Marshall Announces His Plan
The speech George C. Marshall delivered was drafted by Charles E. Bohlen, a State Department official and future ambassador to the Kremlin. As its basis, he used a memo prepared by a State Department Policy Planning staff directed by Soviet-expert George Kennan as well as reports by other State Department officials. Marshall then prepared the final version.
In the speech Marshall outlined the problem: “Europe's requirements are so much greater than her present ability to pay that she must have substantial additional help or face economic, social, and political deterioration of a very grave character.” He then suggested a solution: that the European nations themselves set up a program for the reconstruction of Europe, with United States assistance. The significance of Marshall's plan was immediately recognized. On June 13, British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin (1891–1951) predicted that his address “will rank as one of the greatest speeches in world history.”
Fears of Communist Domination
This cartoon by Edwin Marcus (1885–1961), which appeared in the New York Times on March 14, 1948, comments on the debate in the U.S. Congress over Marshall Plan legislation. Opponents argued that the costs of such a massive program would severely damage the U.S. domestic economy. Those in favor, whose view Marcus presents, maintained that the delay in providing aid to the war-impoverished countries of Europe put them in danger of Soviet domination, represented in the drawing by the Russian bear.
Ultimately events abroad proved more persuasive than even the strongest Marshall Plan supporters. On February 25, 1948, several weeks before the cartoon was published, a Soviet-backed, communist coup took place in Czechoslovakia. American shock at the coup reduced opposition to the Marshall Plan, and Congress finally approved the bill in April 1948, ten months after it was originally proposed.
Truman Signs the Economic Assistance Act
Surrounded by members of Congress and his cabinet, on April 3, 1948, President Harry S Truman (1884–1972) signed the Foreign Assistance Act, the legislation establishing the Marshall Plan. His official statement said, “Few presidents have had the opportunity to sign legislation of such importance. . . . This measure is America's answer to the challenge facing the free world today.”
The Marshall Plan was a bipartisan effort—proposed by a Democratic president and enacted into law by a Republican Congress in a hotly contested presidential election year. The plan's supporters shown in the photograph are (left to right) Senator Arthur Vandenberg (R—Mich.), Treasury Secretary John Snyder, Representative Charles Eaton (R—N.J.), Senator Tom Connally (D—Tex.), Secretary of the Interior Julius A. Krug, Representative Joseph Martin (R—Mass.), Representative Sol Bloom (D—N.Y.),and Attorney General Tom Clark.
Leaders of the Marshall Plan
On November 29, 1948, President Harry S Truman conferred with the top leaders of the Marshall Plan—(left to right) George C. Marshall, Paul G. Hoffman (1891–1974), and Averell Harriman (1891–1986). Hoffman was president of the Studebaker automobile corporation when Truman appointed him head of the Economic Cooperation Administration, the agency that operated the Economic Recovery Program (ERP). He was chosen because Congress thought that the ERP could best be run by people with business and financial experience.
Hoffman was a first-rate manager whose tact, persuasiveness, and commitment to ERP goals proved to be valuable assets. Harriman, also an experienced businessman, held the second-most-important post, special representative to the countries participating in the Marshall Plan. Before becoming secretary of commerce in the Truman administration, he had served in two crucial posts during World War II, as Lend-Lease representative in Britain and then as U.S. ambassador to Moscow.
Marshall Plan Countries
This map shows the countries that were part of the Marshall Plan. Almost all European nations outside the Soviet bloc were members of the plan from the beginning. The two exceptions were Spain, which as a dictatorship under Franco was not invited to participate, and West Germany, which was under Allied occupation and did not become a full member until 1949, after a significant measure of self-government had been restored. Graphs on the map compare agriculture, industry, and foreign-trade levels in 1950, the midpoint of the Marshall Plan, with prewar production in 1938.
After two years of the plan and less than five years after World War II, most of the areas were at or near prewar levels and industrial production was not merely at prewar levels but 15 percent above. The map appears in The Marshall Plan at the Mid-Mark, a hand-made book of photographs documenting progress under the plan that was presented to Averell Harriman, the special representative to the participating countries.
Promoting the Marshall Plan
In July 1947, a nationwide poll showed that 51 percent of Americans had not heard of the Marshall Plan. The Truman Administration consequently launched a massive public relations campaign to educate the American public. Secretary Marshall and other members of the administration made numerous public appearances before civic and trade groups to promote the European aid program.
Privately organized groups were also encouraged to contribute to these efforts to influence public opinion through petitions to Congress and sponsorship of radio broadcasts, articles, and publications. This newspaper supplement produced by the Foreign Policy Association and the Washington Post championed the Marshall Plan during the time its passage was being debated in Congress. These efforts garnered wide public support for the plan.
A Communist Critique of the Marshall Plan
As the Marshall Plan became established, communist opposition grew. Criticism was especially strong in November 1949, after Paul Hoffman, head of the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA), spoke to the Council of the European Economic Cooperation Association. Addressing the representatives of the countries involved in the Marshall Plan, Hoffman suggested creating a united western European market based on elimination of customs barriers and tariffs.
