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75 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read - very accurate!
There are very few books that I've "had" to have the first day out - this was one - and it didn't disappoint! This book is a good window into the life of a merchant seaman in general and specifically into life on a ship running along the East coast of Africa. It was very interesting to understand the thought process of Capt Phillips while under attack and during his...
Published on April 6, 2010 by Richard A. Madden

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars pretty quick read, generally good story, but wanted more information
I liked learning about the Merchant Marine as context and it is generally a good read. However, I think this book could have been edited a little better and I would have liked some more information regarding some key issues (e.g. why don't merchant ships carry any weapons - what are the pros and cons? how about a little more reserach on the pirates' claims about their...
Published 9 months ago by Pacifica Jay


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75 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read - very accurate!, April 6, 2010
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There are very few books that I've "had" to have the first day out - this was one - and it didn't disappoint! This book is a good window into the life of a merchant seaman in general and specifically into life on a ship running along the East coast of Africa. It was very interesting to understand the thought process of Capt Phillips while under attack and during his time as a hostage. Best wishes to Captain Phillips and his family!

Rich Madden
Chief Mate, Maersk Alabama
Anchored off Djibouti
07 April 2010
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The computer you are using is courtesy of the Merchant Marine, April 12, 2010
This is a great book on several levels.
1 - It shows you how much you depend on the Merchant Marine whether you know it or not. That TV from China did not get here by itself.
2 - It shows what you can accomplish when you have a strong sense of duty, no matter the risks.
3 - It shows that a SEAL team is not a group of people to be trifled with (I hope you already knew that)

I read this book cover to cover in two sittings. My dad was in the USCG and the Merchant Marine so I connected with it right away. I also had a good friend that went to Massachusetts Maritime Academy before he died much too young. When I read Captain Phillips book, I could hear the New England accent and my friend's laugh. Just from the picture on the cover you get the idea that this is a guy when he tells you something you probably should listen. He was not operating with false bravado, nor was he trying to show off - he really was performing A Captain's Duty. He also generously doles out praise for his crew, the Navy, the SEAL team, and everybody that said prayers for him and his family. This is the story of a remarkably composed guy thrown into an awful situation and what he was able to accomplish by not giving in to fear and panic. I hope two things after reading this book. One is that I am never in a situation that resembles anything like this and second, if I am that I can be at least half as composed as Captain Phillips.
He does not claim to be a hero, he does not claim to have done anything that anyone else could not do - as a matter of fact he points out that anybody could do what he did if put in the same situation. I beg to differ, but I will take him at his word. It is good to know that there are still a few REAL MEN left. I cannot count myself in that group, I wish I could, but I have never been tested to the level of Captain Phillips.
I was left with one question after reading this book. WHY are the Merchant ships thrown out to sea with nothing more than utility knives and flares to protect themselves? This cargo will most likely be in a LOCKED warehouse when it gets to the States, some of it may even be guarded by armed guards - why would you just put it out to sea with no protection against heavily armed bandits?
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44 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RICK "SHAQ" GOLDSTEIN SAYS: "EITHER I'M GETTING OUT OF HERE ALIVE... OR THEY ARE. BUT NOT BOTH!", April 9, 2010
On April 8, 2009 four Somalian pirates took over an American flagged cargo ship by the name of "THE MAERSK ALABAMA". The name of the Alabama's captain was Richard Phillips... and this is the story of his life leading up to... and including the takeover of the ship... and what eventually became a fight for his life... when he deftly maneuvered the pirates... who the captain nicknamed "LEADER"... "TALL GUY"... "MUSSO"... and "THE-CRAZY-EYED-YOUNG-GUY"... into giving up the ship and its entire crew... with the end result being that he was the lone remaining hostage. Richard grew up in the New England area in an Irish-American family and was one of eight kids. (Four boys and four girls.) His life was built around a love of sports and he states: "HELL, I LEARNED EVERYTHING BY PLAYING SPORTS." One of his favorite athletes was Larry Bird whose toughness he respected. His explanation of the inner workings of his family are not unlike many families in his generation: "MY FATHER PROVED HIS LOVE BY GOING OUT AND WORKING LIKE HELL. YOU WANTED THAT *AND* A HUG EVERY NIGHT, TOO? GO TALK TO YOUR MOTHER." Perhaps one of the best quips in the book is delivered when he describes life with his Father. "IT WAS LIKE GROWING UP WITH VINCE LOMBARDI IN A BAD MOOD."

