12. 2 (circle one) Modern World History The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan

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Section: 12.1 12.2 (circle one)

Modern World History

The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan

Do Now

In your last class, we defined the American policy of containment – the philosophy of not directly confronting the Soviet Union in its own territory, but resisting its further attempts to spread Communism around the world. We also discussed (very briefly) three different ways in which containment could be put into practice: political, economic, and military. If you were President Truman, what specific policies might you implement to put containment into practice? List as many ideas as possible in the categories below.





The Truman Doctrine – March 12, 1947
As we read, focus on the following questions:

  1. Summarize the Truman Doctrine in your own words.

  2. How did the Truman Doctrine represent a change in America’s foreign policy?

  3. In what context was the Truman Doctrine declared? What conflict did the United States seek to resolve, and which side did the US support?

  4. What two arguments did Truman make in support of his new doctrine?

[1] The very existence of the Greek state is today threatened by the terrorist activities of several thousand armed men, led by Communists, who defy the government's authority at a number of points, particularly along the northern boundaries.

Meanwhile, the Greek Government is unable to cope with the situation. The Greek army is small and poorly equipped. It needs supplies and equipment if it is to restore the authority of the government throughout Greek territory. Greece must have assistance if it is to become a self-supporting and self-respecting democracy.

The United States must supply that assistance. We have already extended to Greece certain types of relief and economic aid but these are inadequate.

[2] Greece's neighbor, Turkey, also deserves our attention. The future of Turkey as an independent and economically sound state is clearly no less important to the freedom-loving peoples of the world than the future of Greece. 

Since the war Turkey has sought financial assistance from Great Britain and the United States for the purpose of effecting that modernization necessary for the maintenance of its national integrity. That integrity is essential to the preservation of order in the Middle East.

[3] One of the primary objectives of the foreign policy of the United States is the creation of conditions in which we and other nations will be able to work out a way of life free from coercion. This was a fundamental issue in the war with Germany and Japan. Our victory was won over countries which sought to impose their will, and their way of life, upon other nations.

At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. The choice is too often not a free one.

One way of life is based upon the will of the majority, and is distinguished by free institutions, representative government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from political oppression.

The second way of life is based upon the will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio; fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedoms.

[4] I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.

It is necessary only to glance at a map to realize that the survival and integrity of the Greek nation are of grave importance in a much wider situation. If Greece should fall under the control of an armed minority, the effect upon its neighbor, Turkey, would be immediate and serious. Confusion and disorder might well spread throughout the entire Middle East.

I therefore ask the Congress to provide authority for assistance to Greece and Turkey in the amount of $400,000,000 for the period ending June 30, 1948.

The seeds of totalitarian regimes are nurtured by misery and want. They spread and grow in the evil soil of poverty and strife. They reach their full growth when the hope of a people for a better life has died. We must keep that hope alive. The free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedoms. If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world -- and we shall surely endanger the welfare of our own nation.

Reading: The Marshall Plan

George Marshall, an accomplished general during World War II and later Secretary of State in the Truman Administration, delivered the commencement address at Harvard University in June 1947. Marshall used his speech as a platform to introduce the European Recovery Program (ERP), widely known as the “Marshall Plan,” which proposed to provide economic aid to the war-torn countries of Europe.
Your task is to translate this speech into plain English. Then, be ready to discuss the following three questions:

  1. What is Marshall’s proposition? In other words, what does he want to do?

  2. What is Marshall’s argument? According to him, what benefits will follow from implementing his plan? What consequences would follow from failing to implement it?

  3. What does this have to do with the Cold War? Marshall never mentions the word ‘communism’ in this excerpt, but historians regard the Marshall Plan as one of the most important American policies of the early Cold War. How might the Marshall Plan help fight communism?