By promoting European economic integration, the ECA laid the foundation for the founding of the European Economic Community in the 1950s and for today's European Union. The French paper L'Humanité reacted like many other communist publications, claiming that “After disorganizing the national economies of the countries which are under the American yoke, American leaders now intend conclusively to subjugate the economy of these countries to their own interests.” In this cartoon from the Soviet paper Izvestiya, Hoffman, shown as a stereotypical fat capitalist, attacks the sovereignty as well as the tariff barriers of Marshall Plan countries with a club of dollars.
Soviet Opposition to the Marshall Plan
This cartoon by Edwin Marcus (1885–1961) refers to opposition to the Marshall Plan by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (1879–1953), pictured as a basketball player. Stalin regarded the plan's vision of an integrated European market with considerable freedom of movement, goods, services, information, and, inevitably, people, as incompatible with his economic, political, and foreign-policy goals. In June 1947, delegates from France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union met in Paris to discuss Marshall's proposal.
After several days, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav M. Molotov walked out, stating that the Soviet government “rejects this plan as totally unsatisfactory.” Viewed by Western leaders as one more refusal to support postwar stabilization efforts, Molotov's action contributed to the growth of Cold War tensions. In addition to declining to participate in the Marshall Plan itself, the Soviet Union prevented the Eastern European countries under its control from taking part. Subsequent Soviet propaganda portrayed the plan as an American plot to subjugate Western Europe.
A Negative View of Aid to Europe
Although the Marshall Plan and other assistance programs were generally admired and considered a success, not every American supported them. In this cartoon, Clarence Batchelor cynically comments on massive U.S. aid to postwar France by showing marchers with dollar coins as heads endlessly marching through Paris's Arc de Triomphe.
“Lafayette, we are here” was a popular phrase among World War I soldiers. It was reportedly coined by General John Pershing (1860–1948) at the tomb of the Marquis de Lafayette during ceremonies on July 4, 1917. U.S. military assistance was viewed as a return for the help that Frenchmen such as Lafayette had rendered during the American Revolution. Batchelor suggests that America's post-World War II aid is an excessive repayment of the old debt.
Dutch View of the Marshall Plan
Many European governments produced materials to explain the Marshall Plan to their citizens, such as this booklet printed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands. The text and artwork are by Jo Spier (1900–1978), a Dutch, Jewish artist and writer who had been imprisoned in a German concentration camp during World War II and who emigrated to the U.S. in 1951.
A note in this English edition states that the original Dutch version, published in November 1949, was distributed to employers and employees, professional groups, teachers, students, and other groups in the Netherlands. It reached 2.5 million readers out of a total population of 10 million, a quarter of the nation.
Benefits for the U.S. Economy
Because Americans feared that after World War II the financial troubles and unemployment of the 1930s could recur, increasing prosperity in the U.S. was one goal of the Marshall Plan. As a way of boosting exports, the plan had wide appeal to American business people, bankers, workers, and farmers.
Soon after passage of the Foreign Assistance Act, Kiplinger Magazine, a publication for business people, printed a guide to show them how to benefit from the plan. “The Marshall Plan is very much a business plan. . . ,” it concluded. “At its root is an office and factory and warehouse job. The Marshall Plan means work, and you will be one of the workers.” During the years of the Marshall Plan, when much of the money European participants received was spent on U.S.-produced food and manufactured goods, the American economy flourished.
Shipping Equipment Abroad Under the Marshall Plan
Congress required that items shipped under the Marshall Plan be clearly marked so that there could be no mistake as to who had supplied the assistance. The original Marshall Plan label, “For European Recovery—Supplied by the United States of America,” was replaced in 1955 with “Strength for the Free World—From the United States of America,” which appears on the jeeps in this photograph.
The new slogan more accurately represented the role of the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA), which had begun operating in the Far East as well as in the original countries of Europe. As the Cold War deepened, the ECA developed beyond the original goal of recovery for Europe and became more concerned with bolstering the free world against communism.
Stuttgart—Before and After the Marshall Plan
When World War II ended in May 1945, Europe was in ruins. Once-fertile fields were scarred by bomb craters and tank tracks. In cities, seas of rubble—an estimated 500 million cubic tons of it in Germany alone—surrounded abandoned, gutted buildings. With factories and businesses destroyed, many people were unemployed. Food was so scarce that millions were on the verge of starvation.
These photographs of Stuttgart, Germany, taken only eight years apart, demonstrate the destruction that existed throughout Europe at the end of the war and how Marshall Plan aid promoted rapid rebuilding. They appear in a booklet intended to inform the American public of Germany's gratitude for U.S. aid and the German government's decision to establish a fund as a memorial to the Marshall Plan, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the plan.
Establishment of the German Marshall Fund
On June 5, 1972, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the announcement of the Marshall Plan, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt (1913–1992) delivered an address at Harvard University commemorating Marshall's speech. After reviewing the significance of the Marshall Plan and the programs it fostered for European recovery and development, Brandt announced the creation of a Marshall Plan memorial—The German Marshall Fund of the United States.
In his speech, Brandt called the fund “an expression of our special gratitude for the American decision in 1947 not to keep us out.” Financed by the German government but operating independently in the United States, the fund was established to promote American-European study and research projects. It also funds exchange programs for American and German scholars.
A Danish Celebration of the Marshall Plan
The title of this Danish-produced poster translates as “Peace Without Fear: Security and Cooperation.” The poster was prepared to promote a display Copenhagen. The design incorporates the flags of the Marshall Plan countries, visually demonstrating how the plan fostered international cooperation.