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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Captain Richard Phillips Rescued from Somali Pirates by U.S. Navy Seals

Aired April 12, 2009 - 13:20   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


MELISSA LONG, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news on this Sunday afternoon. The story we have been following for you for more than 100 hours. Five days of the American captain being held captive by Somali pirates. We have learned today he has been released. Let's find out the details of that release and find out how he's doing. Let's bring in Zain Verjee, she's our state department correspondent is live on the line for us from London. Zain? Are you there? All right, we're trying to establish that phone connection with Zain Verjee. But again, some breaking news this afternoon. We have learned that the U.S. captain that is Mr. Phillips, who has, as you know, been held captive by four Somali pirates armed with AK-47 rifles has reportedly been released.

We have CNN crews, really, throughout the world, we're going to be relying on to share their experience and share their perspective with us from Barbara Starr who is in Bahrain to Stephanie Elam who is in Vermont and the community that is home to Mr. Phillips. In a moment we'll be able to check in with CNN state department correspondent Zain Verjee. It was yesterday in the afternoon hours of Saturday that we brought you live pictures of the Alabama, the Maersk Alabama as it pulled into port into Mombasa. Of course, Mombasa was the initial destination for that U.S. flagship that was of course apprehended at sea by the pirates, excuse me.

Several members of the crew were able to be freed and it was the captain, Mr. Phillips, who is being called a hero and has been called a hero repeatedly by his crew members because he essentially turned himself in to the pirates so that they could go on. Again, the Maersk Alabama resuming its journey and then making its way to the port in Mombasa on Saturday night. Along with 18 person armed security detail helped to make that port of call safely. We are waiting to hear the details now on Mr. Phillips. He is 53 years of age, his wife lives in Underhill, Vermont. Two of his college-aged children have been at home with his wife throughout the weekend. Of course it is the Easter holiday, but, of course, they have been close by her side, as well.

We're waiting to hear a little bit more about Mr. Phillips. As you know, we told you yesterday that there was one escape attempt. He tried to get overboard, however, one of the pirates was able to bring him back inside that small vessel. Understand, somebody is on the line for me. I'm sorry, Mr. James --

CAPT. JAMES STAPLES, FRIEND OF CAPT. PHILLIPS (via telephone): I'm in Marshfield, Massachusetts right now.

LONG: Ok, what can you tell us about this release? Apparently we lost that connection, are you there Mr. Staple? Captain Staples, what can you tell us about the release of Captain Phillips?

STAPLES: Well, I've heard he's been released, I don't know any details on that. I'm understanding from CNN and other sources that Captain Phillips has been released today which makes this a fantastic Easter. Being from Boston, I would say that this tops the Red Sox winning the World Series.

LONG: That helps to certainly put it into perspective. Tell us about your relationship with Captain Phillips.

STAPLES: Captain Phillips and I are classmates from Massachusetts Maritime Academy, class of 1979. We belong to the same union together and we have known each other for close to 34, 35 years.

LONG: He's being called a hero by his other crew members. Tell us about his personality. Tell us about what it is that likely helped him to get through these arduous 100 hours.

STAPLES: Well, Richie is very resilient, I think his great sense of humor that he has, his strong, strong will and the training that he's had coming from the academy just kept him going and his perseverance just to stay alive and just to get out of the situation the best he could.

LONG: Captain Phillips graduated from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in 1979. Do stay with me because I want to find out more about Captain Phillips but I want to turn right now to my colleague Barbara Starr, state department correspondent who joins us live now from Bahrain. What can you tell us about this release of Captain Phillips.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That word is just barely beginning to break here this evening, Sunday evening in Bahrain of course, the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's fifth fleet, the maritime coalition that has been working this since the moment it happened. U.S. Navy officials had been working this around the clock trying to get Captain Phillips freed by all accounts of course tonight he is. What will happen next becomes the question. The navy, of course, has the facilities to offer him any medical care that he may need at this point. The ship in the region, the Bainbridge, has medical facilities. There are other ships closer by with even broader medical care. Then they can put him on a helicopter and fly him to the nearest place where, frankly, he can catch a ride home.

