Speaking Out

Captain Richard Phillips, who you may remember was held hostage for several days on a lifeboat in the Indian Ocean after the Maersk Alabama was taken, has been speaking about the incident.Though Phillips had regularly trained his crew in drills to handle an attack on the Maersk manning the high-pressured fire hoses and flares, alerting the proper maritime transportation organizations and moving into a safe room he says the pirates on April 8 were able to avoid the crews evasive maneuvering. In his new memoir, A Captains Duty, Phillips describes the five-day hostage ordeal that followed and explains how he felt when the Navy SEALs staged a rescue mission and killed three of his four captors.

Phillips describes what it was initially like after he left the Maersk Alabama with the pirates and boarded the tiny Somali lifeboat.

It [was] hot. After the first day, they had broken out two of the windows [in the closed lifeboat] just to get a breeze in there, he tells Dave Davies. The first night, they closed all the hatches out of fear of something happening and they never did that again after that, the hatches were always open in the normal course of events. So it was hot. The engine is running. So it is very hot on the deck. I was basically down at this time to a pair of pants and my stocking feet and I couldnt even put my feet down after the first few hours because it was so hot when it was continually running.

After several days, Phillips tried to escape the lifeboat. He was caught, beaten and tied up by his captors. When they threatened to kill him, he began to focus on what he thought was the end.

I would focus on something and go through my mind something to my wife, my daughter [and] my son, he says. I would start thinking about people who had died my father and neighbor. And people I would see even Frannie, a dumb dog I had that was forever a problem. But I would just say my farewells. I apologized to my wife for the phone call that would tell her that her husband was dead. My daughter, Id say a few things to her and then Id say a few things to my son just to settle, in my mind, so Id be ready when the time came.

Several hours later, Phillips was sitting in the lifeboat while the pirates were standing on the ship. In the distance, the USS Bainbridge was monitoring the situation, when the Navy SEAL snipers onboard the carrier noticed that all three of the pirates on the lifeboat were visible. They fired and killed the pirates on the lifeboat.

They knew how many were onboard, they knew where I was, says Phillips. And they took a very difficult, miraculous shot and they were very successful.

Phillips says he initially assumed he was caught in a crossfire between pirate ships and had no idea the SEALs were even there.

I would have thought it was impossible, if you asked me if they could have done that, he says. Until a guy says to me, in English, Are you all right? which I hadnt heard in four or five days and then he came down the forward hatch. I wasnt really sure what was going on. And indeed, it wasnt until I was being hoisted up on the USS Bainbridge with the SEALs and the Navy that I truly saw that I made it out of there. That Im alive. I made it.