USS SLC...USN...Millener Weaver Thomas, Lt.
Lieutenant Millener Weaver Thomas was reported Missing In Action on August 2, 1943, a presumptive date, since the Navy did not know for sure when the ship was lost. He was declared Killed In Action a year later on August 2, 1944.
This information brought to my attention by Richard Noar, son of
Abraham A. Noar
Millener Weaver Thomas was born on April 18, 1911 to Howard Barton and Halcyon M. Thomas, who resided in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 540 Washington Lane. Millener 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. Millener’s family moved to Coatesville when his grandfather, Dr. Thompson W. McKinney, became pastor of the Olivet Methodist church on 3rd and Chestnut streets.
Millener attended Coatesville public schools under the tutelage of Miss Anna Hall. His family later returned to Philadelphia when his grandfather moved to Germantown. Millener completed his public education at Germantown High School.
Millener received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland. He entered as a Midshipman from the seventh Pennsylvania District on June 25, 1929. Millener attended the same time as Oliver Finnigan, another Coatesville youth. Millener was nicknamed “Mim” and “Tommy”.
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 isn’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 “Sep” leave…
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.
Upon graduation from the Naval Academy and executing the oath of office, Millener was commissioned as officer with the rank of Ensign on June 1, 1933. He was then assigned to serve on the U. S. S. Salt Lake City CA 25, a heavy cruiser of the Pensacola Class, commissioned in 1929. In June 1st, 1935, Millener married Lara Elizabeth Kennedy in Philadelphia.
The same year, Millener was transferred to VS (aircraft) Squadron 9 for flying duty in the cruiser’s float aircraft. Serving as Aircraft Gunnery Observer aboard the Salt Lake. The cruiser carried 4 aircraft and 2 catapults for launching them. Aircraft were important not only for scouting (before the days of radar) but also in observing the fall of shells to adjust the aim.
Millener’s ship was based on the West Coast, but transited the Panama Canal to participate in Fleet Review in New York City, in May 1934. The Salt Lake City then transited back to the west coast.
In May 1936, he reported for duty to the U.S.S. New Orleans CA-32, the first heavy cruiser of the class, commissioned in 1934. In April, Millener 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, Millener reported for duty on his first submarine on December 1, 1936 – named R-12, designated SS-89. The “R Boats” were small submarines designed during World War I, and were 600 tons, 186 feet long and had a crew of 33.
Millener 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 ‘boat’ of the Cachalot class – 1,120 tons, 260 feet in length with a crew of 50. During his duty on the Cuttlefish, Millener was promoted to a full Lieutenant on April 1, 1941.
Millener was assigned to 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 Millener as XO (Executive Officer – second in command).
After a ‘shake down’ cruise, Millener’s submarine transited the Panama Canal into the Pacific Ocean in May, and headed for Pear 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. Millener qualified for command of submarines, and would be named captain of a submarine when he returned.
The submarine's 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). Millener’s ship reported she sank two enemy patrol boats in July, probably by use of the ships deck gun.
Faulty torpedoes were a serious problem in the early portion of the war. These torpedoes ran 10 feet deeper then set, and the secret magnetic exploders (when fired to travel just under a target, it would supposedly detonate underneath blowing a hole in the bottom of the target) completely failed. Even the contact detonator, would often shatter when the torpedo hit the side of a target, causing the weapon to bounce off a ship, failing to explode. This put our ships and crews at great risk, as the torpedo wakes would mark the location of the submerged submarine for enemy attack.
On July 30th they reported intensive antisubmarine activity, and were ordered to return to Dutch Harbor. Grunion was never heard from again.
Lieutenant Thomas Weaver Millener was reported Missing In Action on August 2, 1943, a presumptive date, since the Navy did not know for sure when the ship was lost. He was declared Killed In Action a year later on August 2, 1944.
Millener is listed on the Tablets of the Missing or Buried at Sea at the Honolulu Memorial Cemetery, in Hawaii. Hreceived the American Defense Service Medal – Fleet Clasp, and the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal.
He was survived by his wife, Laura, and his son, Peter.
Mention in records of Charles K. Duncan, Ensign