>> War stories with a war hero this week on "Firing Line."
>> Basic S.E.A.L.
training was a lifetime of challenges crammed into six months.
>> A Navy S.E.A.L.
who spent 37 years serving his country, Admiral William McRaven commanded the Special Forces who captured Saddam Hussein... >> He went from being pompous and arrogant to, frankly, just being a tired, corrupt old man.
>> ...and rescued Captain Phillips from Somali pirates.
>> The first people I want to think are the S.E.A.L.s.
They're the superheroes.
>> I was just honored to be part of the operation.
>> He was also in charge of S.E.A.L.
Team Six during Neptune Spear, the daring operation that took out Osama bin Laden.
>> It showed that we as Americans can do the hard things and do them well.
>> He salutes the Greatest Generation and has faith in a new one.
This week on a special Independence Day "Firing Line."
>> "Firing Line with Margaret Hoover" is made possible in part by... ...and by... Corporate funding is provided by... >> Admiral William McRaven, welcome back to "Firing Line" for a special edition episode honoring Independence Day.
Thank you for your service.
>> Thank you, Margaret.
Good to be with you.
>> Admiral, you've just written a book, "The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived," and your father served in World War II.
And you share memories of him and his fellow service members swapping stories about their missions.
Did you have a sense that you would follow in your father's footsteps?
>> Yeah, I don't know as a young boy whether I thought I would follow in my father's footsteps.
What I knew was I loved the camaraderie.
I loved the sense of patriotism.
I loved the sense of kind of duty, honor and country that I saw in this Greatest Generation.
And, of course, that generation, you know, they were children of the Great Depression.
They were children of World War I.
All the men went off to World War II and then they came back and rebuilt the country.
So while I didn't know at a young age that I wanted to follow in my father's footsteps, I didn't think -- I don't think it took me long before I realized that this was the path that was the right fit for me.
>> You write about a skydiving accident that you were in, in 2001, that nearly cost you your life.
You were hit by a fellow diver's canopy.
You wrote, "As long as I could wiggle my toes, I was going to stay a S.E.A.L."
You share the story of "Moki" Martin, the Vietnam-era S.E.A.L.
who was partially paralyzed from a head-on bike accident.
He was one of your S.E.A.L.
instructors who you call "one of the most inspirational men" that you knew.
Tell me about the impact that Moki Martin had on you.
>> Yeah, I mean, even to this day, the impact of Moki Martin is with me every day, and, of course, it started in S.E.A.L.
Moki to me was this kind of quintessential Navy S.E.A.L.
He was a Vietnam vet.
I mean, he was, to me, the gold standard in Navy S.E.A.L.s.
But when we were in training, he did not hesitate to pick me out of a crowd and turn me into a sugar cookie, as we say, where you roll around in the sand and kind of good-natured harassment on a routine basis.
But after S.E.A.L.
training, we were stationed at the same team and we became very close friends.
And then in 1983, as you mentioned, he had a head-on bicycle accident and then was paralyzed from the chest down and has been since that time.
And never once, never once in all those years have I heard Moki Martin complain about his lot in life.
Never once did he say, "Why me?"
And to this day, Moki oversees the triathlon that we run every year as part of our underwater demolition team and our S.E.A.L.
He's done more from a wheelchair than any men standing erect.
I mean, he's just a remarkable, remarkable inspiration.
>> On September 11, 2001, you were still recuperating from your injuries when you watched the terrorist attacks on this country play out on a television screen in your living room.
Can you reflect on that moment and what it was like for you, what you took in at that moment?
>> Yeah, well, obviously, like a lot of people who watched it on TV, it was a horrifying moment for all of us.
But I also knew at that moment that life was about to change.
And I took the opportunity to call up my boys and say, you know -- my daughter was with us and explained it to her as well, that hey, life was about to change for Dad.
I knew that there would have to be some sort of follow-on action against al-Qaeda.
And even though I was broken hard at the time, I was intent on getting kind of back in the fight and being able to support my fellow special operations warriors.
