Abstract: Rearmament and Recovery: The United States and the Economic Implications of Military Assistance to Western Europe under the Truman Administration, 1949-1952

Simone Selva


The aim of this research is to frame the early years of US military assistance to the Western European countries within the context of economic, financial, and industrial issues touched upon by the military efforts carried out in the Western European NATO countries since about mid-1949 through the end of the Truman Administration in 1952. Its main argument is that during this period the establishment of the United States changed its approach to the economic dimension of rearmament. The first part, after a sketch of US military assistance abroad after World War II, is dedicated to trace the main features of the first military aid program. It was a bilateral assistance program based on two ideas: a widespread fear that military aid would impair the ongoing economic recovery promoted by the Marshall Plan; and a strengthening of military security in Europe through the transfer of end-items materials, raw materials, and consumer goods, aimed to pursue a mere reinforcement of existing military forces rather than to promote the creation of new—and indeed job-creating—defense industries. The second part is concerned with the structure of Mutual Security in 1950-51 as a multilateral rearmament program. I touch upon the main limits of military assistance and its procedures as they affected transatlantic relations. Then I stress how the reorganization of military aid to Europe as it turned out with the off-shore procurement programs since 1952 was strictly linked to a new concept elaborated by the Truman Administration about the nexus between rearmament and economic recovery in Western Europe whereby military strengthening could promote development and raise consumption in Europe.

BEH On-Line Paper