Massachusetts senator Edward Kennedy has told of his fear and remorse surrounding the fateful events on Chappaquiddick |Island when his car accident left a woman dead.
True Compass, a posthumous memoir, will be published on September 14 by Twelve, a division of the Hachette book group. The 532-page book was obtained early by The New York Times.
In it, Mr Kennedy (77) who died last week of a brain tumour, said his actions on July 18, 1969, were “inexcusable”. He said he was afraid and “made terrible decisions” and had to live with the guilt for more than four decades.
Mr Kennedy, then 37, drove off a bridge into a pond, then swam to safety while Mary Jo Kopechne drowned.
Miss Kopechne, a campaign worker for Mr Kennedy's brother Senator Robert Kennedy, was found dead in the submerged car's back seat 10 hours later.
Mr Kennedy later pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received a suspended sentence and probation.
He also said in the memoir that he always accepted the official findings on his brother John's assassination.
He said he had a full briefing by Earl Warren, the chief justice on the commission that investigated the November 22, 1963 Dallas shooting, which was attributed to Lee Harvey Oswald.
He said he was convinced the Warren Commission got it right and was “satisfied then, and satisfied now”.
In the book, Mr Kennedy writes candidly about his battle with brain cancer and his “self-destructive drinking”, especially after the 1968 death of Robert.
He also explains why he decided to run for the presidency in 1980, saying he was motivated in part by his differences with then-President Jimmy Carter. He criticised Mr Carter's go-slow approach to providing universal health care.
The book was written with the help of a collaborator and was based on contemporaneous notes taken by Mr Kennedy throughout his life and hours of recordings for an oral history project.
Meanwhile Cardinal Sean |O' Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston defended his decision to preside over the funeral Mass for Mr Kennedy, whose support for abortion rights clashed with Catholic teachings.
Cardinal O'Malley said it was appropriate for him to represent the church at the funeral service out of respect for Mr Kennedy, his family, those who attended the Mass and those who were praying for the senator.
The Cardinal also reminded critics Catholics were people of faith who “believe in a loving and forgiving God”.