The assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 was a pivotal point in American history, which is why historians, both amatuer and professional, often wonder – what would have happened if that pivot had gone the other way? What would the world have been like if JFK had not been killed? What if he had lived a long life, had served a second term, and led America through the heart of the turbulent 1960s?
Many have tried to answer that question over the years, though with varying degrees of expertise. If we are to believe these speculative alternate histories, the dominos from his assassination careen in every which way. In some of these visions, a world with John Kennedy is a world without hippies; with a peaceful US-Cuba relationship, with less war (or more war); or a world with an aging, divorced, wheelchair-bound elder statesman with all his flaws exposed. Either that, or a nuclear holocaust. Who really knows? Below are some of the more popular theories and fantasies to come out of the JFK speculation business.
No Escalation in Vietnam
That Kennedy would not have escalated in Vietnam is perhaps the most tantalizing "What If" in JFK fan fiction pieces. There is some solid evidence to support that case, including a note from Kennedy to his staff the day before traveling to Dallas calling for "an in-depth study of every possible option we've got in Vietnam, including how to get out of there." JFK biographer Robert Dallek, the author of Camelot's Court, falls into this camp, as he told The Wall Street Journal. "Most importantly, there's reasonable speculation that he would have gotten out of Vietnam. Or at least never have put those massive numbers of ground troops into Vietnam that Lyndon Johnson did," Dallek said. Jeff Greenfield, the author of If Kennedy Lived: An Alternate History and a foremost JFK-speculator, agrees as well. Kennedy resisted military calls for nuclear escalation during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and so Greenfield speculates that he could resist diving further into Vietnam.