This decorated Sicilian donkey cart depicts the goals and benefits of the Marshall Plan.

Photograph by Emory Kristof, National Geographic

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  • On June 5, 1947, American Secretary of State George C. Marshall delivered a speech at Harvard University calling for a plan to help Europe recover from the economic devastation of World War II. Marshall outlined an aid program in which the United States would invest billions of dollars to help rebuild the war-torn continent. The Marshall Plan (officially called the European Recovery Program) was responsible for distributing more than $12 billion to modernize European industry, remove trade barriers, and increase production.


    Marshall knew the next few years would be difficult for the nations of Europe. He wanted the United States to lead the fight "...against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos." Although the aid package was extended to all European nations, the Soviet Union and its allies did not accept it. These Eastern Bloc nations did not want the U.S. to exert economic and political control over their government.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    aid Noun

    help or assistance.

    continent Noun

    one of the seven main land masses on Earth.

    Encyclopedic Entry: continent
    Eastern Bloc Noun

    (1945-1989) states and nations in central and eastern Europe under the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union.

    economic Adjective

    having to do with money.

    exert Verb

    to force or pressure.

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    increase Verb

    to add or become larger.

    industry Noun

    activity that produces goods and services.

    Marshall Plan Noun

    (1947-1951) U.S. aid program to help European nations recover from World War II. Officially called the European Recovery Program.

    nation Noun

    political unit made of people who share a common territory.

    Encyclopedic Entry: nation
    Soviet Union Noun

    (1922-1991) large northern Eurasian nation that had a communist government. Also called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the USSR.

    trade Noun

    buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.

    World War II Noun

    (1939-1945) armed conflict between the Allies (represented by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) and the Axis (represented by Germany, Italy, and Japan.)