|5 June 1947
Marshall Plan Unveiled
|Although the war in Europe had been over for two years, the devastation from that war was so great, and the participants so exhausted, that conditions in Western Europe remained desperate. Making things even worse was the miserable winter of 1947, during which many parts of Europe experienced record low temperatures and record high snowfalls.
Promoting postwar economic recovery had always been one of the administration’s goals, and by 1947 many of the president’s advisers began to fear that unless dramatic measures were taken soon, communism might start winning more supporters in Western Europe. On June 5, therefore, Secretary of State George Marshall gave a speech at Harvard University in which he called for a massive U.S. aid program for Europe. The only precondition for such aid would be that the countries of Europe come together to decide in advance what their collective needs would be. In this way, the administration hoped, they might be encouraged to take steps toward economic integration.
Europeans responded quickly and enthusiastically to Marshall’s proposal, which was quickly dubbed the “Marshall Plan.” And while some in Congress denounced it as an unwise “giveaway” of U.S. resources, the initiative ultimately passed by a large margin.