U.S. Navy fires on small boats thought to be pirates
WASHINGTON (CNN)—A U.S. Navy oiler ship was forced to fire its guns against a half dozen small power boats that approached it as the ship passed through the Straits of Hormuz on April 23 in the Persian Gulf near Iran.
The Navy has not publicly disclosed the incident. But a defense official Friday confirmed to CNN the details of what took place, and suggested the boats may have been piloted by bandits intending to raid a ship.
Commander of the U.S.NS Walter S. Diehl Master Robert B. Seabrook: You Engen?
Boatswain’s Mate Third Class Harold Engen: Yessir.
Seabrook: You can park it right there, son. The phone’s been—mercy, you are handsome.
Seabrook: Good god, those cheekbones.
Engen: Thank you, sir.
Seabrook: Engen, my phone’s ringing off the hook, our dear friends in the media wanting to know more about this speedboat shootout of yours.
Engen: You mean the pirate encounter, sir?
Seabrook: I guess that’s what I mean.
Engen: I’ve been getting calls, too, sir.
Seabrook: I bet you have. From the girls, am I right?
Engen: Mostly, yessir.
Seabrook: Wanting to know all the gory details.
Engen: They’re curious about the diameter of my artillery shells.
Seabrook: Who wouldn’t be. And what do you tell them, son?
Engen: Just serving my country, sir.
Seabrook: Good for you. Now I was told six boats came out of nowhere, ran along the starboard side.
Seabrook: And they shot a couple-three cannonballs across the prow.
Engen: Cannonballs? Not th—
Seabrook: And then they stormed the Diehl, their grizzled, rum-soaked shouts almost drowned out by the shrieks of their parrots?
Engen: I don’t—
Seabrook: Running their cutlasses through the well-muscled bellies of screaming seamen, raping the on-board virgins at length, filling their treasure chests with fistfuls of Navy bullion?
Engen: No, sir.
Seabrook: Then maybe we can assume it was Maxie down in PR who came up with the pirate encounter terminology?
Engen: I, I couldn’t tell you exactly who—
Seabrook: What you need to tell me, Engen, is what happened after I gave the order to fire off some warning flares. Warning flares. I’ll admit I wasn’t in the clearest state of mind at the time, what with it being, you know, Queen Triad Hour in my cabin, but I’m pretty solid on the warning flare part of it and am not sure how we went from that to all-out machinegun assault.
Engen: OK, sir, but I’ll need to paint you a word-picture.
Engen: It was a mild, sunny afternoon as we cruised through the Straits of Hormuz. The wind was scented with spice and salt and danger. I was oiling my 57mm Mk3 with long, slow strokes—
Engen: As ordered, sir. Sweat trickling across my ragged Moroccan tattoos.
Seabrook: When all of a sudden.
Engen: All of a sudden, six speedboats come out of nowhere, hugging our starboard side. The men on the boats started shouting at us and gesturing wildly. We couldn’t understand their shouts but recognized the accent.
Engen: Absolutely, sir. And their skin was dark—not because of careful tanning but rather… inbred.
Seabrook: And you’d describe their overall vibe as being A) endearing, B) noncommittal, or C) malevolent.
Engen: Definitely C, sir.
Seabrook: And no noticeable response to the warning flares.
Engen: More of the shouting and arm-waving.
Seabrook: And you took it upon yourself to override my command and start firing away?
Engen: The men on deck took an informal vote.
Seabrook: What was the final tally?
Engen: Sixteen to two.
Engen: But even the two peaceniks were convinced when they noticed the smoke coming from the aft deck.
Seabrook: A bomb.
Engen: That was the most popular theory.
Seabrook: Maybe a bomb thrown from the boats.
Engen: That’s exactly what we were thinking.
Seabrook: And you opened fire.
Engen: Long and hard, sir.
Seabrook: Even after the men on the boats cowered down, raising their hands and waving white t-shirts, making the universal sign of surrender?
Engen: Sir, I was in the zone.
Seabrook: I read you.
Engen: You know how it gets, sir, when you just can’t stop until the magazine is spent.
Seabrook: I’m afraid I do.
Engen: It was beyond my control, sir.
Seabrook: So perhaps that would explain why you didn’t take the time to investigate the source of the smoke, discover that it was coming from a hamburger-related grease fire in the galley, and that the men on the speedboats were simply trying to alert you to its presence in a warm gesture of international goodwill and concern?
Engen: That could be one possible explanation, sir, yes.
Seabrook: And Maxie thought the pirate encounter thing might be the best way to spin it.
Engen: I don’t know if it was the best, sir, but it was definitely the first thing she thought of.
Seabrook: All right, Engen. I’ll get on the horn and see if that flies. Dismissed. And I assume I’ll be seeing you tonight at the Afterparty Jam?
Engen: My epaulets are already back from the drycleaners.
Seabrook: Top notch.