That was a day that I think motivated all of America to go forth and realize that we had to bring justice to bin Laden, to bring justice to al-Qaeda and to do what we felt was right for the country.
>> Duty is among the virtues that you write about in "The Hero Code."
General William Westmoreland joined the original "Firing Line" with William F. Buckley Jr. in 1979 for a conversation called "the crisis in the U.S.
Take a look.
>> The zeal and the desire to serve is not present to the extent that it was several years ago.
This is a disturbing phenomenon to me because I don't believe our democracy, long range, is going to work unless there's an attitude in our society and particularly among our young, that they have an obligation of service.
Now, a principle of democracy is, for every right, there is a duty.
>> You know, I've heard you say that you are the "biggest fan" of the millennial generation and Gen Z.
How have you seen this generation rise to the occasion in a way that's perhaps different than General Westmoreland's observations?
>> Well, I think it's interesting when you think about Westmoreland's observation in context.
Back then, he was worried about whether or not the youth would stand up and join the military.
We go through this cycle every couple of decades.
You know, when we stood up an all-volunteer force, I remember thinking initially, "Well, this will never work.
I mean, who in the world is going to join the military for relatively low pay to put your life at risk," et cetera, et cetera?
And the answer was millions of men and women, and particularly after 9/11.
And the reason that I am so impressed with this generation, because the 9/11 generation, these young men and women that signed up after September 11th, that raised their hand and said, "I'm going to join the military," knew that they were taking on the risks, knew that they would probably go to war.
I mean, if that's not service, I don't know what is.
So whenever people begin to lose hope about the future of the country and whether or not the men and women will continue to serve, I think we've seen this movie before.
We always find heroes in the next generation that are more than willing to serve and sacrifice.
And I've seen it in this current generation of the millennials and the Gen Z.
>> In 2003, you were the commander of Task Force 714 in Iraq.
You were on a helicopter leaving Baghdad and you suddenly wanted to turn it around.
You wrote in "Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations"... Admiral, tell me about that premonition.
>> Yeah, it was actually a C-130.
I was heading out of Iraq, heading to Al Udeid to meet with the CENTCOM commander.
And as I say in the book, kind of inexplicably, I just had this feeling that this was going to be the night that we got Saddam Hussein.
Now, I would offer that I used the word "premonition," but it was probably the fact that my brain was connecting the dots.
I had received an intelligence brief the night before from one of the great noncommissioned officers that was part of the Saddam hunt.
I had been talking to the leader of the Army Task Force.
So I think all of those kind of clicked in my mind and just something said, "Hey, we got to turn around.
We got to get back because, you know, tonight's going to be the night."
By the time I landed back in Baghdad, the force was moving towards the target and within, you know, within an hour's time, the Army special operations guys that were working for me had, in fact, captured Saddam Hussein.
>> We all remember those images of Saddam Hussein the moment that he was captured.
You were in the joint operations center and you heard the C Squadron commander who was on the ground saying, "We have jackpot."
Take us inside the joint operations center at that moment.
>> Well, the joint operations center -- we refer to it as the JOC -- was probably about 100 people that are sitting in a room with a lot of computers.
Again, this was 2003, so the technology wasn't quite as sophisticated as it is today.
We actually didn't have a drone.
We had a helicopter with an optical ball on it that was providing our ISR, our video coverage, if you will.
And so when I got the call from the squadron commander and he said, "We have jackpot," you're always, as the guy sitting in the rear, you're thinking, "Okay, this is good news."
But at the end of the day, you have to confirm the jackpot.
We have had a lot of times in the course of the last 20 years where we thought we had the right individual and then we get them back and, you know, we look at everything from their fingerprints to their DNA and we find out it's the wrong guy.
Now, in the case of Saddam Hussein, it was pretty obvious.
He has unique facial characteristics.
And even with that giant beard he had, it didn't take long for us to realize that we had the right guy.
