By MARTHA HOPKINS
In a speech delivered at the Harvard University commencement on June 5, 1947, Secretary of State George Catlett Marshall (1880-1959) proposed a solution to the disintegrating economic and social conditions that faced Europeans in the aftermath of World War II. Raw materials and food were in short supply, causing widespread hunger, unemployment and housing shortages; war-damaged industries needed machinery and capital before production could be resumed. Marshall's suggestion that the European nations set up a reconstruction program with U.S. assistance marked the official beginning of the Economic Recovery Program (ERP).
That program is better known as the Marshall Plan and is the subject of a small exhibition at the Library called "For European Recovery: The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Marshall Plan."
Under the program, the United States provided aid to prevent starvation in the major war areas, repair the devastation of those areas as quickly as possible and begin economic reconstruction. The plan had two major aims: preventing the spread of communism in Western Europe and stabilizing the international order to favor development of political democracies and free-market economies.
Although others helped draft the Economic Assistance Act of 1948 that established the ERP, the plan was named for George C. Marshall because of his indispensable role, his influence and his extraordinary prestige in the minds of Congress and the American people. As army chief of staff, he exerted tremendous influence during the war and afterward assumed key civilian posts in the Truman administration. Marshall became secretary of state in 1947 and later served as secretary of defense. For his efforts in reviving Europe, he won the 1953 Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the first professional soldier to receive it.
During the four years in which the Marshall Plan was formally in operation, Congress appropriated $13.3 billion. The United States also benefited from the plan by developing valuable trading partners and reliable allies among the West European nations. Even more important were the many ties of individual and collective friendship that developed between the United States and Europe.
A milestone in the growth of U.S. world leadership, the Marshall Plan has had far-reaching consequences. In the short run, it relieved widespread privation and averted the threat of a serious economic depression. In the long run, it enabled the West European nations to recover and maintain economic and political independence. It also paved the way for other forms of international cooperation such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OCED), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and today's European Union.
To mark the 50th anniversary of Marshall's speech, the Library of Congress is presenting this display on the origins and effects of the Marshall Plan. It features photographs and cartoons from the Prints and Photographs Division and items from the papers of Averell Harriman, the ERP special representative in Europe from 1948 to 1950, whose collection in the Library's Manuscript Division contains photographs, letters, memos and printed material that document the early days of this acclaimed international initiative. Following are descriptions of some of the exhibition items:
Fears of Communist Domination
A 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 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 Feb. 25, 1948, several weeks before the cartoon was published, a Soviet-backed, communist coup took place in Czechoslovakia. The event reduced opposition to the Marshall Plan, and Congress finally approved the bill in April 1948, 10 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.
Leaders of the Marshall Plan
On Nov. 29, 1948, Truman conferred with the top leaders of the Marshall Plan -- George C. Marshall (1880-1959), 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. 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
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. After two years of the plan, many economic measures, such as agriculture, industry and foreign-trade, were at or near prewar levels, and industrial production was 15 percent above the 1938 level.
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 plan, Hoffman suggested creating a united West 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 newspaper 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 a cartoon from the Soviet paper Izvestiya, Hoffman, portrayed 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
A 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 East 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. A cartoon by 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 Gen. John Pershing (1860-1948) at the tomb of the Marquis de Lafayette during ceremonies on July 4, 1917. U.S. assistance was seen 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.
Benefits for the U.S. Economy
Because Americans feared that after World War II the financial woes of the 1930s could recur, increasing prosperity in the United States 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 business publication, printed a guide to show its readers 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 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 1951 with "Strength for the Free World -- From the United States of America." 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. Photographs of Stuttgart, Germany, taken only eight years apart, record that destruction and document how Marshall Plan aid promoted rapid rebuilding. They appeared 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.
Establishment of the German Marshall Fund
On June 5, 1972, the 25th 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 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.
Ms. Hopkins, who curated the Marshall Plan exhibition, is an exhibits director in the Interpretive Programs Office.
"For European Recovery: The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Marshall Plan" is on view in the Current Events Corridor, first floor of the Madison Building, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. -- 9:30 p.m. and Saturday 8:30 a.m. -- 6 p.m. It can also be seen in an expanded version on the Library's Internet site on the at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/marshall/.
The online version contains more items than the physical exhibit. It also takes advantage of the online medium to show more of some items than can be shown in a physical exhibit, where only one page opening can be shown at a time. Items offered in full-text versions are: "The Marshall Plan and You," (by permission of the Dutch government), "How to Do Business under the Marshall Plan," from Kiplinger Magazine, May 1948 (by permission of Kiplinger Magazine), The Marshall Plan and the Future of U.S.-European Relations (by permission of the German Information Center, New York) and The Marshall Plan at the Mid-Mark.
The most significant full-text item is The Marshall Plan at the Mid-Mark, a gift to Averell Harriman that includes a number of photographs showing the history and progress of the plan. This item is not printed, but was especially handmade for Harriman (i.e., the photos are individually pasted in and the text is hand-lettered.) The book is not available anywhere outside the Library of Congress.