I need not tell you gentlemen that the world situation is very serious. That must be apparent to all intelligent people. I think one difficulty is that the problem is one of such enormous complexity that the very mass of facts presented to the public by press and radio make it exceedingly difficult for the man in the street to reach a clear appraisement of the situation. Furthermore, the people of this country are distant from the troubled areas of the earth and it is hard for them to comprehend the plight and consequent reactions of the long-suffering peoples, and the effect of those reactions on their governments in connection with our efforts to promote peace in the world.

In considering the requirements for the rehabilitation of Europe, the physical loss of life, the visible destruction of cities, factories, mines, and railroads was correctly estimated, but it has become obvious during recent months that this visible destruction was probably less serious than the dislocation of the entire fabric of European economy. For the past 10 years conditions have been highly abnormal. The feverish preparation for war and the more feverish maintenance of the war effort engulfed all aspects of national economies. Machinery has fallen into disrepair or is entirely obsolete. Under the arbitrary and destructive Nazi rule, virtually every possible enterprise was geared into the German war machine. Long-standing commercial ties, private institutions, banks, insurance companies, and shipping companies disappeared, through loss of capital, absorption through nationalization, or by simple destruction. In many countries, confidence in the local currency has been severely shaken. The breakdown of the business structure of Europe during the war was complete. Recovery has been seriously retarded by the fact that two years after the close of hostilities a peace settlement with Germany and Austria has not been agreed upon. But even given a more prompt solution of these difficult problems, the rehabilitation of the economic structure of Europe quite evidently will require a much longer time and greater effort than had been foreseen...
The truth of the matter is that Europe's requirements for the next three or four years of foreign food and other essential products—principally from America—are so much greater than her present ability to pay that she must have substantial additional help or face economic, social, and political deterioration of a very grave character.
The remedy lies in breaking the vicious circle and restoring the confidence of the European people in the economic future of their own countries and of Europe as a whole. The manufacturer and the farmer throughout wide areas must be able and willing to exchange their products for currencies the continuing value of which is not open to question.
Aside from the demoralizing effect on the world at large and the possibilities of disturbances arising as a result of the desperation of the people concerned, the consequences to the economy of the United States should be apparent to all. It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist. Such assistance, I am convinced, must not be on a piecemeal basis as various crises develop. Any assistance that this Government may render in the future should provide a cure rather than a mere palliative. Any government that is willing to assist in the task of recovery will find full cooperation, I am sure, on the part of the United States Government. Any government which maneuvers to block the recovery of other countries cannot expect help from us. Furthermore, governments, political parties, or groups which seek to perpetuate human misery in order to profit therefrom politically or otherwise will encounter the opposition of the United States.
It is already evident that, before the United States Government can proceed much further in its efforts to alleviate the situation and help start the European world on its way to recovery, there must be some agreement among the countries of Europe as to the requirements of the situation and the part those countries themselves will take in order to give proper effect to whatever action might be undertaken by this Government. It would be neither fitting nor efficacious for this Government to undertake to draw up unilaterally a program designed to place Europe on its feet economically. This is the business of the Europeans. The initiative, I think, must come from Europe. The role of this country should consist of friendly aid in the drafting of a European program and of later support of such a program so far as it may be practical for us to do so. The program should be a joint one, agreed to by a number, if not all, European nations.
An essential part of any successful action on the part of the United States is an understanding on the part of the people of America of the character of the problem and the remedies to be applied. Political passion and prejudice should have no part. With foresight, and a willingness on the part of our people to face up to the vast responsibility which history has clearly placed upon our country, the difficulties I have outlined can and will be overcome.

Modern World History

HW 5.6: The Marshall Plan in Practice


  1. Carefully read the following text (adapted from Constitutional Rights Foundation, “The Marshall Plan for Rebuilding Western Europe,” Summer 2004, http://www.crf-usa.org/bill-of-rights-in-action/bria-20-3-a-the-marshall-plan-for-rebuilding-western-europe.html).

