Seventy years ago on Nov. 7, the Japanese authorities executed Richard Sorge, a Soviet spy who became a member of the Nazi Party and was operating as a journalist in wartime Tokyo.

He was a raffish, womanizing, hard-drinking party animal who produced intelligence coups that may have helped turn the course of World War II. Although resourceful and productive as both spy and reporter, Sorge often expressed unhappiness while living a stressful clandestine double-life subject to extensive Japanese surveillance.

Beginning in 1933, Sorge assembled a spy ring in Tokyo that came to include Hotsumi Ozaki, a journalist who had helped him previously in Shanghai, shared his communist sympathies, was an expert on China and had an elite educational background that gave him top-level access. In 1937, he was invited to join the Showa Research Association that served as a braintrust on the "China problem" for Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe (1937-1939, 1940-1941). It was Konoe who escalated that conflict and presided over critical decisions that pushed Japan into World War II.