Capt. Joseph Murphy, whose son, Shane, was aboard the Maersk-Alabama when it repulsed the initial pirate attacks, offered "warm regards" for Phillips' family.
"Our prayers have been answered on this Easter Sunday," Murphy said in a written statement. "I have made it clear throughout this terrible ordeal that my son and our family will forever be indebted to Capt. Phillips for his bravery. If not, for his incredible personal sacrifice ... this kidnapping and act of terror could have turned out much worse."
Adm. Rick Gurnon, president of the Massachusetts Marine Academy, suggested he'd been confident Phillips would survive.
"I was sure that Capt. Phillips was going to be returned because the pirates had no cards to play," Gurnon said.
"It doesn't get better than this," Gurnon added. "This is exactly the way we wanted it to end with the crew safe, with the cargo safe and with the ship safe."
According to Gortney, U.S. forces had "seconds" to decide whether to shoot after it appeared that the pirates were getting ready to shoot Capt. Phillips at 7:19 p.m. local time, or 12:19 p.m. ET.
Sea conditions were "deteriorating" and the USS Bainbridge was towing the lifeboat towards better waters. The tether was 25 to 30 meters at the time of the incident.
For days, the Navy had been sending a small rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RIB) to the lifeboat to provide Phillips and the pirates with food, water, medicine if they needed it, and changes of clothing for Phillips. Gortney said this was all an effort to build confidence.
When a RIB went by today one pirate got in and was transported back to the Bainbridge.
That pirate was engaged in negotiations aboard the Bainbridge, but Gortney said that at no time was the U.S. preparing to pay what Gortney described as a "significant" ransom demanded by the pirates. He said U.S. officials were trying to explain to the pirates that they had no good options left and to give up Phillips.
While that pirate was aboard the Bainbridge, the situation "escalated" and the commander on scene determined that Phillips' life was in imminent danger.
Gortney said that they observed the pirates aiming an AK-47 at Phillips' back and seemed to be "getting ready to use it." Phillips was tied up, and the Navy "interpreted hostile intent" and decided to take action.
Gortney confirmed that there was a standing order from President Obama to take action if the commander on site determined it was possible.
At one point, the pirates "exposed" their heads and shoulders, and snipers perched atop the "fantail" of the Bainbridge, or the back end of the ship facing the lifeboat that was being towed, took the shots and killed all three pirates on the lifeboat.
Navy SEALs were there as part of the special ops teams, Gortney said, but he wouldn't or couldn't say if they were the ones to take the shots.
Phillips was transferred from the lifeboat to a RIB, then to the Bainbridge, and finally to the Boxer. Gortney said he is in "good health" and actually declined food when asked. He wouldn't say where he would be transferred to.
The captured pirate is on board the Boxer after being transferred from the Bainbridge. Gortney said he's cooperating and being treated humanely.