3Lyndon B. Johnson Was Almost Killed on the Same Day as JFK
As tragic as JFK's murder was, imagine what it would have been like for the nation to lose Lyndon B. Johnson, Kennedy's vice president and the newly appointed president of the United States, just a few hours later. Because a Secret Service agent totally almost shot him by accident.
As documented in The Kennedy Detail: JFK's Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence, Agent Gerald Blaine was patrolling the Johnson estate in Washington only 14 hours after Kennedy had been killed when he saw a dark figure appear out of the night. Now, under normal circumstances, Blaine would've probably assumed that it was Johnson or a member of his family, seeing as how he was on Johnson's home property at the time. However, the president had just been assassinated and everyone was on high alert, so on this particular night, Blaine's first response was to point his machine gun at the figure, with his finger on the trigger.
When Blaine finally saw the person clearly, he realized that he was aiming his weapon at Lyndon B. Johnson, who had frozen in his tracks and gone pants-shitting white. Johnson said nothing, turned around, and went directly back into his house, presumably to clean the aforementioned pants with brandy and tears. In addition to being perhaps the only real-life Twilight Zone/Shyamalan twist ever to occur in modern history, the death of two presidents in such a short period of time would've led to a constitutional crisis the likes of which the nation had never seen. People are already convinced that the Kennedy assassination was some kind of inside operation, even after half a century -- imagine what the national landscape would've been like if Johnson had gotten snuffed out the same day, by his own Secret Service detail. Do you think anyone would have bought the "It was a wacky innocent mistake!" explanation?
The presidency would've passed to 71-year-old Speaker of the House John William McCormack, a guy who was routinely bullied by the people in Washington who just wanted to nuke the hell out of Cuba and be done with it, and there would have been no way to convince the American public that it hadn't been engineered to happen that way. We're not entirely convinced that the history we know isn't some alternate timeline brought about by time travelers trying to repair the past as best they could from the damage done by a McCormack presidency.
Plus, we never would have seen LBJ's Harvey Keitel phase.
2The Attack on Pearl Harbor Almost Went on for Days
The attack on Pearl Harbor, admittedly one of the worst days in American history, does not even come close to the Michael Bay movie it almost was (or the Michael Bay movie it unfortunately became). Several of the Japanese commanders in charge of the attack wanted to keep the assault going for another wave that would have pretty much destroyed the island, crippled the Pacific Fleet, and added several years to World War II, potentially extending the conflict well into the next decade and overriding all the doo-wop records and Honeymooners episodes people were supposed to be occupied with in the 1950s. Also, it would've seriously encroached on the Korean War, and that war gets so little attention as it is.
We hope our new commemorative clothing line changes that.
According to this book, the initial surprise attack on Pearl Harbor went so well for the Japanese that virtually all of their carrier commanders wanted to stay in Hawaii for the next few days, utterly devastating the American oil reserves, ammunition stores, dry docks, and repair facilities. The absent American aircraft carriers (which were the targets of the attack in the first place) would be drawn back to Hawaii, but with Pearl Harbor obliterated, they would essentially be like a bunch of sick old men with shattered kneecaps trying to break up a gang fight.
But the proposed "third wave" was voted down by Japanese Admiral Chuichi Nagumo because his forces were spread out and in need of refueling. Basically, he didn't want to push his luck and wind up losing all six of Japan's aircraft carriers simply because his commanders wanted to bro down all of a sudden. So he packed up and steamed back to Japan, content that the attack had been a resounding success, when in reality all it had done was successfully enrage the United States into joining the war.
But really, World War II is full of terrifying near-misses like this. And if you're saying, "Who cares, the Axis would still have lost as long as the Allies had the Soviet Union on their side," you're right. Which brings us to the scariest near-miss of all ...