Civics 101: After World War II - The Marshall Plan

J. H. Osborne • Jun 10, 2019 at 9:30 PM

After recognizing the 75th anniversary of D-Day last week, we look ahead at what came next once the United States and its allies proved victorious in World War II.

The only major power in the world that was not significantly damaged was the United States, according to the George C. Marshall Foundation.

If the name sounds familiar to you, it is likely because of the Economic Cooperation Act of 1948 — federal legislation that OK’d what is commonly called The Marshall Plan.

From the U.S. National Archives:

• As the war-torn nations of Europe faced famine and economic crisis in the wake of World War II, the United States proposed to rebuild the continent in the interest of political stability and a healthy world economy.

• On June 5, 1947, in a commencement address at Harvard University, Secretary of State George C. Marshall first called for American assistance in restoring the economic infrastructure of Europe.

• Western Europe responded favorably, and the Truman administration proposed legislation. The resulting Economic Cooperation Act of 1948 restored European agricultural and industrial productivity.

• Credited with preventing famine and political chaos, the plan later earned Marshall a Nobel Peace Prize.

From the George C. Marshall Foundation:

• State Department leadership under Marshall, with expertise provided by George Kennan, William Clayton and others, crafted the Marshall Plan concept in just a few months.

• Officially known as the European Recovery Program (ERP), the Marshall Plan was intended to rebuild the economies and spirits of western Europe, primarily.

• Marshall was convinced the key to restoration of political stability lay in the revitalization of national economies. Further he saw political stability in Western Europe as a key to blunting the advances of communism in that region.

• Sixteen nations, including Germany, became part of the program and shaped the assistance they required, state by state, with administrative and technical assistance provided through the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) of the United States. European nations received nearly $13 billion in aid, which initially resulted in shipments of food, staples, fuel and machinery from the United States and later resulted in investment in industrial capacity in Europe.

• Marshall Plan funding ended in 1951.

• From 1948 through 1952 European economies grew at an unprecedented rate. Trade relations led to the formation of the North Atlantic alliance. Economic prosperity led by coal and steel industries helped to shape what we know now as the European Union.

Sources: U.S. Archives; The George C. Marshall Foundation

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