Secretary Marshall’s Plan
The single boldest step toward winning the peace was proposed on June 5, 1947, by George C. Marshall. The former army chief of staff, now secretary of state, described in an address at Harvard University a plan whereby the nations of Europe would draw up a unified scheme for economic reconstruction to be funded by the United States. Although the Soviet Union and its satellite nations were invited to join, in the growing chill of the Cold War, they declined. Sixteen western European nations formed the Organization for European Economic Cooperation to coordinate the program formally known as the European Recovery Program, but more familiarly called the Marshall Plan.
Winston Churchill called the Marshall Plan the “most unsordid” political act in history, but it was, above all, a political act. Although Marshall assured the Soviets that the plan was riot directed “against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos,” it was a powerful economic salvo fired against communism. Having witnessed totalitarian regimes rush to fill the void of postwar economic catastrophe, Marshall and other U.S. leaders were eager to restore the war-ravaged economies of the West and even to stimulate growth. Economic well-being, they felt, was the strongest ally of democracy.
The United States poured some $13 billion into Europe and also established a massive Displaced Persons Plan, whereby almost 300,000 homeless Europeans (including many Jewish survivors of the Holocaust) immigrated to the United States and became citizens.