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Saving a Continent: The Untold Story of the Marshall Plan

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The imperial powers of the nineteenth century, having weakened one another in World War I, destroyed themselves in World War II. In the aftermath of the war, Europe was in shambles. Nearly all of France, Germany, Italy, and Poland had been devastated. Bridges and roads were gone. Rivers and canals were clogged with sunken ships and fallen bridges. Unexploded bombs and shel The imperial powers of the nineteenth century, having weakened one another in World War I, destroyed themselves in World War II. In the aftermath of the war, Europe was in shambles. Nearly all of France, Germany, Italy, and Poland had been devastated. Bridges and roads were gone. Rivers and canals were clogged with sunken ships and fallen bridges. Unexploded bombs and shells littered fields. Postwar inflation whipsawed the survivors: cigarettes, coffee, and chocolate were better currencies than Deutsche marks. Prices rose in Italy to thirty-five times their prewar level. Before the year was over, disastrous harvests across the continent would leave Europeans hungry, and, in some places, even starving. Only two great powers remained strong enough to consider taking over, or materially influencing, Europe - the United States and the Soviet Union. United States Secretary of State George C. Marshall had a plan. Here's the story of that plan and the fascinating man who put it together.

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The imperial powers of the nineteenth century, having weakened one another in World War I, destroyed themselves in World War II. In the aftermath of the war, Europe was in shambles. Nearly all of France, Germany, Italy, and Poland had been devastated. Bridges and roads were gone. Rivers and canals were clogged with sunken ships and fallen bridges. Unexploded bombs and shel The imperial powers of the nineteenth century, having weakened one another in World War I, destroyed themselves in World War II. In the aftermath of the war, Europe was in shambles. Nearly all of France, Germany, Italy, and Poland had been devastated. Bridges and roads were gone. Rivers and canals were clogged with sunken ships and fallen bridges. Unexploded bombs and shells littered fields. Postwar inflation whipsawed the survivors: cigarettes, coffee, and chocolate were better currencies than Deutsche marks. Prices rose in Italy to thirty-five times their prewar level. Before the year was over, disastrous harvests across the continent would leave Europeans hungry, and, in some places, even starving. Only two great powers remained strong enough to consider taking over, or materially influencing, Europe - the United States and the Soviet Union. United States Secretary of State George C. Marshall had a plan. Here's the story of that plan and the fascinating man who put it together.

30 review for Saving a Continent: The Untold Story of the Marshall Plan

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bou

    This book deals with the Marshall Plan, the American initiative in which the United States gave over $12 billion dollars (approximately $120 billion in today's value) to hep rebuild the Western European economies after the end of World War II. Although the aim of the Marshall plan was to build up all of the European economies, and the offer also included the Eastern European nations, it was secretly decided to make sure the communist countries would not accept. Although a number of nations was ea This book deals with the Marshall Plan, the American initiative in which the United States gave over $12 billion dollars (approximately $120 billion in today's value) to hep rebuild the Western European economies after the end of World War II. Although the aim of the Marshall plan was to build up all of the European economies, and the offer also included the Eastern European nations, it was secretly decided to make sure the communist countries would not accept. Although a number of nations was eager to receive the help (Poland, Czechoslowakia) they were prevented by Stalin to attend the initial meetings. This meant that the help was only limited for the Western European countries and therefore contribute to the second, more secret aim: to prevent the rise of communism, especially in France and Italy. The offer was structured in such a way, that the Europeans themselves were asked to come up with a detailed plan. However, Germany posed a problem. It was clear that in order to succeed, Germany's industry had to be built up. The French were not happy with this and decided to make sure Germany would never become the industrial powerhouse it once was. However, in the end they had to give in. In the end, the Marshall Plan succeeded in its goals. It contributed to the Pax Americana, made the European and American economies dependent on each other and prevented the United States to slip back into its isolationism. The book is divided in useful chapters, each dealing chronologically with the start and implementation of the Marshall Plan. It succeeds in delivering a good overview of the Marshall Plan, its coming of age, the diplomatic meetings and the implementation.

  2. 4 out of 5

    King Ævil

    A history of the development of the Marshall Plan and its role in widening the split between the Soviet Union and the West, centered on the diplomatic machinations among the European States while they drew up the specifics of required aid. Overall, a nice introduction to what the Marshall Plan was; however, I was hoping for more about the state of Europe at the end of the war. How were governments functioning; how were people getting food and shelter? I suspect the need for the Marshall Plan was A history of the development of the Marshall Plan and its role in widening the split between the Soviet Union and the West, centered on the diplomatic machinations among the European States while they drew up the specifics of required aid. Overall, a nice introduction to what the Marshall Plan was; however, I was hoping for more about the state of Europe at the end of the war. How were governments functioning; how were people getting food and shelter? I suspect the need for the Marshall Plan was more acute than was let on. Also, normally I enjoy hearing about the background and personality of important figures in history, but here there were so many I quickly got lost in the details and skipped the personal descriptions.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dj

