Robert O'Neill, the former Navy SEAL who says he fired the final shot that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, tells Fox News that his first thought was, "We just ended the war."
O'Neill talked to Fox News Channel's
Peter Doocy in a special titled "The Man Who Killed Usama bin Laden." The first hour of the two-hour special aired Tuesday. The second airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. EST.
O'Neill was a SEAL Team 6 member who was second up the stairs leading to bin Laden's bedroom the night of May 2, 2011, when the team descended on the terrorist leader's compound inside Pakistan.
He recalled feeling a "shot in the gut" on Sept. 11, 2001, when he watched the terrorist attacks in the United States on television from his base in Germany. He said he knew bin Laden was behind them.
"OK, I guess it's on, and we're gonna get him," he says he said at the time.
But it was 10 years before he got the chance. In the interim, he participated in missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and was part of the team that rescued Capt. Richard Phillips of the ship Maersk Alabama from Somali pirates.
One day during training, he says, they pulled certain members, all "senior guys," aside.
"They sat us in a room and they said, '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 going to 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.
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He said they assumed it was Libyan President Muammar Gadhafi, but later figured out it was bin Laden.
They trained repeatedly on a full-scale mockup of bin Laden's compound built by the CIA. Still, they assumed it would be a one-way mission.
"The more we trained on it, the more we realized this is going to be a one-way mission. We're gonna go, and we're not gonna come back.
"We're going to die when the house blows up, we're going to die when he blows up, or we're going to be there too long and we get arrested by the Pakistanis, and we're going to spend the rest of our short lives in Pakistan prison," O'Neill said.
He wrote goodbye letters to his children and other family members. He shredded them after he survived.
O'Neill had trained on targets with bin Laden's face on them for years, but when he actually shot him in the face, it didn't seam real, he says.
"It didn't sink in for a while," he said, adding, "I've thought about it every day for a number of 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 accomplished his mission, and that was good, he said. But, he added, "I don't know what's going to happen. I did something I have to live with every day."
By his making his name public, he said, he and his family are likely targets of terrorists.
O'Neill told his story in a 2013 issue of Esquire, but was identified only as "the shooter."
Another member of the team, Matt Bissonnette, has written a book, "No Easy Day," under the pen name Mark Owen, in which he details his own role in the mission.
Neither O'Neill's nor Bissonnette's version of events says he fired the first shot. Bissonnette says he shot bin Laden multiple times after he already had been hit, and O'Neill says he fired the final shot that finished him off.
Both men have been criticized for breaking the SEALs' code of silence. Rear Adm. Brian Losey, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Group, and Force Master Chief Michael Magaraci, the group's top non-commissioned officer, have urged SEALs to keep a lower profile.
"Naval Special Warfare's core is the SEAL ethos," Losey and Magaraci wrote in an Oct. 31 letter
. "A critical tenet of our ethos is, 'I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions.'"
Bissonnette is under investigation for allegedly including classified information in his book without having it vetted first by the government. Bissonnette says his attorney at the time told him the process was not necessary.
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