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What Was the Marshall Plan?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Marshall Plan, also called the European Recovery Plan, was enacted by the US in 1947 as a way to help rebuild Europe after World War II. The mind behind the plan was George Marshall, who was the US Secretary of State at the time, although William Clayton and George Kennan are credited with writing the majority of the program. Though it was meant to help the badly damaged Europe recover, it was also meant to prevent communism from gaining a stronghold in war torn countries.

West Germany, which was divided from East Germany after the war, received some aid under the Marshall Plan. Great Britain and France received the most aid, over $200 million US Dollars (USD) each. Other countries receiving funds for reconstruction were Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey. For the most part, these countries represented the allied relationships formed during WWII, although others, like Italy, were part of the Axis forces during the war. Japan did not receive aid, and although aid was offered to the Soviet Union, it was refused.

In total, the US government spent $13 billion USD under the program from 1948 to 1951. Some of the money spent was considered part of Germany’s debt, since much of the destruction was the result of German invasion and bombing of certain countries. The US was fortunate to have very little damage since it entered the war late, and the 48 contiguous states were largely untouched by the war.

The Marshall Plan did succeed for the most part. It spurred significant economic recovery in countries receiving aid, and it is also considered the beginning step toward forming a union of the European countries. This goal was considered important to the US in the prevention of future multi-national European wars.

The program abruptly ended in 1951 when the US became involved in the Korean conflict. Republicans had gained control of the House of Representatives and the Senate in 1950, as well, and many of them disapproved of the plan. With fewer funds to allocate toward European recovery, the plan was officially disbanded. There were efforts to extend it, but Republicans quickly voted them down.

Though the Marshall Plan succeeded in helping to restore some economies, it could not stem the takeover of communism in certain countries. The Cold War intensified, as expressed in the Korean conflict in the 1950s.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a America Explained contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon998956 — On Sep 27, 2017

The Marshall plan was designed to help rebuild Europe after the war. Hitler started the war. Why should the United States take responsibility for something they didn't start and did not enter until the end? As of now we do not take care of our own neighbors nor do we take care of our elderly, sick or those in need. However, we re-built nations for 3 years. Did the 13 billion dollars in aid that we sent help build our national debt as well?

By anon981019 — On Dec 09, 2014

The Marshall plan is about the way George C. Marshall and how Harry S. Truman came together and wanted to give medical and other type of help to "17 European countries so they can become whole and have peace again."

By anon278831 — On Jul 09, 2012

@Anon103688: For someone who doesn't like opinions you seem to have a strong opinion on this matter. In fact, instead of beating around the bush about people's opinions on US involvement in the the First and Second World Wars, which, in fact, was close to none, why not give us some facts of your own to back up your claim? P.S. There wouldn't be history without opinions.

By anon182503 — On Jun 02, 2011

how would you compare the Marshall Plan to the Rebuilding of iraq Plan?

By anon182410 — On Jun 02, 2011

@Milagros: The operative word in your post is "was". Since we have tried to force religion into our government the results have been less than Christian. Refer to Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli.

By anon173593 — On May 07, 2011

Have you ever imagined how Europe would be like now without the help of secretary of state George C. Marshall? Europe would have been broken into pieces with its economy and population decreasing. It would still be suffering of great depression. Fortunately Mr. Marshall proposed the European recovery program which is also known as the Marshall plan. It was premeditated for rebuilding the allied countries of Europe. It was also promoted to prevent communist parties to gain power in war torn countries.

By anon168936 — On Apr 19, 2011

did they have to pay the US back?

By anon164104 — On Mar 30, 2011

I need the answer to this question, please.

Question: "what country fell to communism to lead congress to approve the marshall plan?"

By anon153185 — On Feb 16, 2011

How could any reader take seriously the ramblings of 77568 who quotes The Treaty of Versailles as a World War II event orchestrated by the USA? It was the treaty which formally ended World War I!

By anon138016 — On Dec 29, 2010

First of all, World War I and World War II were not US wars. the US stepped in to help his allies and protect its security of the east coast. The Europeans started their wars and destroyed themselves for no reasons. They need to be glad that America stepped in to help militarily and financially for the rebuilding of their mess.

The Marshall plan worked very well. The example is Western Germany. Western Germany, France, Great Britain and other countries are more developed than the Eastern European countries occupied by the Russian. The Russians did not contribute anything. On the contrary, they took all what Hitler had built to Russia.

So stop blaming the US for its goodness. Of course, they had to pay back the loans. Nothing is free in this world. The US used the taxpayers money to lend to them so they had to pay back in some kind of way. they did not even pay everything back.

Have you ever seen Americans in Russia who are trying to make money there? No, because they're poor and are dictators. the Russians need to change their ways because it does not work. thanks to the United States people and democracy.

By anon133181 — On Dec 09, 2010

If you don't believe in the american war virtues and believe the government is conspiring against you, then maybe you should consider moving to a new nation because it is not changing. The American way is the right way whether you believe it or not. You don't believe it, get out.

By anon103688 — On Aug 13, 2010

To anyone in the history profession, I'm extremely interested to hear how your input compares and contrasts to those of one Sidney B. Fay, former Professor at Harvard, now deceased.

However, his discussion can still be read in the September 1947 issue of Current History, that era's campus magazine. I'd appreciate reading fact based assessments rather than sour opinions, though I'll check back later tonight. Thanks

By anon77568 — On Apr 14, 2010

The US joined the war years after everyone else, after all other countries were financially diminished and militarily defeated and demoralized.

They stepped in to win the war and hence hold everyone else to ransom by being in a position to dictate the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles and the Marshall Plan, etc. These plans and treaties were all written out in the interests of the US and a select few of their allies (Britain, France, even Germany were "compensated" significantly as they were viewed as a major trading partner of the US in years to come.)

The US gave money to European countries which was given straight back to the US with interest by these countries by buying manufactured goods and raw materials from the US in an effort to rebuild themselves after the devastation created by the war as the US included trading clauses in the plans and were in the healthiest position industrially, structurally and financially following the war.

It's no coincidence that America's industrial base expanded rapidly during the war and that the war years had seen the fastest period of economic growth in the nation's history, as American factories supported both its own war effort and that of its allies.

In 1945, after the war, the US as a nation was much bigger and stronger in all areas than it had been in 1939 at the beginning of the war. They're very clever at brainwashing people in to believing that what they do is in the name of generosity and for the good of humanity.

If you actually read the Marshall Plan, it is all written out in the interests of the United States.

By anon76101 — On Apr 08, 2010

There is yet many more examples of the destruction US created as well. Marshall plan may be a good example of generosity, but hunting for "terrorists" and killing many innocents is an example of its cruelty. This is all politics!

By anon75084 — On Apr 05, 2010

Exactly! that's why were sending troops to conquer -- i mean liberate -- oil -- i mean people.

By milagros — On Feb 25, 2010

United States was always a generous and most benevolent country there ever was. Marshall Plan is one of the examples.

May she continue to be the example of goodness, decency, and the highest human qualities for the world.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a America Explained contributor, Tricia...
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