Chapter section from:
Airbridge to Berlin --- The Berlin Crisis of 1948, its Origins and Aftermath
By D.M. Giangreco and Robert E. Griffin
(Used with permission)
In hindsight, passage of the European Recovery Program of 1948, or Marshall Plan, seems almost a miraculous event. It was launched by the administration of an unelected, "lame duck" president whose loss of the upcoming election appeared to be such a virtual certainty that both press and politicians openly talked about his administration being "scheduled" to leave office in 1949. Indeed, President Harry S Truman's personal popularity was perceived to be so low by his own party that he was actually pressed not to assist in the congressional campaign of 1946.
A recovery program of continental dimensions, the Marshall Plan expended more than $12.5 billion (equivalent to roughly $60 billion today) at a time when:
- a worried Pentagon, virtually disarmed by postwar budget cuts, was making a solid case for increasing funding.
- numerous domestic agencies were, with heavy congressional support, clamoring for enlarged welfare programs.
- the US Treasury Department was intent on building upon the existing budget surpluses.
- the president's party did not hold a majority in either house of Congress.
That the Marshall Plan became a reality was due to the energetic efforts of many individuals: the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Arthur H. Vandenberg; British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin; eminent Republicans Henry L. Stimson and Robert Patterson who had both become secretaries of war under Roosevelt; Truman himself; and, of course, Secretary of State George C. Marshall, a man venerated by Truman as being "the greatest living American." Curiously, Joseph Stalin was also a key figure behind the passage of the Marshall Plan and Truman once remarked that without his "crazy" moves, "we never would have had our foreign policy. . .we never could have got a thing from Congress."