Skip to main content.
50th Anniversary

In 1945 Europe was in dire straits exhausted by the world's greatest war.

The winning Western powers did not plunder, they punished the leaders instead. Harry Truman and the world conceived a better way and General George C Marshall, Truman's Secretary of State codified it in a commencement address at Harvard University. The basic idea was to stabilize the world and make it safe for all people. Stalin saw the plan in a different light--US hegemony. Even though invited to participate, he refused.

In the end, the Marshall Plan exceeded far beyond anyone's expectations at the time. What could have been another period of centuries-old European bickering and hot wars became a cold war instead.

The Marshall Plan won Peace in Western Europe culminating in the end of the Cold War and consolidated further by a war of growing pain in Bosnia. It serves as a model for how a region can be united and peace won. Japan had a similar experience.

It achieved both economic and political stability on a scale unprecedented in human history.

From Council on Foreign Relations:

"Secretary of State George C. Marshall unveiled the US remedy in a Harvard University commencement speech on June 5, 1947. Describing the gravity of the situation in Europe, Marshall said the US was prepared to "assist in the return to normal economic health to the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace." He stressed that the initiative had to come from the European nations themselves, which would be expected to join in a cooperative effort."

Harvard Magazine

"Marshall had added two handwritten paragraphs at the end of the speech, reiterating concerns he had voiced at the start. "It is virtually impossible at this distance merely by reading or listening, or seeing photographs and motion pictures, to grasp at all the real significance of the situation," he declared. 'And yet the whole world of the future hangs on a proper judgment. 'When Marshall finished, Laird Bell wrote later, 'the applause was tremendous.'

"But few grasped the historic dimensions of Marshall's words. Press-relations officers at the University and the State Department advised reporters that the address was 'a routine commencement speech' (see related story). A headline in the next day's New York Times read, 'Marshall Pleads for European Unity.' Years later, President Conant [of Harvard] would state in his memoirs that he had not understood the import of the speech."

"But its point was not lost in Europe. British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin heard portions of Marshall's speech on that night's BBC news. The next day he phoned French foreign minister Georges Bidault. Their governments quickly affirmed that they would accept Marshall's overture."

"When the Marshall proposals were announced" Bevin later recalled, "I grabbed them with both hands." Over the next fortnight Bevin and Bidault organized a unified European response. "I can only say to other nations," declared Bevin, "that when the United States throws a bridge to link the East and the West it is disastrous for ideological or other reasons to frustrate the United States in that great endeavor." Foreign Policy Research Institute excerpts:

"Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs William Clayton was the intellectual source of the plan. A wealthy former commodities trader, Clayton saw Europe as a large market rather than as a set of bickering nation-states; it was vital, in his view, to avoid a return of the old 'beggar thy neighbor' economic policies. Clayton persuaded both Secretary of State George C. Marshall and Deputy Secretary of State Dean Acheson that a European economic recovery plan sponsored by the US was necessary but, unlike UN food aid, it should be administered by a pan-European organization. The key need: US dollars so that European industry could resume imports necessary to restart their economies.

"The speech on June 5, 1947, took twelve minutes — two minutes longer than Marshall originally wanted — and it left little impression on the graduates, many of whom were surprised to learn years later of the significance of the occasion. Stalin was surprised, too; he regarded the plan's requirements for an open economy to be a plot and kept both the USSR and its European satellites out."

Links for research:

50th Anniversary Plan Transcript
European Recovery

George Marshall Foundation
Lessons from the Marshall Plan

Grass Roots Model of Marshall Plan

Individuals can make a difference in various ways. Some possible ways follow:
  • Technical assistance
  • Coaching & Training
  • Dialogue
  • Business contacts
  • Hosting exchange students

What benefits would arise from providing these family-to-family under a UN or ONE EARTH FLAG?

Can we not get a mini Marshall Plan going that removes the reasons for war?


No comments yet

To be able to post comments, please register on the site.