Two years after the end of World War II, President Truman appointed George Marshall as Secretary of State. The Secretary of State is the person who represents the United States in its dealings with other countries and gives the president advice on how to relate to these countries. When Marshall became Secretary of State he faced a huge problem: Europe was a disaster.
When he visited Europe in 1947, Marshall saw a continent crushed by economic despair. The war had destroyed beautiful cities, factories were in ruins, jobs were scarce and there was not enough food to go around. The situation was getting worse.
Marshall remembered the past. He remembered how deeply the German people suffered during World War I. The harsh peace terms crippled the nation’s ability to care for itself and made the German people desperate for a better life. This supported Hitler’s rise to power. Marshall wondered if history would repeat itself. Would the survivors of World War II surrender their freedom for bread?
Review the introductory video and the primary resources listed below, then answer the questions.
- Marshall’s Speech on June 5, 1947 at Harvard
- The European Crisis – Memo from Clayton to Acheson May 27, 1947
- First Recommendation of the Policy Planning Staff – Aid to Western Europe – Memo from Kennan to Acheson May 23, 1947 (pages 224-225)
- Conference Report of the Committee of European Economic Co-Operation (pages 8-9)
- President Truman’s special message to Congress (pages 16-17)
- Senator Vandenburg’s speech The Battle for World Peace and Stability
- Memorandum of Conversation between George C. Marshall and Stalin FRUS 1947 Vol. 2
- Letter to Senator Vandenburg from Herbert Hoover January 18, 1948
- What problems did Marshall hope that the Marshall Plan would resolve?
- Was the Marshall Plan successful?
- Why did the Soviet Union and other European countries choose not to participate in the Marshall Plan even though they were invited to? Do you agree or disagree with their decision?
- What role did Marshall propose the European countries would play in the Marshall Plan? What role would the United States play?
- Why do you think Marshall required Germany and other countries to work together during the recovery?
- Would you have been in favor of the Marshall Plan? Why or why not?
- Write a ‘letter to the editor’ to express your opinions on whether or not Americans should pay for the European Recovery Program.
- Create a brochure/pamphlet to persuade your fellow citizens to support the ERP Program.
- Prepare a debate of those in favor of the ERP and those against.
- Draw editorial cartoons for and against Marshall’s plan.
- Review the Marshall Plan posters and create your own.
- Review this blank map and fill in the countries. Then color the countries that did participate in the ERP green, those that did not participate in red. What do you notice about the location of the countries?
- Together as a class become a sponsor for people around the world through organizations like Kiva.org and Heifer Project International.