When World War II ended in 1945, Europe lay in ruins: its cities were shattered; its economies were devastated; its people faced famine. In the two years after the war, the Soviet Union’s control of Eastern Europe and the vulnerability of Western European countries to Soviet expansionism heightened the sense of crisis. To meet this emergency, Secretary of State George Marshall proposed in a speech at Harvard University on June 5, 1947, that European nations create a plan for their economic reconstruction and that the United States provide economic assistance. On December 19, 1947, President Harry Truman sent Congress a message that followed Marshall’s ideas to provide economic aid to Europe. Congress overwhelmingly passed the Economic Cooperation Act of 1948, and on April 3, 1948, President Truman signed the act that became known as the Marshall Plan.
Over the next four years, Congress appropriated $13.3 billion for European recovery. This aid provided much needed capital and materials that enabled Europeans to rebuild the continent’s economy. For the United States, the Marshall Plan provided markets for American goods, created reliable trading partners, and supported the development of stable democratic governments in Western Europe. Congress’s approval of the Marshall Plan signaled an extension of the bipartisanship of World War II into the postwar years.
For more information, visit The National Archives' Treasures of Congress Online Exhibit, and the George C. Marshall Foundation website.