On this day in 1951, President Harry S. Truman signs the Mutual Security Act, announcing to the world, and its communist powers in particular, that the U.S. was prepared to provide military aid to “free peoples.” The signing of the act came after the Soviet Union exploded their second nuclear weapon in a test on October 3.
The Mutual Security Act was modeled on the Marshall Plan, a post-World War II economic aid plan that had helped European nations rebuild after the war. However, instead of providing mostly economic aid as the Marshall Plan had, the Mutual Security Act emphasized an increase in military assistance to democratic nations. Congress earmarked the monies for raw materials, guns, tanks, planes, technicians and books, fertilizer and seeds, irrigation pumps and medical supplies. Both Truman and Congress believed that the U.S. bore a responsibility to, and needed help from, other nations to prevent the spread of communism and participate in a “great collective effort of the free nations to build a better world.” He singled out developing areas in Asia as being in particular need of stronger defenses against communist infiltration. It was hoped that funds and technical assistance provided by the Mutual Security Act would help those countries develop their economic potential along capitalist models and thereby discourage them from succumbing to communist influence.
In his announcement after the signing, Truman addressed the fear that the Mutual Security Act would only aggravate the arms race with the Soviets. “We are building armaments, of course–we would be fools if we did not,” he said, “but we are [also] helping to restore the productive power of war-shattered countries.” This indicated that the act would continue to fund economic aid, albeit to a much lesser degree, to the nations of Europe—including the democratic section of divided Germany and its capital, Berlin–that were still recovering economically from World War II and faced a constant threat of Soviet aggression.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower abolished the Mutual Security Act in 1953.