Larry Shaughnessy, CNN Pentagon Producer
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The new book by former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, published under the pseudonym Mark Owen, has some eye-opening, sometimes amusing details about the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.
“No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden” goes step by step through the SEAL team’s training and practicing for the attack, the assault itself and the aftermath.
One might find it odd that in the midst of one of the most important Special Operations missions ever, most of these elite warriors weren’t exactly pumped up on the flight to bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
“I think most of the guys on the helicopter actually caught some much-needed sleep on the ride in. … All the hype was gone and it was just another night at work for us.”
But that sleepy helicopter ride quickly turned bad.
“Suddenly, the helicopter kicked to the right 90 degrees and I could feel my stomach drop like riding a roller-coaster. The rotors above me screamed as the Black Hawk tried to claw its way back into the air. With each second, the helicopter slipped closer toward the earth.”
The helicopter crash-landed in the bin Laden compound but the tail rotor hung over the wall outside the compound. No one on the helicopter was hurt and they quickly got to work on the main mission.
Obviously the killing of bin Laden is what is drawing the most attention to the book. Bissonnette wrote about his concerns that bin Laden would put up a fight.
“”Roughly 15 minutes had passed and bin Laden had plenty of time to strap on a suicide vest or simply get his gun.” Bin Laden was not wearing a vest when he died. His two guns, according to Bissonnette, were on a shelf in his bedroom, apparently untouched.
After the helicopter crash and a hard fight to get through the compound’s defenses, Bissonnette and several other SEALS were near the top floor of the compound, where intelligence predicted Osama bin Laden would be.
“We were less than five steps from getting to the top when I heard suppressed shots.
“The point man had seen a man peeking out of the door on the right side of the hallway about 10 feet in front of him. I couldn’t tell from my position if the rounds hit the target or not. The man disappeared into the dark room.”
The man who peeked out the door had been shot, but was still moving when the SEALs entered the room. Bissonnette described the end.
“In his death throes, he was still twitching and convulsing. Another assaulter and I trained our lasers on his chest and fired several rounds. The bullets tore into him, slamming his body into the floor until he was motionless.”
But there was still the question of who they had killed. One of Bissonnette’s roles was photographing the body.
“It was strange to see such an infamous face up close. Lying in front of me was the reason we had been fighting for the last decade. It was surreal trying to clean blood off the most wanted man in the world so that I could shoot his photo. I had to focus on the mission, right now we needed some good quality photos.”
One of his fellow SEALs, a self-taught Arabic speaker he called Will, tried another way to confirm the dead man’s identity. (Bissonnette used only false first names for the team members.)
“Will knelt down and asked the girls, ‘Who is the man?’
“The girl didn’t know to lie.
” ‘Osama bin Laden.’
” ‘Are you sure that is Osama bin Laden?’
” ‘Yes,’ the girl said.”
Jay, one of the team’s leaders, came into the room, looked at the body and heard that the girl and, later, one of the wives, had said it was bin Laden.
He stepped outside and used a satellite phone to call Adm. William McRaven, the Navy officer overseeing the mission.
” ‘For God and country, I pass Geronimo,’ Jay said. Geronimo E.K.I.A.’ “
That was code for telling McRaven the team had killed Osama bin Laden.
Later, after they returned to Afghanistan, Bissonnette sought out the pilot of the helicopter that crashed. It was a man he called Teddy.
“I intercepted him as he walked into the hangar and gave him a crush bear hug,” Bissonnette wrote. “I know for a fact he kept the mission on track by ditching the way he did. Everybody focused on who pulled the trigger. One wrong move and we all would have been in a pile of debris in the courtyard. Teddy saved all our lives.”
After he finally returned with his fellow SEALs, Bissonnette and the rest of the team were called into a meeting with Jay, their leader.
“There was concern at the command level about all the leaks revolving around the raid.
” ‘It is imperative that we stay out of the media,’ Jay said. ‘Let’s all make sure we’re keeping a low profile.’ “