When World War II ended, Ross Milianti was a battle-tested soldier with five major engagements to his credit, service that earned him the Bronze Star and nightmares that even now disturb the 89-year-old Mandeville man’s sleep.

But 70 years ago today, Milianti was a 120-pound teenager who had just left Chicago and the arms of the grandmother who had raised him. He had never shot a rifle before his training, and he didn’t know how to drive a car. But as the sun came up, he and 200 other soldiers looked from their Higgins boat at the chaos and blood that was Omaha Beach and knew what they were about to face.