Humanitarian Intervention and Relief - Reconstruction

The United States cooperated with other nations to provide relief in World War II, but as in the previous world war, the leadership and resources came largely from the United States. In 1942 President Roosevelt placed the OFRR under the direction of Herbert H. Lehman, and when it merged into the UNRRA he made sure Lehman headed the new multinational agency. Despite Herbert Hoover's protests that the UNRRA would allow too much Allied influence on American relief, Roosevelt saw to it that the UNRRA would largely be directed by the United States. The UNRRA provided relief assistance to refugees and communities devastated by the effects of war.

By 1946 President Harry Truman was worried that some UNRRA funds were going to communists, so he stopped providing U.S. contributions. The United States continued to provide relief and rehabilitation assistance, particularly in occupied Germany and Japan, with the U.S. Army administering much of it until 1947. Concern for reconstruction as well as relief guided U.S. policy. The United States oversaw the creation of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development at the end of the war; it offered loans so that governments could purchase needed supplies. The Marshall Plan, or the Economic Recovery Program (ERP), initiated in 1947, represented a commitment by the United States government to foster the long-term rehabilitation of Europe and its dependencies through massive foreign aid, including grants and loans. While initiated out of concern for continued suffering and fear of communist inroads among discontented populations in Europe, the ERP signaled an end to emergency relief efforts and the transition to foreign aid for development.

The ARC also stepped up its activities with the war's end, playing a particularly valuable role in dealing with refugees and displaced persons, including prisoners of war and internees of concentration camps. Voluntary agencies, some representing church groups, labor organizations, and colleges and universities, offered relief services as wartime control measures were lifted. The government welcomed such groups, which extended the resource base for operations and demonstrated overwhelming generosity and concern by Americans moved by extensive suffering. Some groups focused on non-European regions such as China, but most American attention and resources went to Europe.

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