    While I have read a great deal about WWII, I haven't really given much time to reading anything in regards to what came after. So this was a perfect book to start with. Not a deep or through look at the postwar Europe, but it gives a nice overview and a place to start looking for more information. For others this is a good starter book on the subject, but I am not sure how much untold it really reveals. That would be for someone else to decide. It is after all my first dive in these waters.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    Wow. This covered an aspect of American history that I was only vaguely familiar with. I knew there was a Marshall Plan and that it helped rebuild Europe, but I didn't know the mechanics and the politics. Good read, but a little dry at times.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    Gives a good background look on the development of the Marshall Plan. However, I was looking for something more hands on and in that regards, this book fails.It's well written, but not what I was looking for, though.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    I had a special interest in the Marshall Plan. Fresh out of university, with a master's in Economics (thanks to the GI Bill), my father was employed by the US Government and, as part of the Marshall Plan, he went to The Netherlands (where, not surprisingly, he met the woman who was to become my mother). I always knew it was economic aid to Europe, but that was all I knew. I found the story fascinating - the Marshall Plan from conception to implementation. I am always amazed at no matter how much I had a special interest in the Marshall Plan. Fresh out of university, with a master's in Economics (thanks to the GI Bill), my father was employed by the US Government and, as part of the Marshall Plan, he went to The Netherlands (where, not surprisingly, he met the woman who was to become my mother). I always knew it was economic aid to Europe, but that was all I knew. I found the story fascinating - the Marshall Plan from conception to implementation. I am always amazed at no matter how much things change (politically), how much they stay the same. In other words; different players same exact game. I thoroughly enjoyed Charles L. Mee's writing style - he was able to take a potentially dry topic and make it interesting. His description of the people involved brought them out and gave them personalities. I, who cannot stand to sit in a meeting for more than 30 minutes, have a great deal of respect for those who can endure hours upon hours of meetings in which everyone has to have their say and flex their political or diplomatic muscle. It also was crystal clear to me that if the powers that be want something strongly enough they can get it passed by congress even if it is made up of the opposition political party.

  7. 4 out of 5

    David

    Moastly the story of what was done, in the US and Europe, to develop the Marshall Plan. The last chapter, about the plan in action, starts to gag itself on statistics. It's one thing to cite stats for Europe overall or for one country. But then to put in the same stats for every country. Plus, given that the Marshall Plan was supposed to be a 4-year plan, stats showing economic growth up and into the 1970s (20-25 years after the Marshall Plan was implemented/ended), their relevance is questionab Moastly the story of what was done, in the US and Europe, to develop the Marshall Plan. The last chapter, about the plan in action, starts to gag itself on statistics. It's one thing to cite stats for Europe overall or for one country. But then to put in the same stats for every country. Plus, given that the Marshall Plan was supposed to be a 4-year plan, stats showing economic growth up and into the 1970s (20-25 years after the Marshall Plan was implemented/ended), their relevance is questionable. It was an interesting story, though.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Bunkers

    I very much enjoyed this historical story. The author does a good job of making diplomacy more exciting than it probably was in practice. Giving nice biographical information on the key players, and making the book as much about them as the plan itself was a very good choice. If you want to know how the Marshall Plan was created, this is a great start. My only complaint would be that it talked very little about the Marshall Plan while it was running.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Lankford

    Good background but lacked some details While a great read on creation and development of Marshall Plan - I would have like a chapter or two on the plan itself and its impact on America.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Henry Lawrence

    Extremely good, fast read. This story of helping Europe and how they had to be dragged into it is fascinating and a subject I wasn't familiar with.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin F. Witt

    Very informative I am sure that this book corrected many misconceptions about what the Marshall plan actually was and what it accomplished.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ronald R. Huggler

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Hembrock

  14. 4 out of 5

    Karen

  15. 4 out of 5

    Edward Laslett

  16. 4 out of 5

    John Tompkins

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

  18. 5 out of 5

    Peter D. Beznoska

  19. 4 out of 5

    Duane

  20. 4 out of 5

    Aasim

  21. 5 out of 5

    Fred

    This book is much more about "PLANNING FOR Saving a Continent" than about actually saving it. The first set of chapters covers the initial realization-of-need for the Marshall Plan. The majority of the chapters talk about the political wrangling to get the plan acceptable to the US State department (controlled by the Democrats), to the US Congress (controlled by the Republicans) and to the Western European countries themselves. Only the last chapter talked a bit about the actual execution of the This book is much more about "PLANNING FOR Saving a Continent" than about actually saving it. The first set of chapters covers the initial realization-of-need for the Marshall Plan. The majority of the chapters talk about the political wrangling to get the plan acceptable to the US State department (controlled by the Democrats), to the US Congress (controlled by the Republicans) and to the Western European countries themselves. Only the last chapter talked a bit about the actual execution of the Marshall plan. There were several interesting tidbits. For example, the US said it was extending the offer of aid to all European countries who wished to participate; but let it be known to key European diplomats that planning procedures should be proposed such that Russia would refuse to participate. As a result, the Marshall Plan caused the “Iron Curtain” to fall over Eastern Europe sooner than it otherwise would have. As another example, France wanted to dismantle German factories and move them to France (France was quite reluctant to see German factories rebuilt in Germany). But the US position was to get Europe back on its feet as fast as possible – and that meant not moving factories around. Regardless, each European country had its own national outlook, and so it took time and compromise to develop a single all-Europe plan instead of a set of individual national plans. Such planning is difficult (and, at times, frustrating). And so a book about such planning, though of historical interest, is something that can rarely be made into an interesting book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    kurt kern

  23. 5 out of 5

    Vikas Datta

    The little-known story of a true enefactor and a man who knew how to win the peace...

  24. 5 out of 5

    roger liberty

  25. 4 out of 5

    ROBERT PHILLIPS

  26. 5 out of 5

    Hari Nair

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  28. 4 out of 5

    Anne

  29. 4 out of 5

    lylloff kirsten

  30. 4 out of 5

    Terry TerBush

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