American history B
Unit 3: The Cold War
My Reaction Paper
In 1947, United States Secretary of State George Marshall introduced the "Marshall Plan," an enormous foreign aid package destined for war torn Europe. The plan consisted of $13 million dollars of economic assistance sent to Western Europe over a four-year period. Marshall went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and the plan is remembered as the beginning of a close economic and strategic alliance between Europe and the United States and a landmark foreign aid initiative.
Before developing the plan, initially called the European Recovery Plan, Marshall had traveled to Europe, where he witnessed first-hand the devastation and economic decline resulting from World War II. Indeed, almost all of Europe was plagued by food shortages, forcing most civilians to rely on a 1,500 calories-a-day diet. A drought in 1946 had killed most of the European wheat crop, while a particularly severe winter destroyed most of the wheat crop the following year. Germany was especially vulnerable, as it was faced with reparation fees and economic limitations imposed by the Allied victors. Hospitals throughout Europe reported rising cases of malnutrition, death by starvation, and suicide.
Cognizant of this misery and of the strategic importance of Europe, Marshall proposed his plan while delivering the 1947 Harvard commencement speech. The speech was an opportunity for Marshall to bring his case to the American people, as the Republican controlled Congress was wary of approving large foreign aid packages. Outlining the situation in Europe, Marshall suggested enormous financial assistance was the moral obligation of the stronger and wealthier United States. Furthermore, despite a recent chilling in American/Soviet relations, Marshall's speech contained no anti-Communist rhetoric; he was careful to be non-partisan. In keeping with the apolitical nature of his proposal, Marshall asserted that the policy was directed not...