'Best or Worst Thing I've Ever Done': Hear from Man Who Killed Bin Laden
Programming Note: If you missed it, you can catch the full two-hour presentation of “The Man Who Killed Usama Bin Laden,” on Sunday, November 16 at 8p and 11p ET.
Tonight in part one of a Fox News special, Peter Doocy offered an in-depth look into the Navy SEAL who fired the fateful shots that ended perhaps the greatest manhunt in history.
For more than a decade, Robert O’Neill served through multiple wars and in dangerous missions too numerous to count.
On May 1, 2011, the SEAL Team Six member walked through a door into the room of the world’s most wanted terrorist, Usama bin Laden, firing the shots that ended his life.
This is the story of “The Man Who Killed Usama Bin Laden.”
‘The Best Thing I’ve Ever Done or the Worst Thing I’ve Ever Done’
What was it like to kill bin Laden?
“It wasn’t real,” O’Neill said. “It didn’t sink in for a while.”
The former SEAL told Doocy that he has thought about it every day for years.
"I’m still trying to figure out if it’s the best thing I’ve ever done or the worst thing I’ve ever done," he said, explaining that while the team accomplished its mission, he doesn’t know what’s going to happen now.
Watch more in the clip above.
From Butte, Montana, to Navy SEAL Training
Doocy toured O’Neill’s hometown of Butte, Montana, learning about his childhood in the blue-collar town, and even getting a taste of O’Neill’s “favorite sandwich in the world.”
O’Neill explained that after high school graduation, he didn’t know what was next. He worked at McDonald’s and a pizza place, moved furniture, and worked in the mines.
After a relationship with a young woman “went sideways,” O’Neill said he felt he needed to get out of town. That’s when he joined the Marine Corps.
Watch the clip above to learn about O’Neill’s early life, and check out the clip below to hear more on the experience of training to become a Navy SEAL.
‘We Said the Words Usama Bin Laden Within 30 Seconds’
O’Neill was in an operations office in Germany catching up on emails when the news broke that a plane had hit the Twin Towers. Then, the second plane hit.
“We said the words Usama bin Laden within 30 seconds. We knew everything had just changed, we didn’t know what was going to happen. A shot in the gut, it was surreal, it was painful and it was infuriating to see the symbol of the greatest nation gone,” he said.
Watch the chilling segment above.
Rescuing Capt. Richard Phillips
A few years before bin Laden’s death, O’Neill was involved in another high-profile mission: to save Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates in April 2009.
O’Neill recalled that he had been at a tea party for Easter at his children’s preschool when he got the message.
“So I had to leave from a preschool classroom to jump into the Indian Ocean to rescue Capt. Richard Phillips.”
Just 15 hours and 46 minutes after the first page, the team had a full headcount and were ready to go.
O’Neill said he thinks of all that goes into preparing to launch – from flying the plane to packing the boats to rigging the parachutes.
“It’s a moment of pride, just the efficiency of the U.S. military when it needs to be. I mean it makes you realize that if we wanted to take the gloves off and really hurt people, that wouldn’t be a problem.”
But there are rules, Doocy pointed out.
“We’re the good guys,” O’Neill said.
Hear more about the mission to save Phillips above.
‘We’re Gonna Go & We’re Not Gonna Come Back’
O’Neill had just returned from his 11th deployment and was diving in Miami when he and a few others were called back.
He explained that they were told, “Hey we found a thing, and the thing’s in a house, and the house is in a bowl, and the bowl’s in a country, and you’re gonna go to that house, and you’re gonna get a thing, and you’re gonna bring it back to us, and that was it.”
O’Neill said that details were sparse, and the SEAL team initially assumed the mission was to go after Muammar al-Gaddafi. Then, they decided it must be bin Laden.
The CIA had been doing extensive surveillance on the compound where bin Laden was hiding, even building an exact replica scale model.
The CIA analyst portrayed in “Zero Dark Thirty” told O’Neill, “If you want to kill him, he’s on the third floor.”
Though O’Neill had initially been charged with being a team leader outside the compound, he talked himself out of the team leader spot so that he could stay on the helicopter, go to the roof, then jump into the balcony and have a shootout with bin Laden.
“The more we trained on it, the more we realized this is gonna be a one-way mission. We’re gonna go and we’re not gonna come back.”
O’Neill said the team thought they’d die when the house blew up or when bin Laden blew up. Or, he said, they could be arrested by the Pakistanis.
O’Neill said the intense training for the mission was worth it, and the feeling that they would die on that mission “was worth it to kill him.”
“To be part of something so historic, you can’t ask for more.”
Watch more above.
When Bush Said ‘Freedom Will Be Defended,’ He Meant It for Everyone
Before he embarked on the bin Laden mission, O’Neill wrote letters to his kids, believing that he would never return.
“It was more of an explanation of why we went, why it was noble and why I’m not afraid,” he said.
He told Doocy that the letters said he was sorry that they’re upset and that he died with the people he should have died with.
The last person that O’Neill called was his father.
“I called him to say goodbye and thanks for everything,” he said.
O’Neill’s dad described the call, which rendered him “catatonic.”
“There was something in the tone that got me,” he said, recalling how he sat in a Walmart parking lot for 20 minutes after the call.
“After 17 years, I think it’s over for him,” he said.
In every phone call, O’Neill’s father told the SEAL that he loved him and was proud of him.
“In this call, I remember I said, 'I wish I could go with you,'” he said.
As the SEALs embarked on the mission to kill bin Laden, they hugged instead of the usual handshakes.
O’Neill said they all knew that their chances of dying were high.
“We were the end, we were the fists, we were the FDNY, we were the NYPD, we were the American people, and when President Bush said ‘Freedom will be defended,’ he meant it for everyone. We were everyone.”
Watch more above.
In the epic conclusion, O'Neill took us through the dramatic journey into Pakistan and his confrontation with bin Laden.