Months of meticulous work preceded the raid that killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but his fate was ultimately sealed by a flurry of activity over 48 pivotal hours.
US forces originally learned of al-Baghdadi's general location after capturing and interrogating two people – a courier, and one of his wives.
According to The New York Times, that happened during the northern hemisphere's summer, as far back as July.
The information was surprising. It put al-Baghdadi in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, hundreds of kilometres from the territory formerly held by IS, news.com.au reports.
The terrorist leader was moving between different hideouts. Working closely with Iraqi and Kurdish intelligence sources, the CIA managed to nail down his precise location last week, tracking him to a compound slightly west of the town Barisha.
"By Thursday afternoon, the President and I were informed there was a high probability that he would be at the compound in Idlib province," Vice President Mike Pence told CBS News overnight.
But any attempt to kill or capture al-Baghdadi faced four massive obstacles.
First, the area was under the control of jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda.
Second, it was in Syrian and Russian airspace.
Third, the compound itself was built above a tunnel complex, and would be extremely difficult to attack.
Finally, Mr Trump's decision to withdraw US forces from northern Syria created a time pressure, reportedly forcing the Pentagon to push ahead with a risky raid before it lost the ability to co-ordinate spies and reconnaissance aircraft.
So, after months of steady intelligence gathering, the confirmation of al-Baghdadi's location on Thursday sparked a swift scramble. Mr Trump had military options on his desk by Friday morning, and when he received "actionable" intelligence on Saturday, he approved the raid.
As that plan rapidly developed behind the scenes, there was no outward hint of excitement from the President or his officials. Mr Trump went to Camp David on Friday night, where he celebrated his daughter Ivanka's 10th wedding anniversary. The next morning, hours before the operation started, he flew to Virginia to play golf.
Then, at 4.18pm, the President arrived back at the White House. By 5pm, he was settled in the Situation Room alongside Mr Pence, Defence Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley.
A few kilometres across town, at the Washington Nationals' baseball stadium, the rest of America's oblivious capital was focused on game four of the World Series.
Eight American helicopters, most of them CH-47 Chinooks, took off from Al-Asad air base in western Iraq and embarked on a dangerous 70-minute flight across Syrian air space.
Arriving at the compound where al-Baghdadi was hiding, they were met with gunfire, and returned fire to provide cover for US commandos and military dogs to hit the ground.
The soldiers blew a hole in the side of the main building, suspecting the entrance was booby-trapped, and chased al-Baghdadi into the network of tunnels below.
The terrorist was wearing a suicide vest. When he was finally cornered, he detonated it, killing himself and three young children he had dragged through the tunnels with him.
No American soldiers were injured.
"He's in a compound, that's right, with a few other men and women with him and a large number of children," Mr Esper told ABC News.
"Our special operators have tactics and techniques and procedures they go through to try to call them out. At the end of the day, as the President said, he decided to kill himself and took some small children with him, we believe."
Back in the Situation Room, Mr Trump watched overhead surveillance footage, which showed the heat signatures of the people moving below. The commandos on the ground were wearing body cameras, but that footage was not being broadcast in real time.
At his press conference announcing al-Baghdadi's death, Mr Trump said the terrorist was "whimpering and crying and screaming all the way" in his final moments, something he could not have known from the overhead footage.
Mr Esper didn't back up that account, but suggested Mr Trump may have learned such information from someone else.
"I don't have those details. The President probably had the opportunity to talk to the commanders on the ground," he said.
When the attack was over, US forces turned to their next task — officially confirming they had indeed killed al-Baghdadi. They had been burned before. Previous accounts of the terrorist's death had spread, only for him to surface yet again.
To get to his body, they had to dig through debris.
"There wasn't much left, but there are still substantial pieces that they brought back," Mr Trump said.
The Americans had come prepared with samples of al-Baghdadi's DNA. Lab technicians conducted an onsite test of the body, and within 15 minutes, positively identified it as that of their primary target.
They spent two more hours combing through the ruined complex, recovering highly sensitive material about IS which included information about the group's future plans.
Then, as the US forces finally retreated, fighter jets fired six rockets at the remains of the house, completely destroying it.
All of this happened before the public heard any whisper of the operation.
At last, late on Saturday night, Mr Trump posted a cryptic tweet saying "something very big" had happened. The dam of information broke shortly afterwards.
The hastily arranged mission was named in honour of Kayla Mueller, an American national security adviser who was enslaved by al-Baghdadi before dying in Raqqa. Its success marked the most significant terrorist death since Osama bin Laden.
For six years, al-Baghdadi had presided over the rise and ascendancy of IS, followed by its gradual downfall. He inspired extremist violence across the world, including in Europe and the United States.
His final act was no less horrifying. But the lives of those three children were the last he would ever take.
– Additional reporting: AP