Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bainbridge takes on pirates...again

The last time pirates boarded an American vessel at sea, as far as I can tell, was during the early 19th-century when the Barbary pirates based along the Mediterranean coast of Algeria manage to capture the pride of the fledgling American Navy, the Philadelphia and captained by William Bainbridge, after she ran aground in pursuit of a pirate vessel near the Tripolitan harbor in 1803. Rather than concede to the rapscallions this powerful frigate, a daring plan was implemented by a young Lt. Stephan Decatur to set her afire without loss of life. Even the British were impressed. It took Decatur and Bainbridge the better part of a decade to make that part of the Mediterranean safe for commercial shipping.

Two centuries later, Bainbridge is again chasing pirates, only this time as the nameplate of a nuclear-powered frigate. The latest news reports indicate that the crew of the Maersk Alabama, including 20 Americans, overpowered their armed attackers, sending them adrift in a lifeboat though with their unfortunate captain. Perhaps the droning of Navy choppers overhead can convince those would-be extortionists of their untenable position and that handing over Capt. Phillips unharmed would be in their best interests.

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