Operation Neptune Spear and Its Impact

  • Grades 9 to 12
  • Lesson Duration: One class period
  • Theme: Repercussions of 9/11

Essential Question: How was Operation Neptune Spear carried out, and what was the country’s reaction to its outcome?

Learning Goals

Students will understand the preparation for, and sequence of, the raid carried out on Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound.

Students will examine multiple responses to Osama bin Laden’s death.


National security: This is a collective term for the defense and foreign relations of a country, as well as the protection of the interests of a country.

SEAL Team Six: Part of the U.S. Navy’s special operations force, this group carried out Operation Neptune Spear. SEAL is an acronym for Sea, Air, and Land, referring to members’ ability to operate in all conditions.  


1.  Ask students to read the section overview below and answer the following questions:

  • What was decided as the best option for confirming bin Laden’s presence in the compound?
  • Which group was approved by President Obama to carry out the raid?
  • When did the raid take place?

In late 2010 and early 2011, the U.S. intelligence community tried to confirm its suspicions about the Abbottabad compound. U.S President Barack Obama and his national security team debated how to act on the lead in the face of continuing uncertainty and risk.

Among the options considered, a special operations raid emerged as the best opportunity to confirm Osama bin Laden’s presence at the compound. President Obama ordered planning for the raid while continuing to evaluate the risks with his team. After asking his advisers for input, he approved U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), also known as SEAL Team Six, to carry out the operation. The SEALs prepared for their mission by conducting rehearsals at replica compounds built in Nevada and North Carolina.

President Obama formally authorized the raid, which occurred on May 1, 2011 (May 2, 2011, Pakistan Standard Time).


2.  Review student answers and inform students that they are now going to focus on what happened during the raid.

3.  Show the video clip below, The Raid, which details the sequence of the raid carried out inside bin Laden’s compound. 

The Raid 2

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4.  After viewing the clip, direct students to read Operation Neptune Spear and discuss the following questions:

  • What was the sequence of the raid on the compound, also known as Operation Neptune Spear?
  • What was a piece of information about the raid that you were surprised to learn?

5.  Show the video clip below, The Death of Bin Laden: National and Individual Reactions, which illustrates national and individual sentiments immediately following bin Laden’s death.

Immediate Reactions

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6.  After viewing the clip, direct students to read Immediate Reactions to answer and discuss the following questions in small groups.

  • What was the national mood immediately after President Obama announced that bin Laden had been killed?
  • What perspectives did 9/11 family members Maureen Santora and Joe Quinn express after bin Laden was killed? How did they differ?

7.  Bring students back from small groups to discuss their answers. Conclude by asking students to reach out to a family member, teacher, or trusted adult about how they felt after learning about bin Laden’s death.