  2. Add the following to your unit study guide:

    1. People: George Marshall

    2. Timeline: Truman Doctrine announced; Marshall Plan announced

  3. In complete sentences on a separate piece of paper, answer the following questions:

    1. Summarize the Marshall Plan in your own words. [1-2 sentences]

    2. What conditions did Marshall impose on countries receiving Marshall Plan aid? How did these conditions serve the goal of containing the spread of communism? [2-4 sentences]

    3. How did Truman and Marshall convince Congress to spend a substantial amount of money on the Marshall Plan? [2-4 sentences]

    4. How did the Marshall Plan aid economic recovery in Europe? [2-4 sentences]

    5. To what extent did the Marshall Plan succeed in accomplishing its goal of containing the spread of communism? Why? [5 sentences minimum]

The Idea of the Marshall Plan

In 1946, George F. Kennan, a State Department Russian specialist, wrote a long telegram from Moscow analyzing Soviet intentions in Europe. Kennan concluded that the Soviets, surrounded by capitalist countries, were insecure and wanted to expand their power. Kennan called for a “long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.”

Secretary of State George Marshall appointed Kennan to head a planning group to assess whether European nations could resist Soviet expansion. Kennan quickly reported that the war had left Europe in terrible economic shape. He reported on the grim realities in Europe:

  • Many survivors of the war were homeless, hungry, and unemployed.

  • Inflation robbed the wages of those who were employed.

  • Factories, railroads, bridges, electric power plants, and water systems were damaged or destroyed.

  • Farmers suffered from drought and when they brought their products to market, city dwellers could not afford them.

  • Trade and the flow of capital needed to finance reconstruction were interrupted.

Kennan recommended that the United States help rebuild “the economic health and vigor of European society.” He saw this not just as humanitarian aid, but as the best way to fight communism in Europe. He believed that the European nations receiving U.S. aid needed to operate as an economic unit, much like the 13 colonies did after the American Revolution. Eventually, he argued, a rebuilt Europe would benefit the United States by once again being able to buy American factory and farm products. More importantly, an economically strong Europe would stop the spread of communism.

Only a few weeks after President Truman requested aid for Greece and Turkey, Kennan and other top advisors to Secretary of State Marshall convinced him of the need for a massive aid program for all of Europe.
On June 5, 1947, Secretary of State Marshall made an innovative proposal in a speech at Harvard University. Noting the disastrous conditions in Europe, Marshall called for a “joint effort” by the European nations to plan the rebuilding of Europe. The United States would provide “friendly aid” in drafting the plan, but this was really “the business of the Europeans.”
Marshall promised that once the plan was in place, the United States would provide the necessary funds to make it work. “Our policy,” Marshall made clear, “is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos.”
Making the Marshall Plan

Marshall even invited the Soviets to participate. But Kennan predicted that the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries under its control would refuse to join. He believed that Stalin, the Soviet dictator, would never go along with an American-inspired plan that required the free exchange of economic information.

As predicted, the Soviets refused Marshall’s invitation to help develop a plan to rebuild Europe. They charged that his plan was a scheme to dominate Europe economically. Under Soviet control, the Eastern European nations also declined to participate.
In July 1947, 16 Western European nations met in Paris to put together an economic recovery plan. But the Americans soon became disappointed about the direction of the planning. Rather than a unified plan for Europe as a whole, each country was developing its own “shopping list.” In addition, the French argued that western Germany, occupied by Britain, France, and the United States, should remain economically weak and not receive much Marshall Plan aid. The French believed this would prevent Germany from ever again going to war.
Marshall insisted that the plan must establish an independent economy, a reasonable standard of living, and the elimination of trade barriers for the whole of Western Europe. Marshall expected all this to occur within four years. He also stressed the importance of full German participation. He saw it as necessary for the economic recovery of Western Europe.
With this push from Marshall, the Europeans compromised and submitted a plan to the United States in September 1947. The Europeans said they needed $19 billion to carry out the Marshall Plan.
Selling the Marshall Plan

In November 1947, President Truman called a special session of Congress to request immediate aid for France, Italy, and Austria, which all had active communist parties. Truman then followed up with the main Marshall Plan funding request of $17 billion over four years.