>> Saddam Hussein became your prisoner when he remained at your camp longer than originally expected, about 30 days.
And you write that you "had an obligation, both morally and legally to keep him safe."
So you visited his room every day to speak with the doctor on guard.
But in the end, you never addressed him directly.
Tell us about that.
>> Yeah, it was interesting.
You know, when we first captured Saddam, he was pompous.
He was arrogant.
I think he still felt that he would come back into power.
And so what we had to do pretty quickly was to make sure he understood that, you know, he was a prisoner of the United States and we were going to treat him well.
But he was not going to have outside contact with any of his former Iraqi leaders.
We weren't going to put him in, you know, in a cell with other people, that his days as the leader of Iraq were over.
But again, to your point, I had a moral and legal obligation to make sure that we took good care of him.
You know, he ate as well, if not better than a lot of the soldiers that we had.
As you point out, I had a medical professional, either a corpsman, a medic or a doctor in the room with him 24/7, along with a security guard.
But I would go in every day to check on him.
And every day that I went in, he tried to engage me in a conversation.
And frankly, I didn't want to engage him in a conversation.
I didn't want to because I didn't want him to think that he was somehow important enough to be able to engage "El Jefe" as he called me.
>> He called you El Jefe?
>> Yeah, well, he knew that I was in charge.
Now, when I walked in, I made sure that my name tags were off and my stars were off so he didn't know my rank or my name.
But, you know, I think leaders know how to recognize other leaders.
And every day when I would come in, he would try to engage me.
But the fact of matter is, I didn't want to engage with him.
I didn't want to engage with him because frankly, I didn't want him to at least psychologically think that he was a VIP, that he was somebody important enough to be able to engage me in conversation.
I just didn't want that to occur.
So for 30 days, I came in every day to check on him and then would leave the small room without engaging him.
>> And you think that contributed to his decline in custody?
>> No, I don't think that contributed to his decline.
What I would offer is I think when he finally realized that, you know, he no longer had his palaces, he no longer had his generals, he no longer had his handmaidens, he went from being pompous and arrogant to, frankly, just being a, you know, a tired, corrupt old man.
And that was pretty that was pretty evident.
>> You were also in charge of a very successful high-seas rescue of Captain Phillips, who was held hostage by pirates off the coast of Somalia.
♪♪ He was later memorialized in an eponymous film starring Tom Hanks.
>> Both skiffs carrying armed men.
>> In your account of the rescue, you said... >> Well, that's true of every mission you conduct.
You've got to be able to delegate to people that you have trust and confidence in.
And in the case of the rescue of Captain Phillips, the guys on scene made all the right calls.
And I was just honored to be part of the operation.
>> In April 2011, while you were serving as the commander of Joint Special Operations Command, you were gearing up to take down Osama bin Laden.
You told the S.E.A.L.
Team Six... >> Right.
>> Bring us back to this moment, will you, Admiral?
Did you actually ever think that he would be captured alive?
>> Oh, absolutely.
There's a lot of people out there that think that this was a kill-only mission.
It absolutely was not.
In fact, we had a plan with what we were going to do with bin Laden if we captured him.
The fact of the matter is the law of armed conflict and the rules of engagement were pretty clear.
If bin Laden had his hands up and he clearly was not a threat, which was going to be difficult because you don't know whether or not they're carrying a suicide vest underneath.
But if he had come out of that room with his hands up and clearly not a threat, we had an obligation, a legal obligation, a moral obligation to capture him.
And we had a plan to do that.
As it turned out, in a dark room at night, he never had his hands raised.
In fact, he pushed two young girls, his daughters, in front of him, which created some chaos.
And the S.E.A.L.s entering the room did absolutely the right thing and shot him, not knowing whether or not he was wearing a suicide vest or what was happening at that instant.
>> That night you watched the raid from joint operations center, where you sat in a small closet with a view of the entire center while communicating privately with the White House.
Take us inside that closet as you watched your S.E.A.L.s enter Pakistan and clear the compound floor by floor.
