• Weird History

Stories About The Kennedy Family So Intense They Sound Made Up - But Aren't

List RulesVote up the Kennedy family stories that are so much larger than life it's hard to believe they're true.

Members of the Kennedy family are often called "American royalty" because they might be the closest thing we have to a ruling family. The Kennedy parents, children, and other members of the family tree have built a multigenerational political dynasty that many European monarchs would be proud of. They've also had more than their share of scandals, enough to make a Windsor blush. 

Most Americans know the biggest Kennedy scandals and tragedies by heart. The JFK and Bobby Kennedy assassinations, JFK Jr.'s fatal plane incident, Ted Kennedy's infamous night in Chappaquiddick, and the whole Marilyn Monroe situation have all become part of American folklore. But those are just a fraction of the many larger-than-life stories about the famed family.

Here are nine lesser-known Kennedy family stories that sound made up, but aren't. 

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    270 VOTES

    Two Months Before His Death, JFK Had Lost Hope Of Reaching The Moon By 1970

    Although he was assassinated six years before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon, John F. Kennedy still contributed to the mission's success. Months after Yuri Gagarin was the first person to orbit Earth, JFK's "moon speech" at Rice University in 1961, pictured on the right, inspired the nation to surpass the Soviets and win the space race. In the speech, he pledged that America would land on the moon by the end of the decade. But privately, he wasn't so confident that it would happen. 

    Two years after that speech, the Apollo space program dragged on and it became clear how much money and time would be required. It was also clear that NASA wouldn't land on the moon during JFK's presidency, even if he was to be reelected in 1964. With public interest flagging and Congress reducing NASA's budget, JFK admitted in a meeting with NASA administrator James Webb that he didn't think the Apollo program would survive.

    "[R]ight now, space has lost a lot of its glamour," Kennedy mused in the meeting with Webb. “If I get re-elected, we’re not going to the Moon in our period, are we?” Webb didn't think so, and Kennedy concurred, saying "We're not going."

    JFK was felled that November, and it's possible his passing saved the space program. Determined to make JFK's pledge a reality, President Lyndon Johnson was able to get more funding for NASA and see the project through. 

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    Like that of many politicians, Bobby Kennedy's political affiliations, if not his views, shifted over the course of his life. The Kennedys were Irish Catholic Democrats. But they were also one of the wealthiest families in Boston, and weren't above using personal connections to achieve their goals. Bobby managed his older brother's successful Senate campaign in 1952. A year later, Bobby joined the staff of influential Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy. A family friend of the Kennedys, McCarthy led the infamous anti-communist witch hunts that ruined the lives of hundreds of Americans. 

    According to the JFK Library, Bobby Kennedy was so disgusted by McCarthy's techniques that he resigned after six months. He would go on to serve as a lawyer for Senate Democrats, and later was JFK's attorney general. Today, Bobby is considered a liberal icon, but he was initially reluctant to support the civil rights movement. When he finally did, it was as much a move made out of sympathy as it was made in the interest of securing the Black vote for the Democratic Party. 

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    274 VOTES

    JFK Got Schooled By Khrushchev At Their 1961 Summit In Vienna

    Every presidential administration has had its missteps, some more than others. When John F. Kennedy was sworn in on January 20, 1961, he was the youngest president ever elected at age 43. This was groundbreaking, but in some cases it also proved to be a liability. Like when he met 67-year-old Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev for a two-day summit in Vienna in 1961. 

    Coming into the meeting, JFK was eager to establish himself on the world stage as a formidable leader, but his disastrous Bay of Pigs incursion months earlier made this difficult. Khrushchev, meanwhile, saw an opportunity to dominate his inexperienced counterpart, and he did. 

    The summit was supposed to be an informal sharing of views, but JFK was unprepared, and Khrushchev took advantage. They discussed nuclear weapons, the countries within their respective spheres of influence, and the relationship between their two nations. Khrushchev refused to give ground on any topic. At one point, JFK tried to debate Khrushchev about Marxism, and Khrushchev ran circles around him.

    The meeting failed to calm relations between the US and USSR. Shortly after, both countries amped up its respective military spending and accelerated the nuclear arms race. Later, Khrushchev descibed JFK in the meeting as "inexperienced" and even "immature." For his part, JFK had to admit that he was outmaneuvered, telling a New York Times reporter that Khrushchev "just beat the hell out of me." 

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  • John F. Kennedy's service in the US Navy during WWII made him a hero long before he became president of the United States. But he wasn't the only military hero in his family. His older brother, Joseph Jr., was also a decorated veteran. Joseph Sr. viewed his eldest son as the best choice to fulfill his own political ambitions, but after Joseph Jr.'s passing, that shifted to JFK. 

    Joe Jr. left law school early and joined the Navy in 1941, and a year later completed fighter pilot training school. By 1943, he had completed 25 bombing missions over Europe, enough to get permission to return home. Instead, he remained in England and continued to fight. In 1944, the Allies were working on "Operation Aphrodite," a project to develop a remote-controlled bomber. Limited technology meant that a fully remote-controlled device wasn't yet possible. Instead, two pilots would fly a bomb-laden B-17 Flying Fortress most of the way to the destination and bail out. Then, a trailing aircraft that could control the B-17 would guide it to the target. 

    Joe Jr. volunteered to be a test pilot for Operation Aphrodite. Shortly after takeoff, his plane malfunctioned and blew apart over Suffolk, England. He perished at age 29. 

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