Last U.S. Battle Tanks Leave Germany

Ending an era that essentially began when the United States Army crossed the Rhine during World War II, there are no more American battle tanks in Germany:

STUTTGART, Germany — The U.S. Army’s 69-year history of basing main battle tanks on German soil quietly ended last month when 22 Abrams tanks, a main feature of armored combat units throughout the Cold War, embarked for the U.S.

The departure of the last M-1 Abrams tanks coincides with the inactivation of two of the Army’s Germany-based heavy brigades. Last year, the 170th Infantry out of Baumholder disbanded. And the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade at Grafenwöhr is in the process of doing the same.

On March 18, the remaining tanks were loaded up at the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s railhead in Kaiserslautern where they then made the journey to the shipping port in Bremerhaven, Germany. There they boarded a ship bound for South Carolina.


From World War II on through the Cold War, tanker units were a heavy presence in Germany. At its peak, Germany was home to 20 NATO armored divisions, or about 6,000 tanks, according to the 21st TSC.

“There is no [U.S.] tank on German soil. It’s a historic moment,” said Lt. Col. Wayne Marotto, 21st TSC spokesman.

Indeed, it is.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    About damned time.

  2. DC Loser says:

    Yes, it is about time, but I do get nostalgic about the old times. Germany and Europe was a great place for military members to be assigned. My tour in Belgium was the highlight of my military adventure.

  3. john personna says:

    I guess when we tally long, costly, US wars, we should include “the Cold one.”

  4. Mikey says:

    Wow. It’s hard for me to fathom Germany with no U. S. tanks, but it did take a long time to happen.

    I was there when the 1st Armored Division made the transition from the M60A2 to the M1A1 in the mid-1980s, and when the 1st Armored was moved out to make way for the 3rd Infantry Division in 1991. The Army installation at which my little Air Force unit was stationed closed up in 1994. Now, nearly 20 years later, no more American tanks.

    Looking over the U. S. Army Europe website, there’s nothing that says “armored.” Even the 2nd Cavalry Regiment used to be the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, but is no longer. And it’s moved from Nuremberg to Vilseck, which I can assure everyone is a tremendous step down in location.

    Waxing a bit nostalgic, I guess. I visited my old “stomping grounds” in Germany last year. Little remains of the Army installations I knew, and what does has been converted to other uses (for example, my wife’s sister lives on what used to be a U. S. Army installation, and much of what was American military family housing is now German apartments and condos).

    Still, it amazes me a bit that over 20 years after the Cold War ended we still had tanks in Germany.

  5. DC Loser says:

    I’ve seen what happened to Bitburg AB after it was turned over to the Germans.

  6. Anderson says:

    Cue the Red Army!

  7. Mikey says:

    @DC Loser:

    I’ve seen what happened to Bitburg AB after it was turned over to the Germans.

    I was there a few years back. They turned the base chapel into a strip club.

  8. JKB says:

    @Anderson: Cue the Red Army!

    What exactly of value is left in Europe that the Russians would still want…or couldn’t get by holding the energy shipments to get? Well, I suppose a warm water port but really they should be looking for access to the Indian Ocean for future trading.

    20 years to late. When they started bringing the troops home I wanted them to surround the Beltway, shut off communications and let the rest of the country get on with prosperity. Sadly, they didn’t and now we have what we have.

  9. Anderson says:

    What exactly of value is left in Europe that the Russians would still want…or couldn’t get by holding the energy shipments to get?

    That was equally true 30 years ago. Tom Clancy is crying today.

  10. DC Loser says:

    Remember that story about the pipeline valves the Soviets wanted to get their hands on by stealing our technology? And how we let them steal it, but with some software modifications so that they’d catastrophically self-destruct sometime after they were installed? There were those mysterious explosions on their natural gas pipeline out of Siberia which fed the Western European demand for cheap Soviet gas?

  11. Neil Hudelson says:

    Typical of ol’ cut-and-run Obama.

  12. Tsar Nicholas says:

    This is good news. Should have happened 15 or so years ago. We’re not going to be fighting over the Fulda Gap.

  13. I would suggest that the main reason that tanks were still in Germany after the end of the Cold War was to pre-position equipment for use elsewhere (i.e., the Persian Guif War, Iraq, and Afghanistan)

  14. Tyrell says:

    The thought of a decrease in our military presence in Germany gives rise to worry and more than a few sleepless nights. Many of us still remember Russian tanks rolling into Czechoslovakia after Brezhnev promised that they would would be left alone. We remember the Russians going into Poland. Well, we remember the Russians were always up to something. We can not afford to forget lessons learned the hard way. We need a strong presence in Germany of an arsenal of tanks, bombers, and artillery as a deterrence to Russian threats.

  15. Dave Schuler says:


    The Russians don’t need tanks anymore, Tyrell. They can just threaten to shut down their pipelines.

  16. Tillman says:

    @Dave Schuler: Isn’t economics a two-way street? I thought people got rich off that pipeline.

  17. Tyrell says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: Yes, but I remember the better part of the 20th. century was spent trying to keep the communists from taking over everything. We remember with sadness and resolve the Berlin Wall, one of the worst times in world history.
    “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall!” (Reagan)
    “I am a Berliner” (Kennedy)

  18. merl says:

    @DC Loser: I was lucky enough to be an Army brat in Germany for a total of 7 years.