Thomas Martin was born on June 26, 1911, in Lenoir, North Carolina. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on January 9, 1931, and attended basic training and Electrical School at NTS Hampton Roads in Norfolk, Virginia, from January to October 1931. Martin completed Bureau of Navigation training at NTS Norfolk, Virginia, in August 1932, and then served aboard the light cruiser USS Cincinnati (CL-6) from October 1931 to February 1932. F3C Martin next served aboard the transport ship USS Chaumont (AP-5) from February to May 1932, and served at San Francisco, California, from May to December 1932. His next assignment was as a fireman aboard the battleship USS Colorado (BB-45) from December 1932 to March 1935, followed by service at Submarine Base Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone, from March 1935 to February 1941. During this time, he changed his rate to electrician's mate and served aboard the submarine tender USS Argonne (AS-10), the submarine USS S-46 (SS-157), and the submarine USS Sargo (SS-188). EM2C Martin next served aboard the submarine USS S-44 (SS-155) at Submarine Base New London, Connecticut, from February to December 1941, when he transferred to the submarine USS Grunion (SS-216) during her fitting out at New London in December 1941. EM1C Martin remained aboard USS Grunion through her commissioning in April 1942, until he was killed in action during a confrontation with the armed Japanese freighter Kano Maru on July 30, 1942. The ship was found by a search team on August 22, 2007, and the U.S. Navy announced the sunken vessel located off the coast of the Aleutian Islands is the World War II submarine USS Grunion (SS-216) on October 1, 2008.
His Navy Commendation Medal Citation reads:
For meritorious conduct as a member of the crew of the U.S.S. GRUNION which destroyed three enemy destroyers while engaged in a war patrol in enemy controlled waters. Despite severe and persistent anti-submarine measures resulting from these three successful attacks, the GRUNION was brought safely through the counter attacks and continued an aggressive war patrol. As a member of the crew of the GRUNION, your performance of duty was an important and material contribution to the prosecution of this war.