A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea
Richard Phillips, Stephan Talty
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"I share the country's admiration for the bravery of Captain Phillips and his selfless concern for his crew. His courage is a model for all Americans."
--President Barack Obama
It was just another day on the job for fifty-three-year-old Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama, the United States-flagged cargo ship which was carrying, among other things, food and agricultural materials for the World Food Program. That all changed when armed Somali pirates boarded the ship. The pirates didn't expect the crew to fight back, nor did they expect Captain Phillips to offer himself as hostage in exchange for the safety of his crew. Thus began the tense five-day stand-off, which ended in a daring high-seas rescue when U.S. Navy SEALs opened fire and picked off three of the captors.
"It never ends like this," Captain Phillips said.
And he's right.
A Captain's Duty tells the life-and-death drama of the Vermont native who was held captive on a tiny lifeboat off Somalia's anarchic, gun-plagued shores. A story of adventure and courage, it provides the intimate details of this high-seas hostage-taking--the unbearable heat, the death threats, the mock executions, and the escape attempt. When the pirates boarded his ship, Captain Phillips put his experience into action, doing everything he could to safeguard his crew. And when he was held captive by the pirates, he marshaled all his resources to ensure his own survival, withstanding intense physical hardship and an escalating battle of wills with the pirates. This was it: the moment where training meets instinct and where character is everything. Richard Phillips was ready.
khakis and socks, but I couldn’t even put my feet on the deck because it was boiling hot. My ribs and arms were aching, too, from the beating the pirates had given me, absolutely batshit furious that their million-dollar American hostage had almost gotten away. I could see the lights of the navy ship through the aft hatch, dipping up and down on the ocean swells astern, about half a mile away. I’d almost made it. If the moon hadn’t been so bright, the pirates would never have spotted me. I
the ship dead and silent as a bombed-out city. The chief had cut the emergency power. We had only flashlights. I saw the door to the AC room open ahead of me. I knew the Leader would want to check that out. I brought the radio up. “Okay, entering the AC room. Starboard side door is open. You guys need to get that locked up.” We stepped into the AC compartment. Its massive machinery cooled the entire ship. But the compressors were quiet now. Ahead was the engine room. I didn’t want to go in there
the Maersk Alabama between me and the lifeboat. The Somalis installed me in the third seat, port side. It gave me a good view of the cockpit and the rest of the ship and I wanted to stay there. And I wanted to stay in one place, so any allies that pulled up on the scene would know exactly where I was located. Friendly fire will kill you just as dead as enemy fire. I keyed the radio and let my crew know what seat I was in. The pirates closed both hatches. I guess they feared frog-men coming up
and climbing down into the boat. That’s when the heat began: unbearable, unrelenting saunalike heat just permeated the entire vessel. It was pure hell. I probably nodded off a couple of times. I came to at around 2 a.m., Thursday morning. I looked out and saw one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen in my life: an American navy ship steaming toward us at thirty knots, bright lights shining from the deck, sirens wailing and loudspeaker blaring. The spotlight was so intense it lit up the
was chanting. He gave the pistol to Tall Guy, said, “You do it,” and whispered something to him in Somali. The others were answering, either with one word or with memorized stanzas that they chanted back together. The three pirates got up and approached me. Musso came back and held the ropes around my wrists, while Young Guy positioned himself at my legs. Tall Guy was behind me with the gun. “Stretch out your arms and your legs,” Musso said. I shook my head. “Do it!” Musso grabbed my wrists