There would be military air fields nearby possible in Djibouti or Kenya where he could get a military flight or of course he could be flown potentially, we don't know to Nairobi, a lot of commercial flights out of there. In these types of situations when the U.S. government gets involved in the repatriation, if you will, of a U.S. citizen, the goal is the best immediate medical care, if they need it and get them home to their families as fast as possible. I think that is exactly what we can see in the coming hours. Melissa?

LONG: Barbara, don't go away. We want to continue to talk to you, but I want to bring in Zain Verjee, she's our state department correspondent who joins us now live on the line from London. Zain, what can you tell us about the captain's release?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): We're hearing here in London from a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the situation on the ground who says that initial reports are indicating that just a short while ago Captain Richard Phillips was freed. We understand from the same source that three of the pirates were killed and one is in custody. The same source is telling CNN that the captain, Richard Phillips, is on the USS Bainbridge and he has not been injured and that he is ok.

LONG: He has not been injured, of course there was that one unsuccessful attempt to escape. The pirates were able to bring him on board. He seemed to be in good spirits is what everybody said, but we can confirm, no injuries.

VERJEE: That, according to this senior U.S. official that is in touch with key officials on the ground. That is what we're given to understand. But understand too that because this is an unfolding situation, we are receiving only initial reports and more details and clarifications of the situation on the ground will become clearer. But what we do understand is that the captain is free, and he is ok and the U.S. will be following procedure which would be to inform family, immediate family that the captain is free and we understand that he's ok. So, it appears that whatever this operation was, was successful.

LONG: Yesterday we learned that the covered life boat, where we found Captain Phillips and the pirates was getting increasingly close to the Somali coastline. Do we know at what point this rescue took place?

VERJEE: We don't know that sort of information. The last was that the boat that the captain was on was floating closer and closer to the Somali border about 40 miles away to the layer of the Somali pirates themselves. So, it's unclear at this point what that information is because it's unfolding, it's important to just underscore that there appears to have been some kind of operation, according to this senior U.S. official who has information about the situation says that these are only initial reports that the captain was freed and the details of the exact situation, as it stands, and the operation will become clearer through both diplomatic and military channels.

LONG: Zain Verjee, our state department correspondent joining us live on the line. Stay with us. I want to check in now with Stephanie Elam who happens to be in Underhill, Vermont. That is the hometown of Captain Phillips. His wife live there I understand, their two college kids are home now for the weekend. And while we are just learning this information, while you are just learning this information at home, Stephanie, I understand the family has actually known for several hours now.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): That's what we just heard, Melissa when we went over there. Once we got confirmation that we could go over and talk to them, we were the first to head over to the house to see what their reaction was to this news and the gentleman that answered the door told me that they have known for hours that they were very happy about this. So we are getting confirmation from the family that this is indeed the case.

LONG: I know you've talked to a lot of family and friends over the last few days while you've been in Underhill, we've learned a lot about just how big of a family man the captain is and how when he's at sea, his crew members are his family.

ELAM: Definitely. We've been told that by numerous people that we have spoken to here that Captain Phillips is very much dedicated to his family. When he's here, when he's away, he's always in their hearts. But also at the same time when he's over in the waters that his crew is very much his priority there. And so they're saying that what he has done, the efforts that he took to make sure that the 19 other crew members on that ship were safe is totally in line with the man they know him to be. And here they're saying he'll be welcomed home with a heroes welcome.

LONG: So they learned, again, several hours ago. Do we know exactly how much communication they have had with authorities in the last few hours and how much information they have?

ELAM: No, we don't know that at this point. They were clear, the gentleman we spoke to, he was clear to say everything you need to know will have to come out of Virginia. So, taking away from that they're basically talking to the shipping company Maersk to get an idea of how everything is going to go down. Taking everything and putting it back on them and hoping people will leave Mrs. Phillips alone from this point because we still don't have that part of the story.

