Story highlights

Kennedy says her father wouldn't have gotten into some conflicts the US was involved in after his death

Kennedy serves as the US ambassador to Japan

Editor’s Note: The Axe Files, featuring David Axelrod, is a podcast distributed by CNN and produced at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. The author works at the institute.

Chicago CNN —  

Would the United States have become mired in the costly Vietnam War had President John F. Kennedy escaped an assassin’s bullet in 1963? His daughter says no.

“I would think – and the people closest to him all thought - that having served in [World War II], having fought in the Pacific, having traveled to Vietnam as a congressman in the early 1950s… that he would not have escalated it,” Caroline Kennedy, now US ambassador to Japan, told David Axelrod on “The Axe Files” podcast, produced by the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN. “My mother always quoted something that I guess Gen. MacArthur had said to him when he came to visit, which was, ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia.’ I think that he really understood, you know, how difficult it would be, but who knows?”

“I would take the word of my mother, my Uncle Bobby, Ted Sorensen, Arthur Schlesinger, everybody,” she added. “And his record in the Cuban missile crisis which was to look for ways to solve problems diplomatically, peacefully. So I like to think [and] I hope to think I’m right. I’m pretty confident that the skills that he showed in those crises would have helped us not to get involved in that tragic conflict.”

Kennedy, who has served as US ambassador to Japan for three years, said that America’s history of reconciliation is crucial in preserving peace and opportunity, something which resonated with her last year, the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

“I met the widow of the destroyer captain who sank my father’s [patrol torpedo] boat and it was really just an incredible [meeting],” she recalled. “There she was, this older lady in a wheelchair. But my father corresponded with the crew of that destroyer, even in the 1950s. So I think that this tradition of reconciliation that we have as Americans is something that we should really be proud of. It does inspire the world and it’s the only way we’re going to solve some of these problems.”

To hear the whole interview with Amb. Kennedy, which also touched on her memories of the White House, her mother’s strength in the wake of her father’s death, and her wide-ranging career from the New York City Dept. of Education to her current role in Asia, click on To get “The Axe Files” podcast every week, subscribe at