Two years after World War II ended, Europe was an economic wreck. Poverty and disease were rampant. Dislocation was still a problem. Even in England, food rations were tighter than during wartime. The Soviet Union loomed as an ominous presence eager to export its communist ideology, and doing so with force in Eastern Europe and with chicanery in Western Europe.
Fearful that continued economic desperation would foster socialist/communist sentiment, Secretary of State George C. Marshall crafted a massive economic aid program to assist European countries. He announced the “Marshall Plan” in a dry, 12-minute speech at the June 5, 1947, Harvard commencement address.
Eighteen European countries responded. Over the next five years, more than 12 billion dollars in economic aid was dispersed to Europe, helping to inject economic activity and thwart the spread of communism. Marshall won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.
Click on link to download document. The document contains the speech given by the U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall (Harvard, June 5, 1947) outlining the plan to assist European countries post-WWII, and to contain the spread of communism.