or donated to other nations.
General NVA Links
NVA-FallschirmjÃ¤ger (in German)
Reserves & Paramilitary Units
Die Volkspolizei (in German)