• The Operator

  • Firing the Shots That Killed Osama Bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior
  • By: Robert O'Neill
  • Narrated by: Robert O'Neill
  • Length: 9 hrs and 42 mins
  • 4.9 out of 5 stars (17,984 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Stirringly evocative, thought provoking, and often jaw dropping, The Operator ranges across SEAL Team Operator Robert O'Neill's awe-inspiring 400-mission career that included his involvement in attempts to rescue "Lone Survivor" Marcus Luttrell and abducted-by-Somali-pirates Captain Richard Phillips and culminated in those famous three shots that dispatched the world's most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden.

In this book O'Neill describes his idyllic childhood in Butte, Montana; his impulsive decision to join the SEALs; the arduous evaluation and training process; and the even tougher gauntlet he had to run to join the SEALs' most elite unit. After officially becoming a SEAL, O'Neill would spend more than a decade in the most intense counterterror effort in US history. For extended periods, not a night passed without him and his small team recording multiple enemy kills - and though he was lucky enough to survive, several of the SEALs he'd trained with and fought beside never made it home.

The Operator describes the nonstop action of O'Neill's deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, evokes the black humor of years-long combat, brings to vivid life the lethal efficiency of the military's Tier One units, and reveals firsthand details of the most celebrated terrorist takedown in history.

©2017 Robert O'Neill (P)2017 Simon & Schuster Audio

Critic Reviews

"Gripping...this story is impossible to put down.... What O'Neill has written is unique, surprising, a kind of counternarrative." (Doug Stanton, New York Times best-selling author of In Harm's Way and Horse Soldiers)
"O'Neill wrote himself into American history with the three shots he fired into Osama bin Laden...intensely moving and awe-inspiring." (Marcus Luttrell, New York Times best-selling coauthor of Lone Survivor and Service)

Featured Article: 20 Best Military Audiobooks from History to Fiction and Beyond


The titles that fall under the designation of military audiobooks are more varied and diverse than you might think. From firsthand combat accounts to imaginative works of fiction, these listens cover a lot of ground on both domestic and international disputes, scientific and sociological analyses, male and female perspectives, lessons from victory and loss, and more. What they have in common, though, are themes of courage, loss, and determination.

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What listeners say about The Operator

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One of the best

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
I found myself laughing so much during this. The flow of the narration works so well because Rob himself reads it. It’s a great mix of funny events/perspectives amidst serious, dangerous war stories.

I think what is sometimes missed in other SEAL narratives is the sense of humor these guys have and truly absurd situations they find themselves in.

His narration is genuine and you can tell some parts of his story are harder to read than others, for example, when he recounts the deaths of friends. I would not want to hear this story told by anyone but the author himself.

I've listened to just about every SEAL book on Audible and the Operator is my favorite. You will be moved in all the right ways by this story.

Any additional comments?
Thank you Rob for writing this. The sacrifices you and your brothers made and continue to make may be unappreciated by some, but to the rest, they inspire daily. Using Churchill’s words, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few".

Godspeed you champions.

56 people found this helpful

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Complete inside look into the teams and the life story of a great American patriot

I was a tad hesitant to order this book due to my thinking that Navy SEALs should keep their missions Top Secret. However, this book, narrated by the author himself, tells his life story and what led him to be the best at everything.

This book is beautifully written and explains the internal Drive to win at life.

Highly recommended

28 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

The Operator

Robert O'Neill is an American hero. He is part of a continuous line of persons who were and are willing to fight those who would kill people to gain undeserved power in this world and a danger to us all. This is a sincere telling of his story. It gives insight into what we should know of the sacrifices of our military hero's. God bless them all.

15 people found this helpful

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Great

Have read a bunch of books by operators. This stands a hair above the other's by virtue if the author doing the narrating and the impeccable comic timing of the laugh out loud takes on tho vs that intersperse the life and death episodes.

14 people found this helpful

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Better than I thought it would be.

I heard the author on the Buck Sexton show, and decided to give the book a shot. I got the audible version, and it was just like a dude telling a bunch of cool stories, at least three of which were big time news stories.

He refers to seeing a Michael Jordan video, and if you know the story about what made Michael Jordan so great, then you start to see the same foundation, and drive that makes a Rob O'Neill, or any body at his level great.

Rob also says the sniper on his team had more kills than anyone he's ever heard of, which would mean that Chris Kyle isn't the most prolific American sniper of all time, and would this include Simo Hayha, who had over 500 kills at close quarters with a sub machine gun, and over 250 kills with a rifle?

