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Destruction and Reconstruction in Caen, France, Two Years after the World War II Allied Invasion, photograph by Acme Newspictures, Inc., 1946

Two years after the end of World War II, Europe lay in ruins, with cities and economies still devastated, and millions of war survivors displaced and facing starvation. In a speech on June 5, 1947, U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposed that the United States create and fund a plan for Europe’s revitalization, known as the Marshall Plan.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Destruction and Reconstruction in Caen, France

Providing Aid to Europe

After World War II, Congress approved foreign aid for war-torn nations and grappled with the Soviet Union’s aggressive efforts to impose communism on sovereign nations. As the United States faced a new “Cold War” with the Soviets, Congress approved $400 million of military and economic aid to Greece and Turkey in 1947. Less than a year later, Congress authorized legislation to provide $13 billion of aid to Western European nations, known as the Marshall Plan.

The bill constitutes the foundation of a long delayed and desperately needed foreign policy, for the guidance of our nation in discharging the inescapable responsibilities as world leader in behalf of universal, personal, and national freedom, security, and peace.

Representative Charles A. Eaton of New Jersey, Speech to the U.S. House of Representatives on the Economic Cooperation Act (Marshall Plan), March 23, 1948