Realizing the Marshall Plan

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
3 days of class time, homework, and assessment (may be done in class or for homework)
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
Students will work in groups to analyze primary source documents to investigate the Marshall Plan was and its controversies.
  • Students will work in groups to analyze primary source documents to investigate
    • What the Marshall Plan was
    • What was controversial about it – support for and opposition to
  • Students will do independent research on various secondary sources and report findings back to their groups
  • Students will do independent research on primary sources of Marshall’s testimony in Congress and Congressional records, reporting their findings back to their groups
  • Following an analysis of the documents and secondary sources, students will write an essay addressing the following prompt:
  • Identify the circumstances and impetus behind the creation of the Marshall Plan. Based on the documents and evidence you have studied, discuss the factors leading to its passage and implementation. Evaluate to what extent compromise and bipartisanship may have played a role.
Rationale (why are you doing this?)

Today, I am acutely aware of how difficult it is for a president to pass a comprehensive plan through Congress. Specifically referring to the Affordable Health Care plan, Obama is faced with severe criticism, and strong opposition. Truman was somewhat in a similar situation – the democrats had lost control of Congress. The European Recovery Program (Marshall Plan) came at a time after a world crisis – WWII, and the Affordable Health Care was introduced, similarly after a crisis – the financial meltdown of 2008, or Great Recession. Both were radical programs that not only involve(d) huge amounts of money, but new ways of thinking, breaking traditional philosophies of governmental responsibility. The purpose of this lesson study is to look at the arguments presented in Congress over the Marshall Plan and analyze how, despite so much resistance to it by strong Republicans, it made it through and was passed.

Lesson Objectives - the student will
  • Determine the circumstances that led to the development of the European Recovery Act.
  • Analyze various positions and arguments supporting and opposing the plan.
  • Evaluate the decisive factors which led to its passage:
    • Role of the press
    • Studies – fact finding and analyses
    • Committees – Harriman, the CCMP
    • Propaganda
    • Recent Soviet aggression in Eastern Europe – Czechoslovakia
    • Communist factions in war torn countries being supported and funded by Soviets
    • Personalities of major players
    • Investigations – observations abroad
    • American public
District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met
  • California State Content Standards for History Social-Science 11.4:
  • “Students trace the rise of the United States to its role as a world power in the twentieth century.
    • 6.  Trace the declining role of Great Britain and the expanding role of the United States in world affairs after World War II.”
  • California State Content Standards for History Social-Science 11.7:
  • “Students analyze America’s participation in world War II.
    • 8.  Analyze the effect of massive aid given to Western Europe under the Marshall Plan to rebuild itself after the war and the importance of a rebuilt Europe to the U.S.”
  • Common Core Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies – Grades 11-12:
    • Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained form specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
    • Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
    • Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Kansas Standards

Benchmark 4: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points of the World Since 1945. (A) analyzes the Cold War as the competition between two competing ideologies or world views and its impact on various regions of the world.

Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills. (A) uses primary and secondary sources about an event in world history to develop a credible interpretation of the event, forming conclusions about its meaning (e.g., use provided primary and secondary sources to interpret a historical-based conclusion).


Missouri Standards

3bM. Analyze all significant wars of the twentieth century, including: causes, comparisons, consequences and peace efforts

6o. Determine the causes, consequences and possible resolutions of cultural conflicts

