Wednesday, April 8, 2009

USS Bainbridge Arrives at Scene of Hijacking

The USS Bainbridge, a guided missile destroyer, is in place and ready to assist in the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, held hostage by the hijackers who attacked the cargo ship Maersk Alabama earlier today. Via CNN:
The crew of the Maersk Alabama recaptured their ship from pirates, but their captain remained in the hands of the marauders, one of its officers said.

"There's four Somali pirates, and they've got our captain," Ken Quinn said in a ship-to-shore phone interview.

Capt. Richard Phillips was being held in the Alabama's 28-foot lifeboat after the pirates reneged on an agreement to exchange him for a captured pirate, Quinn said.

"We returned him, but they didn't return the captain," he said.

The hijackers boarded the Alabama early Wednesday, when it was about 350 miles off the coast of Somalia, a haven for pirates attacks in the Gulf of Aden.

It is fitting that the Bainbridge would be the ship sent to rescue Captain Phillips: it is named after Commodore William Bainbridge, a hero of the Barbary Pirates War who was himself held hostage twice.

Bainbridge joined the merchant service at the age of 14 and was given his first command at the age of 19. During a voyage in the West Indies, Bainbridge's ship, the Retaliation, was captured by the French, and he was held as a prisoner in Guadaleupe. While he there, he was able to negotiate not only his own freedom but that of nearly 300 captured American seamen.

When he returned to America, he joined the fledgling Navy and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a Captain in 1800. That year he commanded the George Washington as it was sent to pay the annual tribute to the Dey of Algiers, who then commandeered the ship to send a message to the Ottoman Sultan. When Bainbridge refused, the Dey haughtily reminded him "You pay me tribute, by which you become my slaves; I have, therefore, a right to order you as I please."

Bainbridge reluctantly acted a courier for the Dey, but wrote in his report to Congress that "I hope I may never again be sent to Algiers with tribute, unless I am authorized to deliver it from the mouth of our cannon."

Captain Bainbridge later commanded the Philadelphia when it was sent to patrol the Mediterranean Sea in 1803; when it ran aground off the shore of Tripoli, he and his entire crew were held hostage for two years. He later fought in the War of 1812, and in 1815 led a squadron to the fight the Barbary Pirates once more in the Second Tripolitian War.

Please continue to pray for the safe rescue of Capt. Phillips, and for the safety of the sailors aboard the Bainbridge, worthy successors to their honored namesake.

Pirates Seize Ship With American Crew

No comments: