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.