June 18, 1954: Pierre Mendès France became Premier of France. Born in 1907 in Paris, Mendès France’s came from a family of Sephardic Jews. He was trained as a lawyer and fought with the Free French during World War II. After the war, Mendès France served in numerous governments in the revolving door of the Fourth Republic. Mendès France was an anti-colonialist. He served as Premier after the fall of Dien Bien Phu, and negotiated the end to the French Indo-China War. Several Catholic political leaders attacked him for this and the attack quickly became anti-Semitic. Mendès France also began the negotiations that would lead to independence for the French colonies in North Africa. Mendès France’s political signature was a glass of milk. After the war, some French leaders were concerned that French people were drinking too much wine and starting to drink at too early an age. When Mendès France would appear in public, there invariably was a glass of milk on the lectern, which he made a point of sipping some time during his presentations. Mendès France passed away on October 18, 1982.
La Poste issued a 2-franc stamp on December 16, 1983 commemorating Mendès France (Scott No. 1906):