Overall this book was better than I thought it would be, and the Audible version was well worth it. Rob has a down to earth style, that makes you want to root for the guy every step of the way. He's got a lot of funny and cool stories, that are a blast to listen to. The petty jealousy he had to deal with at the end of his career is a shame, and I can't help but think that if circumstances were different, and he was born long ago, and if he were somehow on some secret mission that took out Hitler, then he wouldn't have had to deal with the petty jealousy and grief back then, only convinces me, that this man was sent by God to shoot Bin Laden in the face.

12 people found this helpful

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Amazing book!

An incredible account of patriotism, selflessness and bravery by a true American hero. Shortly describing his humble upbringing in Montana moving on to buds 208 training and ending in the lair of Usama bin Laden. This book is one of the best Seal books ever written. Not too many department of defense retractions and read by the author makes the book all the more authentic. This one will leave you wanting more.

12 people found this helpful

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Candid stories of a real Navy Seal

This is a very in-depth and interesting account of Navy SEAL operations in some very dangerous territories. I would recommend to anyone interested in how real frogmen operate or interested in the Middle Eastern conflict and challenges.

7 people found this helpful

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The Best

Followed Robert's story through the Fox News Special a year ago and it was incredible..this inspiring book was even better -- The Best I've ever listened to. Robert and his brave warriors are heroes in every sense of the word. Y'all make me proud to be an American.

7 people found this helpful

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Ultimate gratitude

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I couldn't stop listening to it. The first hand insight into the mission that brought relief to millions of Americans was truly remarkable. We don't understand the pressures our service men and women go through and the effect their job has on their loved ones. I am forever grateful for the inside look into what Rob sacrificed for.

5 people found this helpful

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Good story. So much more than Bin Laden.

Very interesting book about a Navy SEAL DEVGRU (SEAL Team 6) operator that encompasses his childhood in Butte, Montana, to SEAL training, to his time on SEAL Teams 2 and 4 and, finally, to his selection to and time as an operator with SEAL Team 6. Navy SEAL training (BUD/S) has been written about so many times by so many people (is there a Navy SEAL who doesn't have a book?), that it is easy to skip over that section. But I thought that Robert O'Neill provided a fresh twist on this oft-told process and it didn't feel re-hashed at all.

The real gem of this book is that many discussions of the different operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. This gave me a perspective on the "War on Terror" that I hadn't really read before. Unfortunately, the interesting discussion of the missions is sometimes marred by O'Neill's annoying "cowboy-like" bravado. He seems a little too full of himself at many junctures of the book such as when he brags about getting his "blood wings" from Army Airborne or when he references himself yelling "Fuck yeah" as he's shooting enemy combatants. But, despite the self-glorification, the missions themselves make for fascinating reading. One high point involves the actions of SEAL Team 6 in the hostage rescue of Captain Phillips of the Maersk Alabama (played by Tom Hanks in the movie).

Now, to the subtitle of the book: did O'Neill really fire the shots that killed Osama bin Laden? In some sense, it doesn't matter. Nobody disputes that SOMEONE on SEAL Team 6 (which, ridiculously, is beeped out in the audiobook every time O'Neill references SEAL Team 6 - as if people haven't heard of it) shot bin Laden on that raid in May 2011. But was it O'Neill? Some sources, including a book by, you guessed it, another Navy SEAL, Matt Bissonnette going by the pseudonym of Mark Owen, dispute that O'Neill killed bin Laden, although it seems certain that O'Neill at least fired a few shots into bin Laden's body and/or head posthumously, if not while he was alive. In fact, an article from The Intercept (do a google search) insists that it was a third SEAL, who O'Neill only refers to repeatedly as "the point man" was the one who shot and killed bin Laden. The fact that O'Neill never mentions this SEAL's name - even though he names almost everybody else - and uses the moniker "the point man" dozens of times, lends credence to the idea that it was NOT O'Neill but this unnamed SEAL, who, unlike many of his fellow SEALs, must not hunger for publicity, who actually killed bin Laden.

Regardless of who actually did the deed, it was a team effort and reading about the operation was exhilarating. The bin Laden raid was a success - and it also almost the last op that O'Neill was a part of before leaving the Navy. It's hard to understand why he left the Navy after 16 years - four years short of a pension for 20 years service - but reading between the lines it seems that he left because he got too big of a head after the bin Laden raid and wanted to capitalize on his fame, a charge he explicitly denies. It is also possible he left because as he started to take credit for killing bin Laden, his SEAL teammates who didn't believe his story thought he was selfishly taking the credit when it wasn't deserved and no longer wanted to work with him. Perhaps it was a combination of the two. In any case, whatever the truth about the bin Laden raid, the other 80% of the book is full of fascinating information and worth a read if you like this genre.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Thomas Tobias Dinsen Hove
  • 01-11-18

Narrator is the author which adds so much better!

