Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

Captain Richard Phillips

It was a swashbuckling tale of skulduggery and heroism on the high seas made all the more gripping by the fact that it happened as the world watched. After Somali pirates took control of Captain Richard Phillips' cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, he and his crew fought back, taking one of the brigands captive. As the U.S. Navy destroyer Bainbridge steamed to the rescue, Phillips, an American who had lectured on anti-piracy tactics at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, offered himself up as a bargaining chip in exchange for the freedom of his 19 crew members. The Somalis took the deal, absconding with the 53-year-old in a lifeboat. Bad move. The kidnapping launched a five-day standoff between the tiny lifeboat and the Bainbridge that ended with a tactic right out of a Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster: Navy SEAL snipers positioned on the destroyer's fantail killed Phillips' three captors with three shots, at dusk and in choppy waters. Phillips was rescued and within hours was on his way back to his family. "The real heroes are the Navy, the SEALs," he was quoted as saying. "Those who have brought me home."