Milliner Weaver Thomas was born on April 18, 1911 to Howard Barton and Halcyon M. Thomas, who resided in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 540 Washington Lane.
Milliner was their only child. His father was born in New York, his mother in Kansas. His father, Howard worked as chemist for a Pharmaceutical Company.
Millinerâ€™s family moved to Coatesville when his grandfather, Dr. Thompson W. McKinney became pastor of the Olivet Methodist church on 3rd and Chestnut streets.
Milliner attended Coatesville public schools under the tutelage Miss Anna Hall.
His family later returned to Philadelphia when his grandfather moved to Germantown.
Milliner completed his public education at Germantown High School.
Milliner received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland. He entered as a Midshipman from the seventh Pennsylvania District on June25. 1929. Milliner attended the same time as Oliver Finnigan, another Coatesville youth. Milliner was nicknamed â€œMimâ€ and â€œTommyâ€.
The 1933 Naval Academy yearbook describes him:
Fortunately, Mim has always been able to hold his own completely with the Academic Departments. While not exactly savvy, a wealth of common sense and a practical mind have kept him far from the bottom of the class.
He isnâ€™t one of the best athletes in the class either, but class numerals have come his way in football and Track.
His particular mystery is his unfailing devotion to no less a master than Cupid. True to one girl, he spends his evenings writing letters and his money on telephone calls.
His hobby during the cold months was perching on the radiator and dreaming of â€œSepâ€ leaveâ€¦
As a roommate, he is ideal, never borrowing stamps or clothes; he always has enough for himself. Possessing an intangible charm of personality, he has endeared himself to all those fortunate to have him for a friend.
In April, Milliner reported to the Submarine base in New London Connecticut for training in Submarines. The Submarine Service was an all volunteer service.
After completion of training at New London, Milliner reported for duty on his first submarine on December 1, 1936 â€“ named R-12, designated SS-89. The â€œR Boatsâ€ were small submarines designed during World War I, and were 600 tons, 186 feet long and had a crew of 33.
Milliner was promoted to Lieutenant (jg) (Junior Grade), on March 3, 1937, during his deployment on the R-12. In May he was assigned to the USS Cuttlefish SS-171. The Cuttlefish was a larger â€˜boatâ€™ of the Cachalot class â€“ 1,120 tons, 260 feet in length with a crew of 50. During his duty on the Cuttlefish, Milliner was promoted to a full Lieutenant on April 1, 1941.
Milliner was assigned to the USS Grunion SS-216, a new fleet boat of the Gato Class, which was 1,525 tons, 307 feet long, and a crew of 80. The Grunion was still under the final stages of construction and fitting out at Electric Boat Co., Groton, Connecticut. The Grunion was commissioned on April 11, 1942 with Milliner as XO (Executive Officer â€“ second in command).
After a â€˜shake downâ€™ cruise, Millinerâ€™s submarine transited the Panama Canal into the Pacific Ocean in May, and headed for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. After 10 days of intensive training, the Grunion left Pearl Harbor on June 10, 1942 toward the Aleutians for her first war patrol. Milliner qualified for command of submarines, and would be named captain of a submarine when he returned.
The submarines first report from patrol just north of Kiska Island, stated they had been attacked by a Japanese destroyer and fired on the enemy, but results were unknown (the sub had to dive and slip away). Millinerâ€™s ship reported she sank two enemy patrol boats in July. On July 30th they reported intensive antisubmarine activity, and were ordered to return to Dutch Harbor.
The Grunion was never heard from again.