A decorated US Navy Seal who has angered former comrades by identifying himself as the killer of Osama bin Laden has told how he thought he would die during the mission.
Robert O'Neill, 38, confirmed his identity to the Washington Post amid a barrage of controversy over a forthcoming US television special in which he will recount the daring special forces operation raid on the al-Qaeda terror chief's compound in 2011.
Rob O'Neil has become a public speaker since leaving the US Navy Seals
Mr O'Neill now makes his living as a well-paid motivational speaker, but he decided to join the military aged 19 in response to a failed relationship in his run-down mining hometown of Butte, Montana, he told friends.
He was a moose-hunter so he wanted to sign up for the Marines as a sniper, but when he went to the recruitment centre he was persuaded instead to join the Navy.
Bin Laden was finally found and killed via a web of satellite intelligence.
It was the start of an illustrious military career in which he was decorated 52 times for his heroism. His exploits have already been captured anonymously in three Hollywood action films, Zero Dark Thirty, Captain Phillips and Lone Survivor.
Mr O'Neill was part of the lead of column of commandos who burst into bin Laden's compound in March 2011 and fired off the bullets that felled the al-Qaeda founder.
But his motivation for coming forward and his version of events have been challenged by former Seals, including some who disclosed his name on a specialist military website ahead of his planned self-unveiling on Fox News next week.
Mr O'Neill acknowledged that shots were fired by at least two other Seals during the raid, including Mark Bissonnette, who described the raid in the book, "No Easy Day".
But he insisted to The Washington Post that it was clear that bin Laden had been killed instantly by his first shot as his skull was split by the bullet.
Mr O'Neill took a half-step into the public eye last year with an interview in Esquire magazine, where he remained anonymous and was referred to only as "the shooter".
He complained that he was not receiving a full pension from the US military because he had served for 16 years instead of a full 20. He also described living in constant fear of a retaliatory attack and how his wife kept a shotgun in their bedroom.
Mr O'Neill appears to have used his military service as the basis for a lucrative career as a public speaker.
The website for the Leading Authorities speakers bureau lists him as being available to give talks for a fee of between $20,000 and $35,000 (£12,600 to £22,100). Similar fees are charged for Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA, and General Stanley McChrystal, the former head of US forces in Afghanistan.
"A lot of the stuff out there is still classified and I want to maintain the integrity of my former unit," Mr O'Neill says at the start of a promotional video.
He adds: "I'm not telling any secrets and I'm not breaking any rules."
The decision by Mr O'Neill and Mr Bissonnette to cash in on the raid has infuriated the unit's leaders. In a letter to serving Seals, Rear Admiral Brian Losey said he would not tolerate "wilful or selfish disregard for our core values in return for public notoriety and financial gain".
He also warned that any commando who put classified information in the public domain would face criminal prosecution. Mr Bissonnette has reportedly been forced to forfeit $4.5 million to the government in a legal settlement.