Exclusive: Legendary special operations aviator reveals bin Laden mission details for the first time

| March 18, 2020

Now-retired Army CW5 Doug Englen in an MH47 helicopter about to fly from ship in undisclosed location on classified mission. (Courtesy of Doug Englen)

We all remember how during the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, one of the H-60’s crashed into a wall. Not a good start. Fortunately everyone egressed safely and continued with the mission, but now they were a helo short, and the damaged Blackhawk had to be destroyed. Here’s were CW5 Doug Englen comes in.

By: Alex Quade

It was just 30 seconds into the mission to kill Osama bin Laden in May 2011 when special operations Chinook pilot Chief Warrant Officer 5 Douglas Englen heard the call of “Black Hawk down” come over his radio.

Black Hawk 2?s pilot alerted Englen — the pilot in charge of the air operation that night — that Black Hawk-1 had just crashed inside the 9/11 mastermind’s Abbottabad compound.

Englen, the air component planner for Operation Neptune’s Spear, was pissed off.

His crew in Chinook-1 and another crew in Chinook-2 had been setting up a refuel site for the two Black Hawks, about 30 miles to the north. But his Chinook immediately went straight to the objective area, to pick up the ground force and the aircrew. Meanwhile, the other Chinook stayed at the refueling site.

“We just went into contingency mode,” said Englen, talking about the raid, and his life, for the first time in an exclusive interview with Military Times. “Didn’t know the severity — if it was crashed with casualties? If it crashed in civilian area? All we do is minimize our time and get there as quick as possible,” Englen said.

Englen had studied the area around bin Laden’s compound for months. He knew exactly where everything was; he didn’t need a map. When he flew over Abbottabad, it felt as familiar as flying over his hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee.

He could see where the police lights were, where the commotion was happening. Blue police lights don’t show up in night vision goggles, so Englen looked under his goggles to see those blue lights.

From getting the call, Englen was there less than 10 minutes after the aircraft crash. As he came in fast to pick up the ground force and air crew, he saw the downed helicopter.

Just as Englen was about to land, the team master chief told him over the radio to break away. The fuse was ready to blow up the crashed helicopter.

“I was probably 100 feet from the aircraft when it blew up. It pushed our aircraft to the side. I had to actually fly away, make a tight circle and come back in, and land under the mushroom cloud. I landed to the east of the compound, right next to it. I mean like, right next to it,” Englen explained.

Much, much more to read here: Military Times

Category: Army, Bin Laden, Bravo Zulu, Navy, Pakistan

Comments (17)

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  1. Green Thumb says:

    Prepping for a book?

  2. 2banana says:

    Note to self.

    Check to see if there are incoming helos to rescue your azz before pulling the igniter on the time fuze on 300 lbs of C4 on the downed helo.

    Hey, Navy SEALS. You are supposed to be like SOF. Like rehearsals? SOPs? Commo?

  3. 5th/77th FA says:

    BZ CWO5 Doug Englen. Job. Well. Done! I’ll read his book…And watch the motion picture when/if it comes out. His actions as an Army Aviator shows that even SEALs need Heros.

  4. Mason says:

    The article ain’t wrong, his award citations are pretty generic.


    But you don’t get two Silver Stars and four(!) DFCs without doing some damn fine work.

    I do find it interesting that the 160th SOAR is the unit of choice for SEALs on such a mission. Does the Navy not have any organic special operations aviation units?

    • AW1Ed says:

      Special boat support, but no dedicated aviation units for them. There are Special Projects aircraft, and that’s about all I’ll say on the matter.

  5. 26Limabeans says:

    Hellava story at the link.
    Yeah, I’ll buy the book.

  6. SFC D says:

    When Chief Englen flies overhead, it sounds like every churchbell in the civilized world is ringing.

    • Berliner says:

      It takes a MH-47 to haul those big brass balls around. A good read and I wish him success in his election AND future.

  7. Sapper3307 says:

    His hair should be combed better for the photo shoot.

  8. Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH B Woodman says:

    CLANK! CLANK! with his Big Brass Balls, walking down the halls.

  9. OldCorpsTanker72 says:

    I’ve been coming to this site too long. Just assumed from the title that this was some BSer doing his thing. And until someone posts a DD214, I’m still not going to believe it.

  10. Tony180A says:

    Well done Doug. He is also running for Tn State Senate.

  11. Devtun says:

    The Chief wasn’t trying to dig on VP Biden, but I guess Plugs was being a bit of a nuisance & distraction when the Chief, and VADM McRaven were briefing Pres Obama.

  12. Reddawg_03 says:

    BAD ASS Chief!