Operation Neptune Spear – the Killing of Osama bin Laden

US Navy SEAL on the frontline

The now-famous Operation Neptune Spear was one of the greatest military operations in America’s history and in the history of the special forces branch. US Navy SEAL Team Six made it clear, Geronimo is down. Geronimo was the world’s most wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden.


He was initially located after US intelligence officials tracked one of his couriers after almost two decades of the manhunt.  After the Bin Laden hideout was located in Abbottabad, Pakistan, President Obama met with national security top advisers to formulate a plan of action. During the next six weeks, he and the advisors met four times. One of the visits was extremely important, it involved Vice Admiral William H. McRaven, commander of the US Joint Special Operations Command.

Initially, according to the various sources (not officially confirmed), the initial plan was the plan to release (up to) 32 2,000 lb. bombs on the compound using B-2 Stealth bombers, but it was rejected because President Obama felt a raid would provide the proof needed to know definitively that America’s enemy number one, Osama bin Laden was located.  A raid also would minimize possible civilian casualties.

Training and preparations

Training for US Navy SEALs Team Six also known as DEVGRU began following the national security meeting held on March 22nd, 2011.  Special training facilities resembling the Bin Laden’s compound were set up on both coasts.  In April 2011 the plans progressed and the Navy SEAL teams began specific training using various tactical approaches on a replica of the Waziristan Mansion compound.  Some security sources reported US Navy SEALs made two initial practice runs – one on April 7th and one on April 13th2011.

Operation Neptune Spear Training Complex for Navy SEAL Team Six
Operation Neptune Spear Training Complex for Navy SEAL Team Six (DEVGRU) (Photo: XY)

John Brennon, one of White House counter-terrorism advisors, identified the initial point of the mission was to capture Osama bin Laden if he posed no threat.  An unnamed US national security official, however, informed Reuters that the operation was, in fact, a kill mission and that Osama bin Laden didn’t have a chance to survive.

Operation Neptune Spear

After a 24-hour delay due to cloudy conditions, President Barack Obama gave the order. It was clearance to proceed with the mission on May 1, 2011, with one goal, to kill or capture notorious terrorist Osama bin Laden.  The raid ensued using 20-25 special-made Black Hawk helicopters carrying US Navy SEALs Team Six – DEVGRU members, 79 operators, and one dog in total.  The backup plan had multiple helicopters – including two Black Hawks and two Chinooks and a number of search-and-rescue helicopters.

Osama bin Laden was Operation Neptune Spear's primary target codenamed GERONIMO
Osama bin Laden was Operation Neptune Spear’s primary target codenamed GERONIMO (Photo: XY)

On May 1, 2011, the US Navy SEALs DEVGRU team made a world’s headlines. After they landed in the backyard of the compound, Navy SEALs used explosives to breach the walls of the compound and proceeded to attack its structures.  Despite receiving open fire, they were able to neutralize the guards and then proceeded in clearing buildings throughout the compound. Bin Laden’s couriers on the first floor were killed and additional personnel and women and children encountered on the second and third floors were captured and secured in place with zip ties.  Once the raid was over, they were moved outside.

Operation Neptune Spear: Daring DEVGRU raid on Bin Laden's secret complex
Operation Neptune Spear: Daring DEVGRU raid on Bin Laden’s secret complex (Photo: XY)

The team located and confronted Osama bin Laden on the third floor.  The Offical statement claims that Bin Laden resisted and posed a threat for a US Navy SEALs Team Six and they had no choice but to kill him.  As a result, the US Navy SEAL Team 6 mission – Operation Neptune Spear – ultimately led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.


Following the deadly raid on Osama bin Laden, there were a lot of conspiracy theories thrown around. One of the most spread theories was the one that a whole bunch of operators who took part in the UBL raid died in the Chinook crash. On August 6, 2011, insurgents shot down a Chinook transport helicopter in Afghanistan, killing all 38 people on board. It has become known as the Extortion 17 crash (Chinook helicopter call sign).

Of the 30 Americans killed, 22 were Navy personnel, and 17 were SEALs. These included two bomb specialists and 15 operators in the Gold Squadron of DEVGRU, or Team Six, the highly classified unit that conducted the raid that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan the previous May.

Despite the theories and the claims, none of the operators killed in the Afghan helicopter crash had been involved in that mission, officials said. In addition to the SEALs, the others killed in the Chinook crash included five other Naval Special Warfare (NSW) personnel, three Air Force forward air controllers, and five Army helicopter crew members.

83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron observes a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook
A member of the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron observes a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan. (Photo: DoD)

This theory stays just a theory because at least two men from the raid are alive and know to the public. The man who pulled the trigger is most definitely still alive, and has appeared on the news, has authored a book called The Operator, and has a well-known presence on social media. However, he is no longer on active duty. His name is Robert O’Neill.

Another Navy SEAL, Matt Bissonnette, who went by the pen name ‘Mark Owen’, was also on the mission. He has been much less vocal about the feat, only appearing on 60 minutes to describe the mission, and writing about it in his book. He, too, has left active duty.

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