7a. Distinguish between and analyze primary sources and secondary sources

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed

Seeing the Victory Through: The 50th Anniversary of the Marshall Plan

Blue Print for Recovery by Michael J. Hogan

Influences on the Congressional Decision to pass the Marshall plan

By  Harold Hitchens

How the Marshall Plan Came About by Meredith Hindley

Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed
  • Seven Quotes on the Marshall Plan – taken from Blueprint for Recovery. (See above)
  • Memorandum of Conversation   Council of Foreign Minister, Moscow, April 15, 1947, prepared by Charles E. Bohlen, Soviet expert and Secretary Marshall’s interpreter
  • Summary of the Department’s Position on the Content of a European Recovery Plan. Department of State. August 26, 1947.
  • “How the Marshall Plan Came About.” Although this was prepared by Meredith Hindley, and could be considered a secondary source, I am listing it as a primary source, because it is full of correspondence between Marshall and his aides, which are primary sources. Humanities. National Foundation of the Arts and Humanities. November/December 1998.
  • “Marshall Plan Beyond Reason in Present Form, Sen. Taft Says.” Los Angeles Times; October 29, 1947.
  • “Marshall Plan Gaining in Favor, Poll Discloses.” Los Angeles Times; December 7, 1947.
  • “Vandenberg Wants a National Debate on Marshall Plan.” The New York Times; December 22, 1947.
  • “Senator Doubts U.S. Can Stand Marshall Plan.” Los Angeles Times; December 26, 1947.
  • Congressional Testimonies. 1948 80th Congress, 2nd Session. George C. Marshall Foundation.
  • Congressional Record – House. March 25, 1948. p. 3534.
  • Congressional Record – House. March 31, 1948. P. 3831.
  • Appendix to the Congressional Record. “Radio Networks Use Their Monopoly Power in Irresponsible Fashion.” Extension of Remarks of Hon. Max Schwabe of Missouri in the House of Representatives. Tuesday, February 3, 1948. p. A678.
  • Various pictures (see file included) from The Legacy of the Marshall Plan book provided by the Conference, July 9-13, 2012.


Worksheets needed: (Included in file)

  • The 5 Con Questions
  • Questions to Accompany Council of Foreign Ministers, Moscow.
  • Interpreting and Analyzing Secondary Sources on the Marshall Plan
  • Notes from Congressional Records
  • Prompt Analysis Rubric
Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?

Day 1:            

  • Students are divided into groups of 3 or 4. Each group is given one of the quotes from the resource: “Seven Quotes on the Marshall Plan.” Using the worksheet for the 5 Con Questions, they will develop questions. Each group will then present their findings to the class. (5-10 min)
  • 5 Con questions


  • Students are then given the Memorandum of Conversation at the Council of Foreign Ministers Moscow. They read this together in their groups, answering the questions on the worksheet Questions to Accompany . . .  Class discussion of what students found noteworthy. (25-30 min)


  • Students are given Summary of Department’s Position on the Content of a European Recovery Program. This is too long to read, however, it is worth looking over and writing questions based on those in the 5 Con Questions worksheet. (10-15 min)


  • Wrap-up and homework:
    • Students are directed to keep their questions, processing the information they have looked at, as we will begin class tomorrow reviewing the State Department’s Summary.
    • Each student in the group will then choose a secondary source to read from the selection in the Secondary Source file and fill out the Interpreting and Analyzing . . . worksheet and prepare to present to group.


Day 2:

  • Students are placed in different groups, according to the Secondary Source document they read. In their new groups, they share the questions their old groups came up with from yesterday’s class assignment. Class share – debrief – any outstanding questions? (10 min)


  • In their new groups, they go over the secondary source they read for homework (they should have all read the same article) and compare notes, discussing what they learned and what they found interesting. (15-20 min)


  • Students then return to the groups they were in Day 1. Each student then shares with his/her group the particular secondary source they were assigned. Each student asks questions and takes notes on each student’s presentation. (20 min)


  • Wrap-up and homework:
    • Class share – what did the articles reveal?
    • Each student is assigned to read a Congressional testimony (see file for Student Independent research of primary sources) and to fill out their portion of the worksheet, Notes from Congressional Records.


Day 3:

  • As students enter the room, the cartoon, The Bigger Question< from the file Primary Sources from Conference book file, will be projected on the screen. Class discussion about its interpretation. (5 min)


  • Each group will have present on their desks 1 pamphlet prepared by Munro Leaf for the Committee for the MARSHAL PLAN to Aid European Recovery. (See the file Primary Sources from Conference book) Also on the desks will be a copy of each of the newspaper articles. The students will then be assigned to find the reason in the pamphlet that corresponds to their particular reading, and the newspaper articles. (10 min)


  • Each student then shares with his/her group the particular secondary source they were assigned on Congressional Testimonies. Each student asks questions and takes notes on each student’s presentation, filling in the worksheets, Notes from Congressional Records. (20 min)


  • Class share – what particularly surprised you about the Congressional testimonies? (5 min)


  • The class will watch the video, Seeing the Victory Through The 50th Anniversary of the Marshall Plan, from Secondary sources file. (13 min)



  • This could easily be extended into a NHD project – “Turning Point in History”!


Links to worksheets and documents