What were you seeing?
What were you feeling in those moments?
>> Yeah, well, having done thousands of missions before, you know, this was not an overly complicated mission.
It obviously had a lot of political risk with it.
And I don't want to minimize the risk.
I mean, there were risks every time we came close to the Pakistani border or crossed the Pakistani border.
The Pakistanis were, you know, not concerned at all about engaging us.
So there was always concern about the Pakistanis engaging us, and then, of course, when we get on target, we didn't know whether or not the entire compound was booby-trapped, whether bin Laden was wearing a suicide vest.
All those sorts of things added to the risk.
But it was a relatively straightforward mission in terms of the first part of it.
I mean, we flew the 162 miles really without incident.
Of course, as we began to come in to target, the one helicopter loses lift as it got over the target.
What happened was the down blast from the helicopter hit this 18-foot-high wall, created a vortex, kind of a vacuum over the blades, caused the helicopter to lose lift and then a hard landing off to the side.
But I knew immediately the guys were okay.
I'm listening to the radio.
I can see it on the overhead surveillance.
So I understood pretty quickly that the guys were a little banged up, but they were okay.
And so we went from plan A to plan B.
The second helicopter, which was supposed to come in and land on the roof, lands outside.
And eventually, of course, the S.E.A.L.s execute a mission that all of these guys, in terms of the tactics of it, had done hundreds of times before.
>> So, upon reaching the third floor, the raid's second S.E.A.L., Senior Chief Petty Officer Rob O'Neill, came face to face with a "tall, thin man," and then he fired three rounds.
Tell me about that moment and what you heard come through the radio after that.
>> Yeah, I couldn't hear any of that.
So I'm getting radio calls from the ground force commander.
So Rob O'Neill and his teammate, when they came up -- again, there were no helmet cams, so anybody that claims that they've got helmet-cam video -- nobody was wearing helmet cams.
I couldn't see what was going on inside the building.
Now, what I am getting, of course, is reports from the ground force commander when shots were fired.
So whenever a shot is fired, somebody is reporting through the chain.
And so I recognize that shots are being fired.
But it was probably 15 minutes after that or -- I have to be careful.
I'm not sure from the time the mission started, I think maybe it was 15 minutes when I got the call from the ground force commander, "For God and country, Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo."
And Geronimo was the code word for bin Laden.
>> It's quite striking because you write that the command center breaks into cheers, but you... Why is that, Admiral?
>> Well, the mission wasn't over yet.
You've got to play four quarters of the game.
So, yes, we believed we had bin Laden.
But once again, as I mentioned with Saddam Hussein, you know, until you can do the forensics on the remains -- check the fingerprints, check the DNA, do the facial recognition -- you know, I'm reluctant to have said, hey, we've got jackpot on this one.
And oh, by the way, the guys are still in the compound.
The compound could still be booby-trapped.
And now the Pakistanis, of course, are waking up to the fact that we're there.
We know that they're getting ready to launch aircraft to come intercept us.
So the mission was a long way from over.
And I really didn't -- I didn't have any relief in terms of the mission until after all the helicopters had come back across the border, the Afghan border and were landing back at our base.
>> Did you have a moment of relief at that point?
>> I had a moment of relief, you bet.
But having been through these missions before, what I always know is, you know, you really have to -- you have to sit down with the operators.
You've got to find out, one, is everybody okay?
Did we inadvertently kill people we shouldn't have killed?
What kind of intelligence did we get off the target?
What do we need to do next?
There's a lot of things that goes on post-operation.
And so, yeah, I really didn't kind of come off the being -- the business end of this mission, you know, probably until later that evening when finally I was able to hit the rack.
But that was still many hours after the mission was concluded.
>> The story of identifying the body is such a memorable one.
Do you mind recounting it?
>> So, by the time the helicopters had passed back over the the border, now I'm on the video with President Obama and his team, and you've probably seen the iconic photo from Pete Souza.