LONG: Ok, Stephanie Elam live on the line for us from Underhill, Vermont. That is the community, that's the hometown to Captain Phillips. Now I want to check in with CNN's Susan Candiotti, she joins us live from Buzzards Bay, she's been at Massachusetts Maritime Academy for the last couple of days and that is where Captain Phillips graduated from that maritime academy back in 1979. I know this morning, Susan, you also had an opportunity to attend a mass -- I guess Susan is not able to hear me. I'm not sure if we can connect with Susan right now then. We don't have the opportunity to -- got to love technology. Great story, of course, we'll have the opportunity to share what Susan has to say about a special mass this morning on this Easter Sunday, but, also, of course, how so many people have been keeping Captain Richard Phillips in their prayers.

Let me go back to Stephanie Elam in the community of Underhill, Vermont again. It is his wife Andrea who resides there and is anxiously waiting for her husband to get back home. Stephanie, I want to ask you a little bit more about the community because the last couple days we've been hearing from so many neighbors and friends and family and there have been a lot of yellow ribbons up around that town, as well.

ELAM: So true, Melissa. In fact it seems like overnight the ribbons actually increased in their number. They're all along the house in front of the Phillips home. All along the mailboxes when you just drive around the community. Everyone here very focused on this news. One thing that I've noticed through everyone I spoke to, very optimistic that Captain Phillips would come out of this, that he would come home. There was complete optimism. We spoke to some people coming out of Easter mass here at the church that the Phillips family attends and all of them very hopeful that he would be able to come home and would be safe here. So, that's the continuing theme through everyone I spoke to.

LONG: Stephanie, I want to let our viewers know what they're watching. We have some video right now of Captain Phillips' wife. So we just wanted to make sure they're aware who they are watching at this point. Again, Captain Phillips reportedly freed this afternoon after more than 100 hours held at sea in the high seas with four armed, with AK.47 rifles, these Somali pirates. Reportedly that three of them have been killed, one is in custody. Stephanie, once again, I know you've been outside his home in Underhill, Vermont, for a couple of days now. And it's just someone is turning on the television we do want to of course make sure they have the essential information at this hour, that we have learned that the captain has been freed, has been released. Now we're of course just getting bits of information sharing them with you at home but the family, Stephanie, has known for several hours now.

ELAM: That's exactly what we were told. We just knocked on the door when we went over there. They've known, which isn't too surprising that they had a jump on this information before everyone else did because you would see that they should know first that their loved one is safe. But there was a bit of a muted response. Imagine what this family has gone through since Wednesday not knowing the condition that Captain Phillips was in, if he was really not harmed. We had heard there had been a visual of Captain Phillips, but no one had actually been able to reach out and touch him. Now that this has happened, you know, I'm sure they're relieved but at the same time, it has to be an unimaginable emotional drain to go through all of that.

LONG: I'm sure. Can't wait to hear from Mr. Phillips himself, from Captain Phillips. Stephanie, do stay on the line for us. Of course, we want to continue to talk to you, as well. Let me go back to my colleague, Susan Candiotti. We didn't have the opportunity to talk directly to her earlier, a bit of a technical glitch. She joins us live from Buzzards Bay. She's been spending the last couple of days at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. And I know Susan you had the opportunity to attend a special mass this morning.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We did, well it was a regular Sunday Easter mass at one of the many, many churches here in which the parishioners were praying, of course, that Richard Phillips be freed safely and now it would appear their prayers and the prayers of obviously many, many other people have been answered. Many people said that perhaps this was a time that the U.S. have a show of force to try to say to the world, send a message that this kind of thing cannot go on. And, of course, as we are waiting for details of exactly how Captain Richard Phillips was freed, we don't know precisely what happened. Was there a show of force? These are the kinds of answers that everyone will be getting as the day goes on. I can tell you, as well, that we have spoken with a couple people here at the Maritime Academy who are elated, overjoyed at this news. You spoke in fact with a classmate of Captain Richard Phillips as I did just a little while ago, who said this is better than the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series, indeed. When we talked yesterday with Captain Joseph Murphy whose son, Shane Murphy, took over the helm for Captain Richard Phillips once he was taken hostage and Captain Murphy said he spoke with his son Shane last night after he was freed when the Maersk Alabama made dock in Kenya and he said that his son told me that what happened aboard that ship was unbelievable. And, in fact, he said that he couldn't get into the details with his father about what happened until after Captain Richard Phillips had been freed and after he was thoroughly debriefed by, of course, members of the FBI that will be investigating what happened here.

