Former SEAL Team Six sniper Senior Chief Petty Officer Robert O'Neill told Fox News Tuesday night that he's the operator who killed Osama bin Laden. He made the assertion in the first half
of a two-part interview airing this week.
There is some disagreement in the defense community over whose shots ultimately killed bin Laden. While accounts differ, it's generally agreed upon that three men fired.
In many accounts, credit for firing the fatal shot goes to the point man, who remains unknown, in many accounts, but that trio is rounded out by O'Neill and Matt Bissonnette, who, under the pen name Mark Owen, wrote his story of the mission in the 2012 memoir "No Easy Day."
O'Neill, who says he was the second SEAL to enter bin Laden's room on May 2, 2011, now claims that his shots ultimately ended the life of the al-Qaida leader. terrorist leader's life, as he was the second SEAL to enter bin Laden's room on May 2, 2011.
"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," O'Neill told host Peter Doocy.
The interview took O'Neill back to his Butte, Montana, hometown, retracing his steps through the recruiter's office, to boot camp, to Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, and through his time in the teams leading up to that fateful mission.
Part 1 of O'Neill's interview covered his story up until the bin Laden raid. Part 2 airs Wednesday night on Fox News at 10 p.m.
Here's what we've learned so far about the man who says he killed bin Laden.
1. He joined the Navy after a bad break-up. It's one of the oldest stories in the book: Man gets heart broken, man joins military.
O'Neill said he had a year of college under his belt and had been working jobs at McDonald's, a local pizzeria and a Montana mine when the tumultuous end of a relationship inspired him to visit his local recruiting office.
"That was kind of the tipping-point time to leave town," he said, adding that 95 percent of the guys he met there were in the same position.
2. He originally wanted to be a Marine. O'Neill said he went in wanting to join the Marine Corps — giving props to their marketing prowess and coveted dress blue uniforms — but the recruiter wasn't there.
However, the sailor on duty was able to convince him to join the SEALs. He didn't know how to swim, though, so he spent months in the local high school pool training.
3. He joined SEAL Team Six to get into the fight. After several years with SEAL Team Two, including a deployment to Liberia at the start of the Iraq invasion, O'Neill volunteered to join the Naval Special Warfare Development Group.
In multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, he said his team spent six or seven nights a week capturing high-value targets. One of their favorite things, he said, was to ask the detainees where bin Laden was.
"They would laugh, and then we would laugh," he said.
4. He originally thought they were getting Gadhafi. The Arab Spring revolutions were was going strong when SEAL Team Six was recalled in early 2011, O'Neill said, so he thought they were going to capture former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
The CIA kept things vague from the beginning.
"We found a thing, and the thing is in a house, and the house is in a bowl, and the bowl is in a country, and you're going to go to that house and get the thing, and you're going to bring it back to us," he recalled them saying.
When they were told it was bin Laden, O'Neill said, they were sure that between a resident blowing up the house or the Pakistani police arresting them, they wouldn't be coming home.
5. He wasn't supposed to be in the house. In the initial plans, O'Neill said, he was assigned to lead the external security team that would keep the locals away from the compound while the SEALs were inside.
Then he asked decided to be part of the squadron that would land on the roof and engage bin Laden from the balcony outside his room, though that plan fell through.
He ultimately found himself running up the stairs behind the team leader, straight into bin Laden's bedroom.
"If you want to kill him, he's on the third floor -- 100 percent," he recalled the famed CIA analyst, portrayed in the movie "Zero Dark Thirty," telling him.
6. Just in case, he wrote letters to his children. He couldn't tell anyone where he was going or what he was doing, O'Neill said, so he wrote down his advice and wishes for his children in case he didn't come back.
He told them to take care of their mom, hoped for their happiness and apologized for not being there to see them get married, he said.
"The first thing I did when I got home was shred them," he said.