They're all kind of crammed into this small room with General Brad Webb, who was my liaison to the White House at the time.
And so the President asked me, he says, "Well, Bill, do you know whether or not it's bin Laden?"
I said, "Sir, I need to go personally identify the remains before I can kind of come back and tell you for certain it's bin Laden."
We put the body bag on the hangar floor, and it's a rubberized body bag.
I unzip the body bag, and without getting too graphic, he obviously didn't look too good.
He had a couple of rounds in his head.
The beard was a little smaller, I think, than what we usually anticipate.
But it was pretty clearly bin Laden.
Having said that, I knew bin Laden was about 6'4", and I thought, "Well, I'm 6'2".
I'll lie down next to the body just to see whether or not the remains are a little longer."
Then I thought, "Well, you know, that's probably not very distinguished for the three-star admiral to be lying down next to the body."
So I saw some young S.E.A.L.s standing nearby.
I said, "Hey, son, how tall are you?"
He said, "Well, sir, I'm 6'2"."
I said, "Good.
So he laid down next to the body and sure enough, the body was about two inches longer.
I didn't think much of it.
I went back to the -- to my little headquarters area, got back on the video with the President, and the President said, "Okay, Bill, let me get this straight.
You had $60 million for a helicopter," the one we had lost on the raid, "and you didn't have $10 for a tape measure?"
And as I've told folks, it was just the right amount of levity just at the right time to kind of lower the stress in the room and that little bit of levity kind of helped me through the rest of the night.
And then two days later, when I was back in Washington briefing Congress, I get a call to come over to the White House.
The President thanks us for the mission and then reaches behind the president's desk and he hands me a plaque.
And on the plaque is a Home Depot tape measure.
And so I proudly have the opportunity to display that tape measure at the Special Operations Command.
>> Take a look at President Obama's speech to the nation the night of May 1, 2011.
>> Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden.
A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability.
No Americans were harmed.
They took care to avoid civilian casualties.
>> This past May marked 10 years since the historic and heroic mission that you orchestrated, Admiral.
What is it like for you to watch President Obama say those words now 10 years later?
>> Yeah, I would say it's a little surreal, but, you know, I go back to that whole operation, and I've offered to the American people, regardless of what side of the political aisle you might be on, you know, you would have been proud of the national security team, the President, the Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Director of National Intelligence, Director of CIA, all of these men and women that came together to do what was right by the nation.
You know, we had a lot of kind of heated discussions in the meetings I was in, but there was never any rancor.
There was always an understanding that it was about doing what was right for the country.
I mean, it showed that we as Americans can do the hard things and do them well.
So I reflect back on that 10 years ago.
And I'm just proud to have been a small part of it.
>> There are people out there, Admiral, who they may not know about the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound or the rescue of Captain Phillips, but they do know you as the "make your bed" guy.
Take a look at this video.
>> If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day.
It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.
And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made... [ Laughter ] ...that you made, and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
So if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
[ Laughter ] >> Admiral, you've led sailors through harrowing missions.
I wonder what you think we can do to convince more people to make their beds every morning.
>> [ Laughs ] Well, you know, there are people who I meet every day who have no idea I ever spent a day in uniform.
They just know me as the "make your bed" guy.
And you know what?
I'm okay with that.
I'm absolutely okay with that.
It is -- It's a small task, but I think an important one.
As parents, as guardians, as teachers, as mentors, as coaches, you know, encouraging the youth of America to develop healthy, happy, good routines is important for, you know, the future of this country.
Routines, good routines, healthy routines are important.
Making your bed is easy to do.
And if it's any indication from the people that have talked to me since that speech, I think it's of some value to getting your day started right.
>> Admiral McRaven, on this Independence Day weekend, thank you for your service and thank you for sharing your stories from your recent books, "Hero Code," "Sea Stories," and make your bed.
>> Thank you very much, Margaret.
>> "Firing Line with Margaret Hoover" is made possible in part by... ...and by... Corporate funding is provided by... ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ >> You're watching PBS.