Fumimaro Konoe served as Japan’s 34th, 38th and 39th Prime Minister and was in power during the period leading up to World War II. Against the advice of the Emperor and political allies, Konoe appointed the fiery military advocate Yosuke Matsuoka as his Foreign Minister.

In a 1941 New Year’s message Matsuoka said: “It may sound unlucky, but in my innermost heart I fear the coming year will prove a most tragic and unfortunate one for all mankind.”