But he also went on to say that his son was very concerned as was the rest of the crew about naturally the safety of Captain Richard Phillips. They have all called him a hero, said that he made the greatest of sacrifices in staying behind so that they could be let go, so they could be freed in hopes that, of course, the captain would also be freed eventually. This is a time where Captain Murphy has said this is the best Easter present he got. That his son and the rest of the crew is safe. The same thing now holds true naturally on behalf of Captain Richard Phillips. He even equated it to like getting 1,000 Christmas presents. This is clearly a joyful day here on the campus of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy where Captain Richard Phillips received his training as had many others. Cadets and all the way up to the president very, very happy indeed. Melissa?

LONG: Received his training and graduated back in 1979. Susan Candiotti, thank you so much adding that perspective of course. Now we want to check in with Harry Humphries, he's a former navy seal who joins us live on the line. Mr. Humphries, thank you for your time today.

HARRY HUMPHRIES, FORMER NAVY SEAL (via telephone): Good morning.

LONG: I understand you can help us to better understand the tense nature of this rescue. Do you have any precise information on the rescue itself at this point?

HUMPHRIES: If I did, I couldn't tell you. Basically, the rescue is pretty much what I expected. It was a question of making sure that the hostage takers were in fact, tired of what they were doing. They let their guard down and at such a moment tactical forces can, in fact, penetrate when perhaps they're all sleeping and one is partially awake and perhaps not doing his job and asleep, as well. That's typically what you have to do. You have to let time be your companion, work with time. Be sure that you don't go in when they're on their guard and take out when you can and that is when they're not on their guard.

LONG: This life boat was getting increasingly close to the Somali coastline and that was also a big concern for the navy.

HUMPHRIES: Obviously, we had sufficient forces in the area, with CTF 151 responding to the scene. They had vessels surrounding, plus small vessels plus perhaps submerged assets that were in fact going to be sure that the facility that we were working with was cordoned off. Obviously there would have been a firefight as we got closer to shore. So they were forced to exercise the takeover.

LONG: Harry Humphries is a former navy seal. Mr. Humphries, thank you so much for sharing your perspective.

Some new information we want to share with you we're just getting in about the moments of the actual escape. Want to bring in CNN's Zain Verjee as well who is live on the line. She is our state department correspondent. Zain, we're learning that the three pirates were shot by navy seals or possibly U.S. military personnel still trying to of course figure out that part of the story. But we've also learned that the captain then jumped overboard, once again, because we know of course he had that first unsuccessful attempt to get away, but this time, clearly, successful. Zain, what do you have to add to the story?

VERJEE: What we're hearing here in London and this is from a senior U.S. official that has knowledge of the situation on the ground, it is fluid but initial reports are indicating that the captain jumped overboard again, according to this source. That provided an opportunity. It left the pirates exposed in the boat and, apparently, they trained their rifle on to Captain Richard Phillips but before they could take any action or pull the trigger they, themselves, were shot and killed. The fourth pirate is in custody and the reason he's in custody and alive is that he had actually gone to the USS Bainbridge to negotiate. So they have him in custody. Melissa?

LONG: Tell us more about what you know about that. When did he go to the USS Bainbridge for that negotiation?

VERJEEE: Those details are unclear because this is a fluid and developing situation and we're beginning to receive information trickling in from different sources. It's not clear exactly when that happened or exactly how far either of the vessels were from the Somali coast. We understood earlier on that about 40 miles away from the Somali border and the pirates leer is where Captain Richard Phillips may have inevitably ended up. But it appears that an opportunity was created and the U.S. navy seals and military took advantage of the situation.

