Bill Bee was one of the first American soldiers to be deployed in Afghanistan. At 19, Bee joined the Marines and was sent to the Helmand Province to fight the Taliban.
It was from his base in Helmand that he was given orders to hunt Osama Bin Laden and his family. In his new book, The Shot, Bee describes the reaction to the toppling of the World Trade Center in 2001 in which 2,997 citizens were murdered.
“The morning of September 11, I woke up at 5:00 a.m., and I could already feel the North Carolina heat and humidity through the windows as I got down from my bunk, slipped into my clothes, and headed for the gym like clockwork,” he wrote in the new book.
Upon seeing the planes hitting the towers on the news, Bee said there was confusion in the camp but he and his platoon were ordered to leave the area immediately and begin a counter-assault:
“The U.S. had just been victim to the worst attack on its homeland in history, and we were going to be the first ones out there fighting back.”
He described how while the Western world watched in horror, civilians in the Middle East were holding “celebrations” which filled him with “a fury beyond words”.
“I watched President Bush tell America that terrorism against our nation would not stand, and when he vowed to hit back with full force, I silently did the same. It may sound cold and callous, but at that moment, I thought about executing every person celebrating the 9/11 attacks, and I would have done it with a smile on my face”.
One of the great Reuters pictures from Afghanistan. Sgt. William Olas Bee, a U.S. Marine from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, has a close call after Taliban fighters opened fire near Garmser in Helmand Province of Afghanistan May in this 18, 2008/Goran Tomasevic pic.twitter.com/ZLgeW7IO5f
— Guy Faulconbridge (@GuyReuters) August 16, 2021
Bee and his platoon along with the Navy SEALs were ordered to search a Chinese merchant vessel as intelligence said Bin Laden’s son could have been somewhere on the ship.
“It was time to get my affairs in order. At just nineteen years old, I prepared my will and wrote my first death letter.”
Unfortunately, the ship was carrying “mountains of rice”, but none of Bin Laden’s family.
Later in the book, Bee said that the horrors of 9/11 really hit home for him after the “Pentagon had flown in from Ground Zero. There was part of a girder from one of the towers and a Star-Spangled Banner that had been hanging inside when they came down.”
The Marine Staff Sergeant endured three tours of Afghanistan. It was during the third and final of his tours that Bee was almost shot by a Taliban sniper:
“I could feel the impact reverberating, and it seemed like my brain was bouncing off the insides of my skull. I couldn’t hear and I couldn’t see.”
He was also shot in the arm by the enemy during a later conflict and held the hand of a fellow Marine sniper as he died from a gunshot wound to the head.
Bee’s story is an amazing recount of the bravery, selflessness, and patriotism of US troops in Afghanistan. It gives the reader a rare inside account of what happened on the ground from a soldier’s perspective and is a poignant reminder of how many lives 9/11 impacted in so many ways.