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A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea Hardcover – April 6, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 495 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this fascinating, suspenseful first person account of his capture by Somali pirates, which dominated news media for five days in April 2009, captain Phillips brings the growing pirate threat (up 20 percent in 2009's first quarter) to life. An experienced Merchant Marine, Phillips was recently made captain of the cargo vessel Maersk Alabama, and, like all captains, was weary of the threat from pirates: "since 2005... captains had been going out fifty, then one hundred... then six hundred miles" to avoid the Somali coast. His feeling that "if pirates got onboard, it was all over" proves unfortunately correct; it took the armed criminals just five minutes to board the ship and take the bridge. Phillips has a sailor's penchant for the dramatic, which he puts to good use alternating between his own five-day ordeal-replete with Navy SEALs and a daring escape attempt-and the plight of his family in Vermont, watching the drama unfold on cable news. Despite his harrowing experience, Phillips stays afloat with steadfast faith and an unfailing sense of humor that are, ultimately, rewarded. Phillips's story is not just riveting and timely, but also an informative, heartening look at perhaps the least-celebrated branch of the U.S. military, the Merchant Marines.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* It was absolutely inevitable that Captain Philips of the Maersk Alabama would write about the hijacking of his ship by Somali pirates and his ordeal as their hostage. A mariner of 30 years’ experience when his ship was taken, he had in place all the security precautions to keep his crew safe and hidden. This left him as the only possible hostage and led to an ordeal of several days in a lifeboat in the hands of pirates whom he portrays, with compassion and balance, as alternately conciliatory, vicious, and simply not all there. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy assembled a task force large enough to fight a small war, and tension steadily rose, as did Phillips’ fear for his life. The pirate leader decamped, and the other three died in a classic hostage rescue by U.S. Navy SEALs. Phillips then entered the media typhoon his family and friends had already been enduring—his wife, Andrea, deserves her own laurel wreath for invincible loyalty and determination—but in the end escaped that, too. He is last seen hanging out the washing because Andrea has to make it to work, and one closes the book with an overpowering sense that this time, for once, the good guys won. --Roland Green

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1 edition (April 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401323804
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401323806
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (495 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #783,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard A. Madden on April 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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...
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