This happened just a short while ago, so, information is coming in and in this sort of situation may trickle in slowly and be differing in some instances. It's just important to understand that. But what we do understand is that Captain Richard Phillips is free and on the USS Bainbridge. I asked my source where it was going and it wasn't clear where specifically it would head to the port of Mombasa in Kenya or not. Melissa?

LONG: Zain Verjee live on the line for us from London. Speaking of the port of Mombasa, let's check in with CNN's Stan Grant. We've been talking to him throughout the weekend, in fact. He was reporting for us live yesterday when the U.S. flagged Maersk Alabama pulled into the port. I'm sorry, we don't have Stan right now. Ok, we're going to check in with Stan a little bit later. Of course we want his perspective as well, especially if the USS Bainbridge does then travel on to its final destination of Mombasa. Let's check in with Stephanie Elam once again she is in the hometown community of Captain Phillips, that is Underhill, Vermont, and she joins us now live. Nice to see you Stephanie.

ELAM: Hi Melissa, yeah, as you can see there's a light snow falling, it's a little chilly in the air, but the good news spreading now through the town, so, things are warming up in a way. I'm joined right now by Stephen Herrera, he's a neighbor here. He lives in Underhill. We have been talking to him, you just found out the news. What's your first reaction?

STEPHEN HERRERA, NEIGHBOR OF CAPTAIN PHILLIPS: Elated. I can't believe that he's actually safe and he is a hero. There's no question about that.

ELAM: Tell me what it has been like since Wednesday, what has it been like here in this town?

HERRERA: It's been incredible. I have never seen so many people and so many media. It has been very interesting, actually, having the coverage and all the different media folk here and it's been, put us on the map, so to speak.

ELAM: That's true. Definitely, you can tell that a lot of people are not used to having this many people in their town. What do you know of the Phillips family?

HERRERA: I don't know them directly. I have seen them around at the different markets and they have a large number of people who know them and who are supporting them and the yellow ribbons out here are just incredible. You know, people are putting yellow ribbons all over up our road and down river road. It's been quite, quite an outpouring of support by the town.

ELAM: What do you think about the little bit of information we're getting right now that we're still trying to -- what has gone on to free Captain Phillips and, obviously, this dragged on for a few days, but it sounds like they took some measures to make sure that he'd be safe.

HERRERA: Well I'm glad they actually did that. If it drew on too much longer, who knows what would have happened and it's great that it didn't happen like the French thing happened. I'm very, very happy and elated.

ELAM: So, what do you think will happen when Captain Phillips gets back here?

HERRERA: Maybe it won't be, maybe it will be a ticker tape parade but instead of ticker tape it will be snow or something like that. I think everybody is going to just praise him for being a hero because he really is, he's an American hero. ELAM: Thank you so much Stephen. As you can hear Melissa, a lot of feelings of just good happiness coming out on this snowy Easter Sunday here. But it's the kind of news that you want to hear, it's the kind of news that people want to spread. So it's just now getting out into the town that Captain Phillips is safe. But again, the family is telling us that they have known for a few hours that he was ok.

LONG: His neighbors calling him a hero and his colleagues calling him a hero and we're learning more now about what his immediate crew members are saying. Let's check in with CNN's Susan Candiotti once again from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. We've been introduced to Captain Joseph Murphy because he took the helm of the Maersk Alabama after Captain Phillips remained captive. We're hearing from him now, Susan.

CANDIOTTI: Well actually this is Captain Joseph Murphy is the father of his son Shane. Shane is the one that we were talking about a little while ago who, in fact, took over the helm for Captain Phillips once he was taken hostage. We have a statement now from Captain Murphy, the father. And he is saying the following. "I would like at this moment to send my warm regards to the Phillips family. Our prayers have been answered on this Easter Sunday. He says I have made it clear throughout this terrible ordeal that my son and our family will forever be indebted to Captain Phillips for his bravery. If not for his incredible personal sacrifice this kidnapping and act of terror could have turned out much worse." Again the Murphy's and the Phillips family are celebrating a joyous Easter. That is the extent of the statement and this is the same gentleman who spoke last night here at the Maritime Academy. Grateful that he had spoken to his son and the rest of the crew had been freed and hopeful that Captain Richard Phillips would also be freed. Melissa?