The Republican Party had been out of power during the Great Depression and war years. But it gained control of Congress in the 1946 election on a platform of reducing government spending and returning to an isolationist foreign policy. Congress and the president were completely at odds. But Marshall commanded great respect, and Truman put Marshall’s name on the proposal.
The Truman administration assembled many experts to present arguments for funding the Marshall Plan. They pointed out that the Marshall Plan would do many necessary things—from providing humanitarian help for war-torn Europe to preventing another economic depression in the United States by making Europe a market for American products.
But the most powerful argument for Congress and the American public was that the Marshall Plan would contain the spread of communism. In February 1948, at the peak of the debate on the Marshall Plan, communists overthrew the government of Czechoslovakia. Shortly afterward, President Truman spoke to Congress. “There are times in world history,” he said, “when it is far wiser to act than to hesitate.”
Congress moved quickly to approve emergency aid to France, Italy, and Austria. The lawmakers then passed the Economic Cooperation Act of 1948, which funded the Marshall Plan at a slightly lower level than Truman had requested. During the next four years, the United States provided over $13 billion in aid to 16 Western European nations, including West Germany. (That is more than $100 billion in today’s dollars.)
The Marshall Plan in Action

The basic purpose of the Marshall Plan, according to the Economic Cooperation Act, was to ensure “individual liberty, free institutions, and genuine independence” by restoring “sound economic conditions.” Between 1948 and 1951, the Marshall Plan attempted to implement several economic strategies and reforms to rebuild Western Europe. It aimed to:

  • meet immediate needs for food, medicine, and housing.

  • increase industrial and agricultural production rapidly by rebuilding factories, railroads, bridges, etc.

  • expand trade among the European nations and with the rest of the world.

  • combat inflation and establish financial stability.

  • create a common market free of national trade barriers.

Some Marshall Plan aid came as technical assistance. The U.S. Economic Cooperation Administration arranged for technical aid and advisors from American businesses, banks, farm organizations, and labor unions. Advisory groups worked on improving European production, business organization, and labor-management relations.
Most aid came as cash grants or loans ($11.8 billion). The Europeans used this money to buy essential goods like wheat and oil and to reconstruct factories and housing.
The Europeans decided how to divide the American aid among the 16 nations. They sometimes disagreed over how much each should get. The United States constantly pressured them to compromise and make “collective use” of the aid to rebuild Europe as a whole.
Many Europeans were skeptical of American intentions, particularly in France. But as the Marshall Plan proceeded, skepticism dropped off. In a 1947 poll, 47 percent of French citizens thought Marshall’s idea for aiding Europe was mainly to stimulate markets for U.S. goods. Only 18 percent looked on the aid as a “sincere desire to help France.” By 1953, however, 57 percent of the French people polled believed the Marshall Plan was “indispensable” or “useful” for France. Only 14 percent expressed negative opinions, and these views came overwhelmingly from communist sympathizers.
Did the Marshall Plan Succeed?

By the time the Marshall Plan ended in 1951, industrial production in Western Europe had risen 40 percent above the prewar level. Trade and exports also increased far above what they were before the war. People had returned to work and their standard of living was rising. Politically, communist parties lost influence everywhere. After Czechoslovakia, no European nation fell to communism. Also, the economic revival of West Germany helped rather than threatened its neighbors.

The Marshall Plan did not cure all of Europe’s economic problems. Western Europe was still importing 30 percent of its food in 1951. Inflation remained a problem in some countries. The Marshall Plan’s proposal of a common market for Europe remained just an idea. National trade barriers continued to block the free flow of goods and services, which would have lowered prices. In the next decades, Europeans eventually created a common market and other institutions that today make up the European Union.
George C. Marshall, the professional soldier who inspired the rebuilding of Western Europe, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953. The United States, by investing in the future of Europe, cut the cycle of wars that had plagued that continent for centuries. In doing so, the United States turned away from its traditional isolationism to become the leader of the free world. Winston Churchill called Marshall’s decision to rebuild Europe “the highest level of statesmanship.”

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