Rebuilding Europe: Western Europe, America, and Postwar Reconstruction

By David W. Ellwood | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN
From Korea to Recovery

In mid-summer 1950 Howard Smith of CBS was invited to give his views of the new Europe to a distinguished audience at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. He was lavish in his appreciation of the achievements:

In France, the currency black market, which had become, with Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, almost a characteristic feature of French life, has died an ignominious death. That volatile symbol of all French life, the French franc, suddenly hardened, and there is no longer an advantage in dealing on the unofficial kerb exchange. Everywhere I have been, even in crushed Germany, the shop windows are filling up, life is perceptibly brighter, a certain abundance is beginning to grow evident.

Smith's eminent colleague, the American writer and broadcaster Theodore H. White, later confirmed the widespread sensation in the early months of the new decade that hope in the future at last was justified: 'Happy days seemed close at hand, and the individual triumphs of the Marshall Plan stood out crisp and brilliant.' In his eloquent volume on Europe at mid-century, Fire in the Ashes, White recalled how 'In every country in Europe there was some outstanding project to which a Congressman or visiting delegation of distinguished Americans could be taken and told, here is the Marshall Plan at work.'

In Sardinia there was malaria eradication, in Holland the reclamation of arable land from the Zuyder Zee, in Turkey 'Marshall Plan ploughs, tractors, railways, were changing an Asian way of life.' In France mechanisation of the coal-mines and electrification of the railways were going ahead, and the first continuous strip-steel mill in Europe was being built, promising goods most Europeans still lived without: 'cheap refrigerators, cheap automobiles, cheap tinned foods, cheap washbasins and sinks'. 1

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