LONG: Again, Captain Joseph Murphy, the father of Shane Murphy, who took over the helm of the Maersk Alabama.

Let's check in as promised with CNN's Stan Grant who is in the port of Mombasa in Kenya. That was the original destination for the U.S. flagship when it was hijacked in the high seas. Once again, Stan joining us live on the line. Stan?

STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Melissa, it was the original destination for the Maersk Alabama and that is now, indeed, where the Maersk Alabama is docked. It came in about almost 24 hours ago now. It docked here in Mombasa with the crew looking healthy and in good spirits and they're able to deliver their cargo of food supplies and all of them, as we shouted questions to them said that Captain Phillips was a hero and they were hoping for his release. This news is going to leave them absolutely overjoyed.

But of course, there is still an investigation pending into exactly what took place on the high seas when the pirates were able to capture the ship and how did the crew manage to get control back from the pirates. We do understand there was a tussle on board. One of the crew members told us that one of the pirates had been stabbed through the hand in this tussle which took place in the engine room. Now the FBI has declared the ship a crime scene, they have spent the day debriefing a lot of the crew members and they will remain onboard the vessel unable to leave Mombasa until this investigation is finalized. Melissa?

LONG: Stan Grant live on the line for us from Mombasa, Kenya, Stan thanks so much.

Moments ago we had the opportunity to talk to Harry Humphries, he's a former Navy seal, I want to bring him back in for the conversation so you're better able to understand exactly how this rescue has gone down. Mr. Humphries, thanks again for your time on this Sunday and a holiday for so many.

HUMPHRIES: Thank you so much.

LONG: Earlier you said time is a companion. Explain what you mean by that.

HUMPHRIES: I said that before I even knew what happened. But basically the concept always is if you have the advantage of using time, then you use time to make sure your enemy or the target is, in fact, apathetic about the situation. They become fatigued and their senses are reduced, et cetera, et cetera. This is exactly what happened. We had a window of opportunity that opened as a result of the hostage takers not being aware, being fatigued, et cetera. He jumped over the side, that created the opportunity and the assets that we talked about, both visible and invisible reacted to the situation.

LONG: This, of course, was not the first time that the captain tried to escape.

HUMPHRIES: Exactly. We know, we knew from that and plus we knew from the personality of the individual that he was an aggressor and would take advantage of an escape situation once it presented itself. And of course he told us all that he was of that mindset and I'm quite sure that the ground commanders on the scene were anticipating yet another occasion once time did what it always does.

LONG: You mentioned the personality. What type of a personality does one need to have, first of all, to be a captain and then, of course, to get through this type of situation?

HUMPHRIES: Well, obviously, this is a very good captain and he's a leader of people and in that he must also be willing to fight for what is worth fighting for. And that, unfortunately, is not the mindset of many of the folks out there at sea. That's why the vessels are being taken over, constantly.

LONG: When you hear time and time again and certainly a spike in recent weeks of pirates being able to overpower these large vessels, what are you, what do you think about?

HUMPHRIES: Well, it's a quite clear case of the Cuban airplane takeovers that we used to see years ago. You know, what the heck, let it happen and we're just going to take a trip to Cuba and then we'll be released. In this particular case you have insurance companies insuring the cargo, the hull and, in fact, part of the insurance policies today especially going through the horn of Africa has an add- on that is a war risk add-on. And of course that war risk add on is like $20,000, $30,000 premium and, of course, out of that, the insurance companies are forced to pay ransoms up to whatever that particular policy was written under.

But it's a known fact. Hey, it's the insurance company that's paying for it. Let's let it happen and let's pay these guys and be done with it. There's no risk to our people. That's not the right attitude. The attitude must be we must prevent that the source of the crime, we must be able to defend ourselves. If we can't do that at sea, then of course piracy will be rampant around the world.

