The Marshall Plan, officially called the European Recovery Program and named after U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall, was a plan used by the United States of America to help fund the rebuild of the economies of Europe after World War II and stop the spread of Communism.
After the end of World War II much of Europe was in ruins. Many cities, transport infrastructure, and industries had been completely destroyed due to bombing. Millions of people had become refugees and there were severe food shortages all over Europe. Although the Allies had won the War, it came at a great cost and the economy of every country in Europe was devastated.
The United States did not want another war between European countries. They also did not want Communism to spread from the USSR. The American government, who had limited home front damage to rebuild and still had a wealthy economy decided the best solution to this threat would be to make Europe rich again so there would be no interest in the ideology of Communism, and also to make these countries politically stable and interconnected so there would be no threat of war again.
Sixteen different countries received nearly $13 billion ($200 billion USD in today’s money)in aid from the United States from 1947 until 1951, firstly in the form of food aid and later in the form of investment in industries. The majority of the money went to the United Kingdom, France, Italy and West Germany.
The Marshall Plan was rejected by the USSR because they felt it would mean that the United States would control these countries. They also disagreed with the plan because it would mean that there would be an interconnected European economy as a result of the aid and this went against their strict Communist ideology.
As a result of this Soviet controlled countries including East Germany, Poland and Hungary. The Soviet Union instead distributed a much smaller amount of money to Communist European nations in what was referred to as the Molotov Plan.
The Marshall Plan undoubtedly helped many European countries to recover after the devastation of World War II, but it is still controversial today among some historians who argue that it was primarily a way of strengthening American influence in Europe.