Loved the fact that Niel Roberts is narrator which just adds so much extra emotion, humor and an additional depth to the story. Feels like hearing the story across the bar from this amazing warrior. Hats off to him, the teams and the families behind them.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-21-18

The narrator is shocking

Don’t waste your money guys. I couldn’t finish it. The narrator reads like a child.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Dicky
  • 12-09-17

Insight into a real American hero

I am not American, but I do recognise someone at the top of their profession who has done the whole world a favour

3 people found this helpful

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  • Rick
  • 11-15-18

Brilliant

The book was a fantastic account to listen to but the way Mr. O'Neill has written and then read the book it seemed to jump at you.
The small jokes and comments by Mr. O'Neill throughout the book add to the in-depth knowledge and experiences he has had and accumulated throughout his career seem to engulf the listener in such a way as you can feel the emotions of the time.
Definitely, one of the best books I have listened to and I know I will listen again and again.
Thank you

2 people found this helpful

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  • richard
  • 09-18-17

brilliantly read, a sense of being with the author

O'Neill tells his story as though you are sitting around a camp fire, listening to him recount his time over the years and includes so much of his inter team interactions that really brings to life the bonds he and others like him share. a great story and an equally great performance.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Jut
  • 04-28-17

Awesome, once it gets going

To start with it was just another book about BUD/S but bare with it, once past that it's a gripping listen, and O'Neill is great reading it, and often injects great humour into it.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Sean Tanner
  • 07-28-18

Outstanding

What a life we all lead RESPECT to you Robert. From the ENGLAND UK. Sean

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-02-17

Rob reads it do well.. Seals are funny too!

loved it- best part the dancing when it came time for room inspection. so funny.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Les P
  • 07-05-22

Inspiring

This was an insightful look into the life and times of a US Navy Seal, well written and read. It helps us understand the metal and physical requirements of being any military as so aptly put by Robert. We have a better idea of what actually happened when he thankfully killed Bin Laden and stopped the rain of terror on the world that this man executed. If was along the way, dramatic, heart felt and emotional, a true master peace well worth a listen by anyone.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-27-22

Thank you for you service,

when I saw how many 5 star reviews this book had, I har know why, now I do and I concur

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  • Declan
  • 05-09-17

Absolutely Amazing

I loved this book from start to finish. I've never been a big book reader but since I drive a lot, I decided to give audio books a go and this one has hooked me.

I laughed and I cried in this book. O'Neils reading of the book really tops it off. I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much without his voice on his words. It's just like a conversation. A 10 hour long, one sided conversation but to be honest, that's not long enough.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Mel
  • 02-08-21

This guy toots his own horn the whole way through

Every reference to a woman was how attractive or unattractive she was. This guy's ego is ridiculous.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 04-23-19

awesome

amazing listen ,made all the better by rob reading it . willisten again and again.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Rohan
  • 04-22-19

Fantastic book! Cannot recommend enough

This was an amazing book to listen. Rob’s honest yet very ‘tongue and cheek’ representation of his special forces career was inspirational to say the very least.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jeff
  • 04-13-19

What a book!!!

Amazing! Truly terrific. recommend to any current, former or future military member around the globe.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-24-18

couldn't stop listening awesome book 👍👍👍

love that it was read by the author makes it seem that much more real

1 person found this helpful

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  • Hank
  • 10-12-18

Great read ... however

Great read I couldn't stop once I started on this title. Finished it pretty quickly in record time. Full of stories, a narrative and a chronology of his time in the Seals from Buds through to retiring from the Navy, not to mention taking down Osama Bin Laden. One thing though ... I thought the expletive language didn't really suit his voice and maybe emphasising expletives (at times) in the narration was not necessary. Otherwise great story.

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  • Bravo November
  • 09-12-18

Greatest book I have ever listened to

Robert is a true hero and its an honour to be able to hear his stories. I loved it from start to finish.

1 person found this helpful

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  • nigel
  • 08-26-22

Loved every second of this book. Insane.

This book was so crazy, it was better than any movie. The skill level of these guys is mindblowing.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-19-22

good book, gets better as it goes on

really good insight into the life of a baby seal genuinely enjoyed this book