American Actions to Save Europe

Figure 1.--These Dutch children are placing flowers on the long line of graves of men of the 82nd division who fell in the heroic Nijmegen Ooperationwhich liberated thir city. There was no doubt in their mind unlike many young Europeans today what role America has played in their lives. The press caption here read, "Nijmegen Anniversary Celebration The people of Nijmegen and men of the famous U.S. 82nd Airborne Division joined in the homage paid to the fallen paratroopers who gave their lives in one of the most crucial landing operations of the war- the battle for Nijmegen bridgehead.". The photograph sas dated September 18, 1945. Nijmegen historically anglicized as Nimeguen. It is a municipality and a city in the Dutch province of Gelderland. It is situated on the Waal river, close to the German border. Nijmegen is among the three oldest cities in the Netherlands, and in 2005, celebrated 2,000 years of existence."

CIH receives a substantial colume of eMails. Most of our non-American eMails come from Europe, mostly western Europe. The messages have been very helpful in building our website because they provide insights and information on countries which we do not have personal information about. Foreign nations obviously have experiences and information beyond our largly American academic and personal experience. We have spent some time in Britain and worked a few nonths in Italy, but our European contributors have proven invaluable. Along with factual information could personal opinions and assessments. These are value based and subjective. And we recognize that reaonable people can disagree on major issues and have every right to do so. Often there is no clear cut definitive answer. Here we do not want to try to present a definitive statement n these subjective questions. But we do object to a disturbing tendency we see of those criticizing America of not only selectively choosing facts or even misrepresenting or manufacturing facts to support anti-American views. we have people write us and insist that America has played a negative role in Europe, has harmed Europeans, and should withdraw from Europe Well here we note that NATO is a voluntary international organization with Europeans seeking to join and no country seeking to leave. What disturbs us is the number of younger Europeans who have no idea how many times that the United States has saved Europeans or the numbers of Europeans America has saved. This is not a matter of opinion. It is historical fact. And thus we have decided to create a section to point out the many occassions that America has saved Europe or played a positive role in Europe's development.


While historians can legitimately debate the various actions detailed here, the total thrust of the interventios is no less than the preservation of democracy in Britain and France and its extension eastward into to Eastern Europe. The prosperous and democratic Europe of today is in large measure the product of American military, economic, and humanitarian support. The ability of Europeans to freely express their opinions, even voice bitter criticism of America, is in large measure a product of a cntury of repeated American actions to save Europe.

American Actions

While american World war I relief operations, World War II, and the Cold War are the clearest examples, there were several other times in the 20th century that America has come to Europe's rescue. In each case the goal was to protect Europeans or to promote democracy. America did not seek or claim one inch of territorial gain or control over any European country. No country in Europe can claim any kind of similar role. The first major forray of America into Europe brought contemptous comments. Sophisticated European leaders deried the idealistic President Wilson and his 14 points and insisted on a harsh paece with Germany. The result a generation later was another world war and again America having to come to the aid of European democracies. The crowds that greeted American soldiers as they swept NAZI armies grom French, Belgian, and Dutch villages are now largely forgotten and a new European view of America has develooed. This has occurred despite continued Americam actions to protect and safeguard Europe.

Idea of democracy

Europe until the American Revolution was controlled by monarchues, most based on the idea of divine rihht. In many of these monarchies there were few limitations to the authoritybof the soverign. Grance and Ruddia had absolute monarchies. The publoc had not real influence on government. There were no elections. The only important exceptions were Britin and the Netherlands. And while Parliament in Britain has real authority, Britisj ekections were in no way democratic. The American Revolution was the beginning of democacy in Europe. Within a little more than aecade in Europe, the French Revolution erupted and within only a little more than a century, the whole ediface of monarchial government was swept away. The success of American democracy served as a beacon for Europeans seeking democracy themselves. Americaemonstrated that democracy can work. The European monarchies insisted that democracy w an unstable form of government anf that it is monarchy that guaranteed stability and continuity. American is seen as a conservative country today. That is not entirely true, but it certainly is not how Americawas viewed in the 19th century. The Statue of Liberty in New York harbor stands in eloquent testinmony as to how Europeans viewed America. "The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World" (La Liberté éclairant le monde) was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States and is recognized as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886.


America was also a beacon for individuals in Europeans, offering economic oportunity because ofits capitalist economy and political freedom for all. Europen countries in the 19th century had a range of economic restrictions. European monarchies issued monopolistic special privliges. Trade groups has obtained special rights restricting provisions. Aristocrats had a range of privliges. as a result, even though Europe was the center of the center of the scientific advances of the era, it was not at the ventre of the industrail advances in the second half of the 19th entuty. America was. There were several reasons for this. Industrialists in America was no impeded by all the regulations and restrctions business encountered in Europe. They did not have to obrain permissions from entrenched unterests. Another advantage was low taxes, in part because the United states did not maintain a large army--except for the Civil War. Increasingly prooductive American businsses could offer higher wages than European industries. Land owners often aristocrats controlled large estates. Large numbers of peasants were landless. This led to low wages which meant that there was no incentive to mechanize or improve efficencies. It also meant that a substantial prt of the population were only partly involved in the monet economy. This significantly limited the potential market. Educational systems offered limited advancement to working classpopultions, especilly in rural areas. America in contrast had a fine public school system that allowed working-class children rise in society and make substantual contributions. As aesult, America attracted millions of immigrants wiith until the 1920s little or no restiction, excet for health regulations.

