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Secretary of State George C. Marshall – Address at New York Herald-Tribute Forum – October 1947
Europe was devastated by years of conflict during World War II. Millions of people had been killed or wounded. Industrial and residential centers in England, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Belgium and elsewhere lay in ruins. Much of Europe was on the brink of famine as agricultural production had been disrupted by war. Transportation infrastructure was in shambles. The only major power in the world that was not significantly damaged was the United States.
In October of 1947, Secretary Marshall gave an address to the meeting of the New York Herald Tribune Forum outlining his plan to economic recovery to the war-ravaged countries in Europe:
Secretary Marshall: “We cannot stand indifferent to the fate of the nations who are having great difficulty in recovering from the consequences of the war and are looking to us for assistance. These are people who hold the same views of international conduct as we do. If we are to be successful in our quest for peace in a decent world we will be constantly in need of their strong cooperation.
“When I made a public statement at Harvard on June 5 last,” to quote from a more recent statement of mine, “it was plainly evident that a situation had developed where we must immediately choose between two lines of action—either to concern ourselves solely with our own internal affairs despite our heavy commitments in Germany, Austria and Italy, while Europe suffered a complete political and economic demoralization; or we must take action to assist Europe in avoiding a disastrous disintegration with tragic consequences for the world. Therefore, the suggestion was made that the European countries, under the pressure of the dilemma which faced them, should join together in working out a mutual basis of cooperation for their own rehabilitation and should determine, on a business-like basis, the degree and character of the outside assistance they calculated would be urgently needed over and above what was humanly possible for them to accomplish for themselves.”2
Our Government has realized from the first the magnitude of this problem and the numerous pitfalls that lie in the way of its solution. Despite the urgency of the situation, sufficient time had to be allowed for the collection of all pertinent facts and opinions and a thorough study of all the elements, both foreign and domestic, which enter into the problem. We have the preliminary report of the 16 nations who met in Paris this summer. We are beginning to receive reports from the various governmental groups who have been examining into our own resources and their relationship to possible demands of the European situation. Commissions of Congress who have traveled extensively throughout Europe are returning to this country and the results of their investigations are becoming available.
I think it is important that you should understand something of the procedure which is now being followed by your Government in arriving at a conclusion and preparing a program for presentation to the committees of Congress and later to the Congress itself. At the present time, in fact every day of the week, including Saturdays and Sundays, a large portion of the personnel of the State Department and representative groups of other interested departments and agencies, such as the Treasury Department, the Departments of Commerce and Interior, the Departments of Agriculture and Labor, for example, are engaged in daily sessions working together on data which I have described, to determine exactly what should be the program of this Government.
I do not believe any project of our Government has ever received more careful study and preparation than has this problem of the reconstruction of Europe. And I am certain that no governmental effort has ever enjoyed such complete cooperation on the part of all the agencies concerned. When it is completed it will truly be a program of the United States Government and not of any one department or agency. Your contribution should be of great value in bringing the people, the public opinion of the country, to the support of this great effort.
There has been constant reference to a Marshall Plan. The reference to me personally was unfortunate, but the reference to a plan was definitely misleading. There was no plan. There was a suggestion. Now we are in the process of drafting a plan as a proposal to the Congress of the United States. That is the situation at the moment.
The period of study and preparation is thus drawing to a close. The time of action is at hand.”
Here is that address, as it was given in New York, on October 22, 1947.