A correspondent wrote to me:
Although the captain of the ship is reviled for abandoning ship, had he
been Jewish would he have been acting properly? Women and children
first seems to be contradicted by the din that if a man or a woman
are drowning, we save the male because he is chayav in more mitzvos .
The same hierachy would seem to apply for adult female vs child
analysis. Unless there is a halachik basis for the captain going down
with the ship one could argue that the din of v"chai bahem would imply
that if there are insufficient resources (eg lifeboats) its each man for
himself and that would apply to the captain and crew as well.
I do not think that your premise is correct.
Surely a commander in war has responsibilities that include laying his
life on the line for his responsibilities. I cannot cite you chapter and
verse on that, but it a milei d'mistabra and I am sure Rabbi Gershuni in
Mishpat HaMelucha or someone else speaks about it. The position of
captain of a vessel is a quasi-military one, and surely can be
correlated to the parameters of an army command.
Moreover, even if we regard this position as purely civilian, we know
that a person is allowed to take a position for parnassa that entails
safek sakanos nefashos. Well, as a captain this is the safek he