I wondered why this story was chosen by Miyazaki and a little digging yielded some interesting parallels between Miyazaki’s life experience and that of the protagonist. Miyazaki’s mother died of tuberculosis and his father owned a aircraft subcontractor that eventually made rudder assemblies for the Zero. Miyazaki’s works have always had a deep investment in flying, freedom, and idealism and this new work has it all. This film was highly personal, traumatic, and rather insular for the average American viewer, but I am glad Miyazaki shared it with us.
Okurniva and Jiro Horikoshi 1979
Zero! by Martin Caidin, Masatake Okumiya and Jiro Horikoshi, 1956
Epilogue: I’m sorry I never got to meet Jiro Horikoshi nor Saburo Saki although it would have been possible. We are losing historical persons every day, not just WWII vets. You might be surprised to find who is still alive and living near you. Make an effort to talk to living history some time, they need not have been mentioned in the history books and they may even believe they are forgotten. Make their day and talk to one.
Update July 2014: The expanded role of Japanese naval cooperation to the Allies in WWI was recently brought to my attention. In WWI, the Japanese stationed forces in Malta and supported New Zealand forces in occupying German Samoa in August 1914. So if this is of interest, this 26 page publication about the subject will be worth reading: http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1004&context=hist_fac_pubs