Abby Wambach opened the scoring two minutes into a hectic second half, meeting Megan Rapinoe's cross with a header to claim her 155th international goal and move within three of Mia Hamm's all-time international record.
Rapinoe sent a half-volley inside the far post in the 58th, but Kim Kulig pulled one back for Germany five minutes later after some sloppy defending.
Lauren Cheney thought she'd restored the Americans' two-goal lead three minutes after that, only for her header to be ruled out for offside.
Alex Morgan deservedly made it 3-1 with a wonderful finish from Lauren Cheney's deep cross in the 71st, coolly lifting the ball with her first touch over the stranded goalkeeper.
But Celia Okoyino da Mbabi then scored from the penalty spot with five minutes remaining for Germany, and teammate Anja Mittag claimed an unlikely equalizer two minutes later after more poor defending.
"That was a really good team performance," Germany coach Silvia Neid said.
Morgan almost claimed a dramatic winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time, only for Verena Faisst to clear the header off the line.
"We're all disappointed," said Wambach, who felt her side had done more than enough to win on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Soccer Federation.
The Olympic champion Americans at least have the consolation of extending their 30-game unbeaten run and their 11-game unbeaten streak against the Germans, who are second to the United States in the FIFA rankings.