10:25 AM EDT, June 6, 2014
What if we lost? What if the Invasion of Normandy, one of history's greatest military gambles, had been repulsed by the Nazis?
As President Obama led the world in marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day, historian Douglas Brinkley told INSIDE EDITION it could all have been very different.
"If D-Day failed, which it could have, we would have had the sad spectre of a revitalized German empire starting to build nuclear capacity," said Brinkley. "Fascism would have dominated the world, not democracy."
For those first agonizing hours of the invasion, Brinkley said, the success of D-Day hung in the balance.
Brinkley explained, "For the hours when this was happening, nobody knew what was really transpiring, but by the end of the day Franklin Roosevelt, our president, was able to hold a ceremony in the White House under a tree and say, 'We did it.""
Saving Private Ryan is a realistic and grim testimony to the nightmare the allied forces had to endure on the beaches of Normandy, Brinkley said.
"Steven Spielberg did a masterful historical recreation," said Brinkley. "It's almost stunning, the amount of detail he put into that."
At a war ceremony near Omaha Beach, Taps was played in honor of those who fell as they and their brothers-in-arms stormed ashore on a day that will live in history.
"More than 150,000 souls set off toward this tiny sliver of sand, upon which hung more than the fate of a war, but rather the course of human history," said President Obama.
The ceremonies are especially poignant this year, since the ever-diminishing heroes of D-Day are now in their nineties.
At the Statue of Liberty, one million red rose petals were dropped by helicopter by grateful French citizens who say they will "never forget" the sacrifice of U.S. armed forces. It's a poignant tribute to the men who fought - and died - for the freedom we enjoy today.
"We may not be there having a conversation if it wasn't for the heroism of those 160,000 allied troops that stormed the five beaches of Normandy," said Brinkley.