In 15 years of dangerous missions — from midnight raids on al-Qaeda safe houses in Iraq to battling Somali pirates from the deck of a heaving Navy ship on the high seas — there had never been one so shadowed by dread. As Robert James O'Neill contemplated his jump from a helicopter into Osama bin Laden's private garden, he was positive it would be his last.
"I didn't think I would survive," the former Navy SEAL said.
O'Neill, one of dozens of U.S. special operators to storm bin Laden's hideout on May 2, 2011, said he mentally prepared himself to face death from heavily armed gunmen or from the elaborate booby traps that would surely line the approaches to the al-Qaeda leader's inner sanctum. What he never expected was that he would secure a place in history that night, as the man who fired the bullet that ended bin Laden's life.