Europe is exhausted and impoverished in the years after the Second World War. The United States implements the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe, partially out of generosity, and partially to keep in check communism. Despite some misgivings, the Europeans are generally grateful â€“ tractors increase food supplies, and American training and support builds up Europe's heavy industry. Productive industrial sectors help the United States enjoy an unrivalled standard of living throughout the 1950s and 1960s, with living transformed through automobiles, supermarkets and Levittowns. European managers adopt US manufacturing methods and Europe begins to manufacture, and then export, its own consumer goods. Labour shortages lead to the employment of women and migrant workers. The West enjoys high wages and low unemployment until the 1970s energy crisis. The opening scene shows the Friendship Train travelling through the United States around Christmas 1947, collecting charity to send to Europe.