Saving Europe from Starvation (1915-24)

The American Red Cross did not just conduct programs at home or for American soldiers overseas. It played a major role in American relief efforts overseas that prevented millions of Europeans from starving. This was because of its overseas organization, made it the organizational infrastructure to handle food and other relief programs. This was especially the case after America entered the War. Many charitable and volunteer groups organized drives to collect funds, food, medical suplies, blankets, clothing. For example the food here was collected and packaged by the Greek War Relief Association. Such groups, however, had no way of getting the food and other relief supplies to Europe and destributing it there. It was the Red Cross that proved to have the cability to deliver the relief supplies to desperate Europeans. It essentially acquired this role by default. American Relief started in Belgium with private donations. Eventually the U.S. Food Administration got involved, putting Government resources behind the relief effort. Just about every European country received American war relif and the Red Cross became the major American orgnization distributing food and other relief abroad: Armenians, Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Serbia. The food went to all kinds of distribution points, including food kitchens, schools, and orpohanages. It was a major salvation for refugees, but also civilian populations that had not been displaced, but were experiencing severe food shortages because of the War.

World War I (1917-18)

America in 1917 entered World War I. to prevent the defeat of the principal Europdean democracies, Britain and France. Historians can speculated endlessly on the possible impact of a victory by the Central Powers (Germany, Austria, and Turkey). While Western civilization was not emperiled in the same was as the NAZIs threatened in Wotld War II, a German and Austrian victory in the War would have have seriously weakened the forces supporting democratic government in Europe. After the War, while Btitain, France, and Italy argued over territory and how to punish the Germans, American President Wilso insisted on democratic principles, a revived Polish and a new Czech nation, and a generous peace for Germany. French President Clemnanceau scoffed, "Mossses required only 10 Commandments, Wilson needs 14", referring to Wilson's 14 points. The onerous peace that Britain and France demanded was the Versailles Treaty, laying the ground work for World War II. Although America did not join the League of Nations, President Wilson's League of Nations did comde into existence. The European democracies, however, did not use the League effectively to confront the Italian Fascists and German NAZIs. To many Americans, the dithering League resonse to Italy, Germany, and Japan is not unlike the way that the United Nations respond to modern crisis.

World War II (1941-45)

America again saved the European democracies, this time from Fascist tyrannies in World War II. BNZI Germany and militaris Japan were involved in aggression on a phenomenal scale. As well as killing operations on an unprecedented scale which today stand as the greatet crimes of history. America played a najor role in defeating the NAZIs and the primary role in defeating Fascist Italy and militarist Japan. This time the basic principles of the Western Civilization were at stake. The issue was summarized by President Roosevelt and Primeminister Churchill in the Atlantic Charter (August 1941) a few months before the Japanese carier attack on Pearl Harbor propelled America into the War (December 1941). America's phenomenal industrial strength played a critical role in winning the War. Hitler and the other totalitarians sw thefreedom and diversity of liberal democracy as a weakness. A too often ignored fact is that freedom, boh political freedom (demoracy) ancd economic freedom (capitalism) were major assetts in winning the War. America at the time of World War II was the only country with the resources and industry giving it the capability waging global warfare and a country determined not to participate in another War. Japan and Germany which saw war and militarism as a major implement of international relations and an importan aspect of their mational ideology. They began the War by bombing defenless civilians and as a result of American the powr of Amrican industry ended the War with its cities turned into rubble and glowing cinders. Not all the totalitarians weredefeated in World War II. The Soviet Union was a NAZI partner in launching the War and a NAZI ally for nearly 2 yars, commiting nake aggression agaist neigboring countries and terrible NAZI-like attrocities in the countries it occupied. The Soviets wre forced to become acibelgerant with the the western Allies and played a central role in breaking he back of the Wehrmacht. at the end of the war, the United States played a central role in preventing the Siviet Union from seizing power in western Europe as it did in Eastern Euroe ans=d setting up Stalinst police states.

Saving Europe from starving (1944-48)

Cold War (1945-89)

After World War II, America in many actions during the Cold War saved Europe from Soviet tyranny. Throughout the Cold War, most European countries rather than making comparable commitments to defense, relied upon the American security umbrella through NATO. The Cold War was conducted on a global scale and over four decades. There were many aspects of the Cold War, but much of it focused on Durope and especially Berlin, such as the Berlin Air Lift and the Berlin Wall. Historians had debated the Cold War, a few even argued that America caused it. Most objective analysts agrre, however, that the modern, prosperous and democratic Europe would be a very different place today had America not enabled the democratic forces to resist Soviet totalitarinism.