LONG: Harry Humphries, a former Navy seal with some terrific perspective on this rescue and, of course, the piracy and the high seas. Mr. Humphries, thank you.

I want to bring in Susan Candiotti, once again. The last couple days we've been bringing you her live reports from Massachusetts from Buzzards Bay and I understand you have a guest with you, Susan.

CANDIOTTI: We have two special guests right now, in fact, we've got Admiral Richard Gurnon who is the president of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy here in full uniform, looking good. We just heard the ship sound its horn, very loud horn I might add just about a moment ago. Was that in celebration?

ADMIRAL RICHARD GURNON, MASSACHUSETTS MARITIME ACADEMY: Absolutely. Good news for this Easter Day.

CANDIOTTI: Tell us how you heard of this information.

GURNON: Well, I actually got a call from our media person, who is your best friend for the last few days, Chris Ryan. We've been standing by waiting for this good news and it's absolutely spectacular. The good shepherd has been returned to the flock.

CANDIOTTI: It is wonderful news. What do you make of apparently how this came down? We are learning bits and pieces of information, not that much, but at this time we understand, according to our CNN correspondents, that navy Seals carried out an operation. It would appear that Captain Richard Phillips was able to get off the boat for a moment once one of the pirates was aboard the Bainbridge, apparently involved in negotiations. And the other three pirates were, in fact, taken out by the U.S. Navy seals.

GURNON: An amazing amount of coordination. This is a dangerous opportunity for them to take. For us, we don't care how it went down, only that we've got Captain Phillips home safe.

CANDIOTTI: In fact, piracy is not new in that region of the world, the maritime academy has been teaching its cadets about this kind of thing for quite some time. What efforts if any do you think could be made to try worldwide get this problem under control?

GURNON: We can't forget that there are 200 or more mariners still in custody of the pirates. This drama that has unfolded with the Maersk Alabama and with Captain Phillips has truly riveted the world's attention on the piracy issue and just because it's come to a successful conclusion does not mean we can walk away from the 200 people still in custody. We've got to solve this, we've got to put some international focus and pressure on it. We have got to put some international focus to solve the swamp that is Somalia, we can't just turn away onto something new.

CANDIOTTI: How do you hope to use, perhaps, that there is a lesson to be learned from this what happened to Captain Richard Phillips and the rest of the crew, many of whom were trained here to instruct your cadets here?

GURNON: We can't be more proud of Richard Phillips and Shane Murphy, the captain and the first mate who became captain, his first job. We can't be more proud of them. They have evidenced the true skills that they learned here and in all maritime colleges across the United States. This is a great day for mariners around the world, but, again, we have to focus on the overall problem. I think that through a combination of efforts we can solve this, we can make those ships traveling that area more safe. That ought to be our focus.

CANDIOTTI: How do you think that can be done, admiral?

GURNON: Personally, I think that the crews should be armed or we should have professional soldiers on board. I think we ought to go into Somalia and clean out the pirate havens. It's not much different than in the Barbary wars that Thomas Jefferson had to face.

CANDIOTTI: Of course, the notion of arming the merchant marines and others has come up and has stirred up some controversy, not only that, but the expense of it has caused some concern it would appear to some companies or at least that has been discussed. What do you make of that?

GURNON: The pirate business model has been working for them for two years out of Somalia. They don't hurt anybody, they take people into custody, they hold the ships and the crew for ransom and its a million dollar business for them. I can understand that, we need to change the business model. We need to stop paying ransom, we need to increase the presence because otherwise they're just going to ratchet this up. More and more countries are going to adopt this business model. You can't farm and you can't fish out of Somalia any more. They don't have many other options. We need to find some other choices.

CANDIOTTI: Are you surprised at the way the way the operation was carried out in the end? Did you think it would have to come to something like this?

