On D-Day, June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied soldiers landed along 50 miles of beaches in Normandy, France, to fight German Nazi soldiers. While the Allies won the battle on the coast that day, 4,413 Allied soldiers died, according to the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth, England.
Today, Boykin Dunaway shares his war stories with his well-known Marietta family.
His family created the Dunaway Drugstore chain, which used to have a storefront on Marietta Square for more than 20 years. Boykin Dunaway’s cousin, William H. Dunaway, started the chain. William H. Dunaway had a son, Bill Dunaway, who was Marietta’s mayor from 2002 to 2009.
Boykin Dunaway, who has lived in Marietta since 1953 and was a medic during World War II, remembers landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day. He dodged bullets and bomb shells as he carried wounded men off the shore toward hospital ships.
“Thank God they missed me,” Boykin Dunaway said.
What he saw on the beach that day was frightening: Germans hiding in deep trenches, bombs falling from the sky and men fighting on the shore.
“I have a lot of memories of saving people’s lives one way or another — taking the wounded to a safe place where they could be evacuated, to a ship or someplace where they could take care of them better than we could on the beach,” Boykin Dunaway said.
He said medics traveled with the Army and were ready to help the wounded when
the Army invaded a new location. While his naval beach battalion was moving toward the shore, Boykin Dunaway said his ship was hit.
The soldiers aboard had to evacuate the ship and take a smaller boat to shore, but the boat got stuck on a sandbar soon after. Without knowing the depth of the water, the soldiers had to take a risk and jump in to swim to the beach.
“We didn’t know how deep the water was and we had all this weight on us anyhow — we thought we probably would have drowned if we tried,” Boykin Dunaway said. “But, we got off that boat and waded in.”
What followed was several days of triage, which is a process the medics use to separate wounded soldiers who have a chance of surviving from those who do not. Boykin Dunaway said he can’t remember exactly how long he stayed on the shore, but it was at least several days.
“Time don’t mean much to you then,” he said.
Bill Dunaway said he visited the beaches of Normandy long after the war was over.
He found the spot where Boykin Dunaway had landed and said a monument to his battalion stands there today.
“He saw a lot of ground fighting,” Bill Dunaway said. “I’m proud of him.”
Later in the war, Boykin Dunaway was transferred to Okinawa, Japan, where he served as a medic to the soldiers who invaded that island. He said the invasion was considered more deadly than the one at Omaha Beach at the time.
“One of the generals said you could make all the plans you want to, but when the fighting starts, you had to be able to change, and change fast — and that happened,” Boykin Dunaway said.
Japanese kamikazi bombers were the biggest threat to the U.S. Navy off the shores of Okinawa, Boykin Dunaway said.
“They hit several ships with the suicide bombers that were in the bay loading and unloading supplies and so forth,” Boykin Dunaway said. “They came over every night. You could set your clock by them.”
It wasn’t long after that mission the war ended, and Boykin Dunaway went home to Georgia.
He continued the work he had started as a teenager at the Dunaway Drugstore in Dallas and went to school with funding from the G.I. Bill. He attended the Atlanta Southern College of Pharmacy, which is now a part of Emory University, and got a pharmacy license in 1950.
Boykin Dunaway made a career out of pharmacy.
“(Pharmacy) grew on me,” Boykin Dunaway said. “I like helping people.”
He became the executive vice president general manager of all of the Marietta Dunaway Drug Stores and taught younger members of the family the ways of the business.
“He gets at least half the credit for all the success of Dunaway Drug Stores,” Bill Dunaway said. “My family owes Boykin a lot because he was a workhorse. He loved to work, and the only other thing he did was fish every once in a while.”
The chain of pharmacies eventually grew to 16 stores in total, Boykin Dunaway said. The chain sold out to the Eckerd Corporation in 1989.
Boykin Dunaway was later married to Lorene Dunaway, his wife of 30 years who died in 2011. In addition to Boykin Dunaway, she is survived by a daughter and three grandchildren.
Now, Boykin Dunaway’s influence has traveled down to younger generations of his family. Claire Dunaway Cyr, Bill Dunaway’s daughter, said she enjoys hearing and learning from the war stories he tells.
“He’s the only one in our family that I’m close to that I get to hear any of the World War II stories from, and I think it’s wonderful that he can talk about that because I know it’s not easy, so I want to take in as much as I can,” Cyr said. “I’m inspired that he’s willing to do that for his country.”
She said Boykin Dunaway doesn’t want Americans to forget what he fought for. A higher standard of patriotism is what Boykin Dunaway said he would like to see in the United States.
“I get reminded of (the war) a lot and I think about it every once in a while, when I see us fighting and getting killed over in some of these countries we’ve been getting into,” Boykin Dunaway said. “I can’t help but remember because I know what the guys are going through now, and I feel for them. I hope that people will appreciate what our armed forces are doing and have done for this country that has kept us safe.”