Marshall Plan (1948)

The American Marshall Plan helped stimulate the Western European economic recovery. World War II had left Europe devastated. A staggering 40 million people were killed in World War II. German cities had been levelled by the Allied strategic bombing. Fighting on the Eastern Front had also destroyed cities in Russia and Eastern Europe. The economies were prostrate. Jobs did not exist and capital was scarce to revitalise the economies. The performance of the Communists in the Resistance had increased their prestige. The desperate economic conditions also increased support for the Communists. After the War, the Communists were one of the largest political parties throughout Western Europe, especially in France and Italy. Only in Germany where people feared the Russians did the Communists not build an electoral threat. In an effort to promote economic recovery, the United States implemented the Marshall Plan. (It was not called the Truman Plan because that would have doomed it in the Republican controlled American Congress.) The Plan was proposed by American Secretary of State George C. Marshall in 1947. Eventually over $12 billion (in 1948 dollars) was provided. This assistance is generally credited with helping to launch the European economic recovery. Some authors down play the importance of the Marshall Plan, maintaining that the recovery was already well underway. [Hitchcock] Marshall Plan assistance was offered to Russia and the Eastern European satellites. Stalin, suspicious of American intentions, rejected the offer and speeded the establishment of Stalinist regimes throughout Eastern Europe. [Hitchcock]

European unification

Persian Gulf War (1990-91)

American provided the bulk of the forces that defeated Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf War. Had Saddam pervailed he would have controlled Europe's oil supply and the economic impact of higher oil prices would have been ruinous. Americans and Brits recall how Saddam at first planned to use Americans and Europeans as human shields, even stroking a terrified little British boy in front of TV cameras. Analysts report that Saddam in 1990 was only a few months away from developing a working atomic bomb. Had the United States and Britain resticted its opposition to sanctions, the outcome may have been very different.

Bosnia and Kosovo (1990s)

America provided the clout needed to stop the killing in Bosnia and Kosovo. While the Europeans play a major role in pease keeping, they were unwilling to take the military action on their own to deal with the situation even though it was occurring in Europe. Many who criticise the use of American power are unable to answer the simple question, what would have happened to the people of Bosnia and Kosovo had America not intervened. As in so many cases, the tragedy here was not the the willing of America to use military force, but the suffering that occurred because of Europe's inability to act and America's reluctance to act in a timely manner.

Energy prices

Middle East refugeee crisis

Generational Differences

We note an interesting generational difference in how Europeans view these American actions and America's world role in general. Older Europeans are more likely to look at America and American motives in a more benign way. Younger Europeans, especially Western Europeans are much more suspicous of America.

Potential Dangers

There are potential dangers to the American role. Many Western Europeans feel that the danger is American militarism and eagerness to use its military power. This opinion is strongest in Western Europe. Western Europeans only recently liberated from Soviet domination and closer to Russia tend to be much lest suspious of American actions. The Bush Administration's distrust of cooperative approaches, a strong trend in right-wing Republican circles, is a real concern. But an equal concern is the use of diplomacy to delay or even prevent needed actions. One potential danger that is little discussed in Europe is that American embittered with European reaction and tiring of the substantial costs involved will tire of its global role. Older Americans remember the struggle that President Roosevelt waged with isolationists in the United States and how those isolationists came very close to preventing the President from aiding beleagered Britain and preparing for World War II. The isolationist trend in American thought is still strong and it is not something that Europeans should ignore. Such a development would seriously impair the long-term interests of the Belgians, French, and Germans that have so vociferously criticised American policy. [Samuelson]


Hitchcock, William I. The Struggle for Europe: The Turbulent History of a Divided Continent (Doubleday), 513p. This is a thought provoking, well researched book. He has gained access to never before used Soviet archives. We do not agree with all of his conclusions. The author in many instances, for example, tends to explain Soviet actions as response to American policies rather than the inherent nature of brutal regime.

Samuelson, Robert J. "Earning Americans' resentments," Washington Post (February 26, 2003.

Shadid, Anthony. "Iraqis now free to disagree: In the streets of Baghdad," Washington Post (April 10, 2003), pp. A1, 32.


Navigate the Children in History Website:
[Return to Main America and Europe page]
[Return to Main military style page]
[About Us]
[Introduction] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Climatology] [Clothing] [Disease and Health] [Economics] [Freedom] [Geography] [History] [Human Nature] [Ideology] [Law]
[Nationalism] [Presidents] [Religion] [Royalty] [Science] [Social Class]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Children in History Home]

Created: April 9, 2003
Last updated: 10:35 PM 5/15/2016