An Oral History on the Raid to Kill Bin Laden

From Politico: “I’d Never Been Involved in Anything as Secret as This.” The plan to kill Osama bin Laden—from the spycraft to the assault to its bizarre political backdrop—as told by the people in the room.

Rob O’Neill, senior chief petty officer, Seal Team Six, U.S. Navy: We were pretty sure that we weren’t going to come back from the mission—we had this new stealth technology, but no one really knew if it worked. We didn’t know how good the air defenses for Pakistan were. We knew that we were invading, and that they could shoot us down and be justified. We also thought we might simply run out of gas in the helicopters and end up on foot in a really, really bad part of the world. We thought if anyone’s going to blow himself up and his entire family and martyr everybody, it’s going to be bin Laden. He wasn’t going to let us get him.

We had our last meals with our families and our kids—I know I did—and then hand-wrote letters to our families. We all joined to be in the fight, and that’s why we were going. We had that conversation about how the first ones to fight al Qaeda were the passengers on Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. God knows how many lives they saved, but they killed themselves for the western world. We had these conversations every night. That was why we went.

This is a fascinating read. Take the time to read it in one sitting. It details the gathering of intel, the decision to actually move forward with the raid, and the aftermath. The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is thrown in there too. It’s incredibly engrossing.