(image courtesy of ICC Live Piracy Map) Captain Richard Phillips has been freed from captivity, and the Somali pirates who had held him for several days in a lifeboat in the Indian Ocean have now either been been slain or captured themselves.
Many press reports have claimed that this was the first act of piracy against a U.S. flagged ship in over 200 years, or at least in modern times. This is far from accurate. In fact there are more recent incidents of piracy in the historic record: some that are much more recent.
"Don" Pedro Gilbert of the pirate ship "Panda" attacked the US flagged ship "Mexican" in 1832, torturing the captain and crew into revealing where they had concealed a chest containing $20,000 in silver coins. Surviving crewmembers of the "Mexican" testified against Gilbert, who was hanged in 1835: the last man executed for piracy in the United States.
150 years later, pirates were still attacking American flagged ships.
In 1984, a US Navy chartered vessel the "Falcon Countess" was attacked by six pirates armed with knifes in the Straits of Malacca and robbed of $19,000. The U.S. flagged Ranger was attacked off Singapore in 1991 and likewise robbed of $23,000.
In 2000, American Stephen M. Gartmann was killed aboard his yacht Sea Lion off Rio Dulce, Guatemala.
So these other cases don't count? Or would it be more accurate to say that fact checking, along with our illusions that pirates no longer sail the seas, is another casualty of our times?