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SPEECH TO THE HERALD-TRIBUNE FORUM1
October 22, 1947
New York, New York
The discussion this evening is directed to the problem of the reconstruction of Europe. For many months both the Government and the people of the United States have been considering the growing dangers of the economic situation in Europe and our relation to the problem. That Europe’s need of assistance is real and urgent I believe is no longer a matter of argument. And it is likewise evident that the United States of America in the present state of the world represents the primary source from which this need can be met.
I have endeavored on a number of occasions to make clear why in the view of this Government it is in the basic interest of the United States to do what it can within reason to meet these needs. I am sure that you all understand the vital importance to us of the preservation of European civilization.
We cannot stand indifferent to the fate of the nations who are having great difficulty in recovering from the consequences of the war and are looking to us for assistance. These are people who hold the same views of international conduct as we do. If we are to be successful in our quest for peace in a decent world we will be constantly in need of their strong cooperation.
“When I made a public statement at Harvard on June 5 last,” to quote from a more recent statement of mine, “it was plainly evident that a situation had developed where we must immediately choose between two lines of action—either to concern ourselves solely with our own internal affairs despite our heavy commitments in Germany, Austria and Italy, while Europe suffered a complete political and economic demoralization; or we must take action to assist Europe in avoiding a disastrous disintegration with tragic consequences for the world. Therefore, the suggestion was made that the European countries, under the pressure of the dilemma which faced them, should join together in working out a mutual basis of cooperation for their own rehabilitation and should determine, on a business-like basis, the degree and character of the outside assistance they calculated would be urgently needed over and above what was humanly possible for them to accomplish for themselves.”2
Our Government has realized from the first the magnitude of this problem and the numerous pitfalls that lie in the way of its solution. Despite the urgency of the situation, sufficient time had to be allowed for the collection of all pertinent facts and opinions and a thorough study of all the elements, both foreign and domestic, which enter into the problem. We have the preliminary report of the 16 nations who met in Paris this summer. We are beginning to receive reports from the various governmental groups who have been examining into our own resources and their relationship to possible demands of the European situation. Commissions of Congress who have traveled extensively throughout Europe are returning to this country and the results of their investigations are becoming available.
I think it is important that you should understand something of the procedure which is now being followed by your Government in arriving at a conclusion and preparing a program for presentation to the committees of Congress and later to the Congress itself. At the present time, in fact every day of the week, including Saturdays and Sundays, a large portion of the personnel of the State Department and representative groups of other interested departments and agencies, such as the Treasury Department, the Departments of Commerce and Interior, the Departments of Agriculture and Labor, for example, are engaged in daily sessions working together on data which I have described, to determine exactly what should be the program of this Government.
I do not believe any project of our Government has ever received more careful study and preparation than has this problem of the reconstruction of Europe. And I am certain that no governmental effort has ever enjoyed such complete cooperation on the part of all the agencies concerned. When it is completed it will truly be a program of the United States Government and not of any one department or agency. Your contribution should be of great value in bringing the people, the public opinion of the country, to the support of this great effort.
There has been constant reference to a Marshall Plan. The reference to me personally was unfortunate, but the reference to a plan was definitely misleading. There was no plan. There was a suggestion. Now we are in the process of drafting a plan as a proposal to the Congress of the United States. That is the situation at the moment.
The period of study and preparation is thus drawing to a close. The time of action is at hand.
GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers (Secretary of State, Speeches)
1. Marshall spoke to the closing session of the sixteenth annual Forum on Current Problems (“Modern Man: Slave or Sovereign”) sponsored by the New York Herald Tribune at 8:00 p.m. at New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The speech was broadcast locally on WCBS.
2. Marshall quoted here the fourteenth paragraph of his October 15 speech to the CIO convention in Boston (See pp. 227.)
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Mark A. Stoler, Sharon Ritenour Stevens and Daniel D. Holt (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 2013- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 6, “The Whole World Hangs in the Balance,” January 8, 1947-September 30, 1949 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), pp. 232-233.