By: Mike Allen / Politico.com
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.
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