The Marshall Plan

Europe was devastated by World War II. Cities lay in ruins. Economies were crushed. People were desperate.

In order to make sure countries in Europe did not resort to radical ideas like communism or fascism, as they did after the First World War, the United States offered a bold plan of economic assistance, named after American General George Marshall. This was the Marshall Plan.

The United States offered European countries aid in the amount of over $13 billion (that's about $170 billion today). The aid came in various forms: direct money, food and equipment. All aid coming from the United States was affixed with a large label that proclaimed American assistance.

Although aid was offered to all countries, the United States knew that the Soviet Union would not participate. Not only that, but Stalin made sure that all countries under his control would not participate.

As a result, money flowed into Western Europe and countries there started a rapid recovery.

The Marshall Plan was just as much a political plan as it was an economic plan. By offering Western Europe assistance, the United States sought to gain the continued friendship and allegiance of those countries against the Soviet Union.

President Harry Truman was very clear: He did not want communism to spread beyond the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe.  He made this his goal.

The Containment Policy would become the main foreign policy of the United States during the Cold War and the Marshall Plan was the beginning of this policy.  For the next 50 year, the focus of the United States was to keep communism where it was and to prevent it from spreading.

Map of Cold-War era Europe showing countries that received Marshall Plan aid. The blue columns show the relative amount of total aid per nation. 
[CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons