World War II devastated Europe in many ways. Germany laid in ruins, and large areas of other countries in Western Europe were also destroyed. While Great Britain was spared some of the physical destruction that afflicted other countries, six years of war weakened the nation’s finances. The harsh winter from 1946 to 1947 exacerbated existing problems; Western Europe was in crisis. President Truman and his advisors worried that some countries would turn to Communism to find a way out of their difficulties. In response, the Truman Administration proposed the Marshall Plan, a program of foreign aid designed to help nations in crisis to successfully recover without turning to Communism. In late March 1948, Truman gave a major foreign policy address in which he pledged American support for the Western European nations who had signed a mutual defense treaty, the Brussels Pact, that same day. Truman remarked that he was certain “that the determination of the free countries of Europe to protect themselves will be matched by an equal determination on our part to help them to protect themselves.” Truman and his advisors believed that the western occupation zones of Germany must be included as part of a free, prosperous, and democratic Western Europe if that region were to have the strength to build its economic and political independence.
On April 3, 1948, Truman signed the European Recovery Act, which established an institutional structure for the Marshall Plan. Under the auspices of the European Recovery Act, The United States provided billions of dollars to Western Europe to help them rebuild their economies. Truman remarked that he was certain “that the determination of the free countries of Europe to protect themselves will be matched by an equal determination on our part to help them to protect themselves.”