GURNON: No, I honestly thought they would just wait it out. I know that life on a life boat is uncomfortable and I figured that eventually that the young men that were holding Captain Phillips would surrender. I just figured that we would wait and wait and wait and if patience prevailed, we would be successful. I knew that Captain Phillips would be returned unharmed because I know that they didn't have many other options. I'm frankly surprised that we used force in this case, but I'm glad that the end resulted in Captain Phillips safe return.

CANDIOTTI: A direct message to him and other members of his crew?

GURNON: Congratulations. Happy Easter, it doesn't get better than this.

CANDIOTTI: If you could stand by for just a moment. I did want to ask, we also have a young man here by the name of Richard Montgomery. You are president of the student government here. You are a senior, 22 years old. You've been following this to a degree while studying for your final exams of course. But your reaction?

RICHARD MONTGOMERY, MASSACHUSETTS MARITIME ACADEMY STUDENT: We're just really proud of the students, a very happy Easter. It's scary sometimes when you're out in those areas, but knowing that we have the government to protect us and to help us in the safety and the courses we're getting here definitely makes us feel a bit better but just overall students, totally proud. The ship blowing its horn and it has been a really great day, really good Easter. So I'm happy.

CANDIOTTI: We've asked time and again admiral, I would like to ask you this, as well. We always want to know, after something like this happens, you have not yet gone to sea but --

GURNON: Happy Easter.

(SHIPS HORN SOUNDING)

GURNON: Welcome home, Alabama.

(SHIPS HORN SOUNDING)

GURNON: Well welcome home Captain Phillips.

(SHIPS HORN SOUNDING)

GURNON: Everybody in Buzzards Bay knows, even those not watching CNN.

CANDIOTTI: Good timing, admiral. You've got that well paced in between the horns. I'm wondering this kind of thing is scary, it is serious, make you still want to go out to sea despite this danger?

MONTGOMERY: Actually, last winter I sailed through those areas with one of the Maersk ships and I don't think it scares us to know that we have this protection, especially the first one they tried to take over an American ship, it was faulted. So it makes us feel a little safer and proud. I don't think it scares us. The type of job we do and those we get into, it definitely, I think the students are still proud of what they do and I don't think they're afraid to go out there.

CANDIOTTI: If you were a betting man admiral, can you foresee Captain Phillips going back out to see and the other members of this crew?

GURNON: Oh, absolutely. This is what they do, this is their profession, they do it well, they are pros at it. They've been doing it their entire adult life. They're absolutely going back.

CANDIOTTI: We thank both of you very, very much and we thank the training ship Kennedy for that salute, as well.

GURNON: Happy to be here, happy Easter.

CANDIOTTI: Thank you very much.

Thank you very much, appreciate your joining us this day. Well, I mean, obviously, this is a sentiment that will be repeated time and again throughout the day here, but, clearly, it's a wonderful occasion here at this academy with direct links to so many members of the crew aboard the Maersk Alabama. Melissa?

LONG: And you have to love the quartet of horns, the celebratory sound there from Buzzards Bay.

CANDIOTTI: Absolutely. No use trying to out shout those horns, that's for sure.

LONG: Not at all. They are in control. They are certainly deafening and wonderful sounds to hear as we, of course, share with everyone that's watching right now the important information. Thank you, Susan, by the way. We're going to continue to talk to you that Captain Phillips has, in fact, been released or rescued. He was very daring, of course, in his first attempt to escape and, today, again a very daring escape. He's now on the USS Bainbridge. We're going to get you more on the rescue now of that American cargo ship captain, that is Richard Phillips known to his family and friend as Richie.

Here's what we know at this hour, Phillips uninjured and free. Sources telling CNN that he jumped overboard for a second time off the life boat, pirates were holding him on since Wednesday, more than 100 hours in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia. The U.S. military really taking advantage of the situation. Three of the four Somali pirates have now been killed. I was speaking to former navy seal just last hour Harry Humphries who told me it was all about time, time is the companion. And they likely waited until the hostage takers became tired and that they let their guards down. So three of them killed, the fourth in custody. Phillips is safely again aboard the USS Bainbridge which is the U.S. navy's war ship.