A Legacy Remembered: 70th Anniversary of the Marshall Plan Signed Into Law


On April 3, in cooperation with the George C. Marshall Foundation, the United States Diplomacy Center held an event recognizing the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the European Recovery Program, more commonly known as the Marshall Plan.  125 guests attended, including Marshall Foundation and Diplomacy Center Foundation Board members, academics, and Department of State staff. Mary Kane, the Center’s director, welcomed guests and introduced Michelle Giuda, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, who previewed the event’s topic and guest speakers:  Dr. Alison Mann, Public Historian of the U.S. Diplomacy Center; Dr. Rob Havers, President of the Marshall Foundation; Dr. Daniel Hamilton, the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation Professor at School for Advanced International Studies; Dr. Benn Steil, Director of International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of The Marshall Plan:  Dawn of the Cold War; A. Wess Mitchell, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs; Ambassador Thomas Pickering (ret.); David O’Sullivan, European Union Ambassador to the United States; Hendrik Schuwer, Dutch Ambassador to the United States; and Peter Wittig, German Ambassador to the United States.

The first half of the program focused on the historic importance and lasting legacy of the Marshall Plan. Dr. Mann explained how the Diplomacy Center features aspects of the Plan on its social media platforms and outlined the Center’s future exhibit on the Plan, which will focus on its impact on Europe as well as the American economy and workforce.  Dr. Havers paid tribute to the character of George C. Marshall, calling him a visionary and strategic leader.  Dr. Hamilton noted the Plan’s influence on continuing Euro-American trade partnerships, and Dr. Steil discussed how the Plan exacerbated existing tensions between the U.S. and Soviet Union, precipitating the Cold War.

In the second half of the program, American and European diplomats discussed the Plan’s enduring influence.  A. Wess Mitchell described the Plan as an “act of strategic foresight,” restoring Europe to order while strengthening America’s economy.  Ambassadors Wittig, Schuwer, and O’Sullivan spoke of the Plan’s impact on their respective countries, and all stressed a common point: the enduring American-European alliance had its roots in the Marshall Plan.  Ambassador Wittig noted that Germany remains grateful for America’s aid to a former adversary.  Ambassador Schuwer took the audience back to the dire situation in the Netherlands in 1947 with 70 percent of the infrastructure was destroyed by deliberate flooding by retreating Germans.  Within 10 days of the Plan’s signing, he continued, a ship filled with life-saving American-grown wheat from Galveston, Texas, arrived in Rotterdam to a 3:00 a.m. firework display.  Ambassador O’Sullivan brought a continental perspective, saying the Plan encouraged European cooperation,  paving the way for the creation of the European Union.  Fittingly, he reminded the audience that, with the exception of the Balkan Wars, the continent has enjoyed peace, freedom, and prosperity for the past 70 years. Ambassador Pickering stressed the importance of the critical transatlantic relationship and moderated a lively question and answer session.  Dr. Havers concluded the informative and engaging program.