Richard wound up quitting sports... doing some drinking... getting in some fights... and among other jobs drove a taxi. His life changed and his future was truly started when he applied for and got accepted at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. It was here he expanded and polished the inner drive to never let anyone get him down... he proved to himself and others... regardless of rank or position that they could never make him quit. A trait that obviously serves him well to this day... especially if you consider the fact that he's still alive a good trait. One of the benefits a potential reader will accrue from this book is an appreciation for the history of "The Merchant Marines". With obvious pride the story is sprinkled with interesting facts such as "THE MERCHANT MARINE HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE INVISIBLE SERVICE, THE GUYS WHO BROUGHT THE TANKS TO NORMANDY, THE BULLETS TO OKINAWA, BUT NO ONE EVER REMEMBERS US. WHAT GENERAL DOUGLAS MACARTHUR SAID WAS TRUE: THEY BROUGHT US OUR LIFEBLOOD AND PAID FOR IT WITH THEIR OWN."

After the pirates took over the almost defenseless ship... (Reviewer's opinion: It's utterly ridiculous that Merchant Marines aren't allowed to carry weapons to defend themselves!) every thought that went through Phillips's head... was how to protect his men and his ship. Reduced to a few flares and metal objects designed for securing cargo and maintaining a ship... and fire hoses... Captain Phillips had to use every ounce of street savvy and maritime skills in trying to overcome four Somalian pirates armed with AK-47's. It literally became a chess match for life between "THE-LARRY-BIRD-OF-THE-MERCHANT-MARINES* and the four wanton pirates. After having most of his men hide in a pre-determined spot on the ship... one of the pirates was duped into being captured by the hiding crew... and a swap was made. The captured pirate and $30,000.00 for all the crew except the captain. Phillips was treated unmercifully... tied up with multiple ropes while he was mocked and hit with fists and guns... all while baking in the unforgiving sun. After a failed escape Phillips was not allowed to even urinate off the side of the lifeboat... he had to go in his pants... further humiliating him.

All during this time as Phillips summoned every bit of personal courage and strength... the pirates had countless mock executions. As Navy ships eventually came within yards of the lifeboat... Captain Phillips wondered if he'd live to ever see his family again. You may know the outcome from the news... but till you read this book... you won't know the anguish of this brave Merchant Marine.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Kick-Ass Read if there ever was one....., April 20, 2010
I, too, watched with rapt attention last year when this situation went down, wondering how in hell this would be resolved. I cheered when the crawler came across the screen on Larry King Live that Richard had been rescued and that the amazing Navy Seals had done their gig to perfection.

This book was very well-written and entirely suspenseful even though the reader already knew the outcome. Kudos to Mr. Phillips and his crew for holding it all together during the horror. Kudos to the co-writer for weaving Mr. Phillips' background, his family story, and his emotional ordeal into a compelling, cohesive narrative.

I have to say, as a salty New Englander myself, now transplanted to the South, I miss the likes of the Richard Phillipses - the men who say what they'll do and then do what they've said. Men (and women, of course) of personal integrity are a dying breed.

A great read. Just unfortunate that any of these players had to live through this to give us this book.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Epic!, April 22, 2010
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A Captain's Duty is the compelling narrative of Captain Richard Phillips ordeal last year at the hands of Somali pirates aboard the Merchant Marine vessel Maersk Alabama. Having spent years serving aboard various US Naval Vessels I particularly enjoyed the striking contrast Phillips makes comparing the Merchant Marine Corps and the US Navy. This story is addictive, fascinating, and horrifying at the same time. I can't recommend this title enough. Phillips is a true American hero, in every sense of the title, if ever there was ever such a person.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Now that's a sea story!, July 27, 2010
I saw this book when my wife and I ran into Books-A-Million to avoid a rainstorm. Despite the whirling controversy surrounding the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, I decided to give it a read. I truly enjoyed the book.....I always love a good sea story.

Joseph Conrad summed it up best when he wrote about the prestige, privilege, and burden of command at sea. While this has more of a military context, it most certainly has significant application in the merchant fleet as well. In summary, Conrad clearly illustrates how those in command are ultimately and inescapably responsible for their ships (for a complete reading of Conrad's description of command at sea, simply google "Joseph Conrad Command at Sea".....it's quite moving). The Maersk Alabama is no different. Once the ship was being attacked, Richard Phillips lived up to his duty as the captain to the letter. Many have stated that he knowingly placed the ship in danger by not heeding to warnings to stay more than 600 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia. Whether that is the case or not, it's his ship and his responsibility to handle anything that gets thrown his way. In the end, none of the crew were seriously hurt, Maersk got their ship back and cargo delivered, and the pirates were quickly disposed of - win, win, win....all attributable to the tenacity of the crew and the leadership by Captain Phillips.....and, of course, a few bad a$$ Navy SEALS.

