Virginia Beach-based SEALs were tasked to kill bin Laden
April. 02 2011
On April 29, President Barack Obama approved an operation to kill Osama bin Laden. It was a mission that required surgical accuracy, even more precision than could be delivered by the government's sophisticated Predator drones. To execute it, Obama tapped a small contingent of the Navy's elite SEAL Team Six, based in Virginia Beach, and put them under the command of CIA Director Leon Panetta, whose analysts monitored the compound from afar.
The helicopter carrying Navy SEALs malfunctioned as it approached Osama bin Laden's compound at about 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday, stalling as it hovered. The pilot set it down gently inside the walls, then couldn't get it going again.
It was a heart-stopping moment for President Barack Obama, who had been monitoring the raid in the White House Situation Room since 1 p.m., surrounded by members of his war cabinet.
"Obviously, everyone was thinking about Black Hawk Down and Desert One," a senior administration official recalled.
The SEALs disembarked.
"The assault team went ahead and raided the compound, even though they didn't know if they would have a ride home," an official said.
The special forces put bombs on the crippled chopper and blew it up, then lifted off in a reinforcement craft just before 4:15 p.m., capping an astounding 40 minutes that gave the United States a tectonic victory in the 10-year war on terror touched off by 9/11.
The sick chopper turned out to be a tiny wrinkle in an astounding military and intelligence triumph. Bin Laden was shot in the face by the SEALs during a firefight after resisting capture.
He was buried at sea less than 12 hours later. He was 54.