Pierre Mendès-France (1907-1982): French socialist statesman and prime minister (June 1954-February 1955). The man who ended the first Vietnam war.

Born in a Jewish family, he became a lawyer and then a député (member of parliament)in 1932 (yes, at 25). When WWII broke out, he served in the air force before being arrested by the Vichy government. He then escaped and fled to London in February 1942, and served in the French free air forces for a while, after which he assisted Charles De Gaulle as a "shadow minister of economy".

After the Libération, i.e. when the Allies kicked the Germans'asses out of France but failed to get rid of De Gaulle, he became the minister of "national economy" (in France, everything is "national"). But his rather austere economic policies made him highly unpopular ("what do you mean, 'harnessing inflation' ?"), and he had to resign in April 1945.

Excerpt from the Encyclopaedia Britannica : "A deputy again from June 1946, Mendès-France came to the fore as a severe critic of successive governments' policies on economics, the war in Indochina, and North Africa. After the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu by the Viet Minh in May 1954, he became premier on the pledge that he would end France's involvement in Indochina within 30 days. His promise was fulfilled at the revitalized Geneva conferences, and an armistice line was drawn between the two halves of Vietnam at the 17th parallel. He then paved the way for Tunisian autonomy and assisted the defeat of the European Defense Community, accepting instead a British plan for German rearmament. Again Mendès-France's policies made him unpopular, and, on Feb. 5, 1955, he was defeated. The immediate cause of his fall was his proposed economic-reform program", that is, a good old package of austerity reforms - you know, the word "socialist" just doesn't have the same meaning in France as in the rest of the world.

After that, he remained an important figure of domestic politics, being re-elected every now and then. When Francois Mitterrand became the first socialist president of France in 1981, he gave tribute to Mendès-France, telling him how "nothing would have been possible without (him)". Pierre Mendès-France died in Paris, in October 1982.

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