There, too, has been a great deal of discussion as to whether or not the captain's account of the incident aboard the Maersk Alabama is entirely accurate. Regardless, the man was held hostage for four days by a group of thugs who tied him up, beat him, threatened to kill him, and even went so far as to hold mock executions. That's the real story. Quibbling over minute details leading up to the attack serves no purpose in the context of this book. I cannot imagine the mixed bag of emotions that must have been going through Captain Phillips' mind. In describing his account, Phillips was outstanding. What really moved me was his clear descriptions of each of his captors and how he developed a rapport with each.

The only real downside to this story was the constant jumping back and forth from the hijacking to Captain Phillips' home life. No offense to Captain Phillips (or his wife and kids), but those chapters dragged on a bit. I certainly would have been much more interested to read about the hijacking and only the hijacking. Had he included some input from members of his crew, the story would have been even better and all the more convincing. I definitely recommend this book to any seafarer or anyone else looking for a good sea story!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to put down, April 28, 2013
By 
RDH (Aurora, IL) - See all my reviews
This is a book hard to put down.
Captain Phillips story proves that the real heroes in this world are those that usually go un-noticed.
The parents who volunteer, are good to their spouses and their community, not the sports heroes or teeny bopper singer sensations.
When faced with adversity it is those with quiet inner strength who never sought glory, who are able to stand the tests of the worst of humanity.
Captain Phillips proves what a hero really is, and he seems eerily alike those brave Navy SEALS who rescue him. They all feel they are doing what is right, not what will bring them glory.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars pretty quick read, generally good story, but wanted more information, October 7, 2013
By 
Pacifica Jay (Pacifica, CA, US) - See all my reviews
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I liked learning about the Merchant Marine as context and it is generally a good read. However, I think this book could have been edited a little better and I would have liked some more information regarding some key issues (e.g. why don't merchant ships carry any weapons - what are the pros and cons? how about a little more reserach on the pirates' claims about their over fished waters?, why didn't the fire hoses work this time to repel the pirates?). I'm looking forward to the movie. While I have no doubt that Tom Hanks will the nail the Yankee sea captain role, it was hard for me to visualize some of the scenes in my head, particulalry around the congifuration of the ship and lifeboat. Maybe some illustrations would have helped too. Anyway, I recommend this book for people who are interested in life at sea and about this particular incident.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the real deal, May 11, 2010
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This was a page turner. I could only stand the suspense because I knew the real ending. The truth makes an amazing read.
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19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brisk, fun, somehow noble, April 6, 2010
By 
jarbitro (Sun Valley, CA) - See all my reviews
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I remember reading the news of this incidient with fascination. The story had an addicting power to it because of what was unknown. How would it turn out? The US wouldn't let pirates get away with this, but how could they stop them? And then, when the drama was over, I still felt like I wanted more information. How did the Navy pull this off?

"A Captain's Duty" did not disappoint. It answered my questions in a way that kept the story moving. Details that emerge: how the Alabama got away from other pirates, how the initial fight on the ship resulted in a stand-off, and finally how Richard ended up on his own life boat, while a pirate ended up with the Navy.

There were new revelations as well, so that the story goes beyond the news headlines. In fact, because I began the book already knowing how the whole situation played out, I actually enjoyed it more.

The obvious risk with a book like this is that a current event can thrust one man into the spot-light, and the obligatory book that follows fails to reproduce the excitement of the initial story. This is not true here. And the reason that Phillips succeeds is that the story moves quickly, with appropriate detail, and yet makes a deeper point. In a non-soap box way, Phillips brings out his gratitude to the merchant marines and the navy seals.

The reality is that A Captain's Duty is not merely about a hostage situation, and it is not merely about the merchant marines and unbelievably skilled Navy SEALS. Phillips takes the reader deeper, and lets this be a story about ordinary people who can do extraordinary things when duty calls. By the end of the book I was encouraged about what people can do when they are faithful to do their duty. The transcendent theme of this ordeal is that when a person is faithful to duty, they can do so much more than they might have imagined.

Probably about one-fourth of the book is spent telling of the ordeal from the perspective of his wife. This is done well, and doesn't slow the narrative down too much, but rather provides pacing and perspective to the story.

Most of my reviews are for Christian audiences, so I want to add this: Phillip's religion (nominal Catholicism) is not a main point of the story. What makes this story redeeming in the Christian sense is that at it's core it really is a tale of righteousness vs. evil; and the righteous in this story do their duty and are vindicated. Even if Phillips would have died, the point is clearly conveyed that it is better to be righteous and faithful to duty, than evil and rich. There is no moral ambiguity or Stockholm Syndrome here. Phillips writes with humility and gratefulness, but also an unwavering sense of right and wrong which is encouraging.
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A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea
A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Stephan Talty (Paperback - January 18, 2011)
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