Merritt Graham was born on May 15, 1900, in Leistville, Ohio. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 4, 1918, and served at NAS Pauillac, France, from July to September 1918, and at NAS Killingholme, England, from September to December 1918. After returning to the United States, he received an honorable discharge on February 13, 1919, but was recalled to active duty on November 19, 1919. Graham served aboard the tugboat USS Challenge (SP-1015) at Puget Sound Navy Yard, Washington, from December 1919 to March 1922, and then aboard the destroyer USS Noa (DD-343) from March 1922 to October 1925. His next assignment was as a torpedoman aboard the submarine USS S-33 (SS-138) from October 1925 to June 1926, followed by service aboard the submarine USS S-16 (SS-121) from June to October 1926. TM2c Graham then served aboard the submarine USS S-9 (SS-114) from October 1926 to June 1927, and then completed Torpedo School at NTS Newport, Rhode Island, from June to December 1927. He then returned to USS S-9, serving from December 1927 to August 1929, followed by service aboard USS O-10 (SS-71) from August 1929 to September 1930. His next assignment was as a recruiter with NRS Louisville, Kentucky, from September 1930 to March 1932, and then with NRS Hopkinsville, Kentucky, from March to September 1932. CTM Graham served aboard the submarine USS S-11 (SS-116) from October 1932 to October 1936, and then aboard the submarine USS R-13 (SS-90) from October 1936 to May 1938. His next assignment was aboard the submarine USS R-14 (SS-91) from May 1938 until his retirement from the Navy on May 1, 1939. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Graham requested to be put back on active duty, and he was recalled to active duty in the Navy on December 23, 1941. He was immediately transferred to the Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut, for the fitting out of the submarine USS Grunion (SS-216) in late December 1941, and remained aboard her after her commissioning in April 1942. CTM Graham was killed in action during a confrontation with the armed Japanese freighter Kano Maru on July 30, 1942. On August 22, 2007, a search team organized by the three sons of CDR Mannert Abele (the Captain of the Grunion when she was sunk) used a remotely operated vehicle to find a sunken vessel 3,000 feet down in the Bering Sea north of Kiska Island at the tip of the Aleutian Islands. On October 1, 2008, the U.S. Navy announced that the sunken vessel is the World War II submarine USS Grunion (SS-216).
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.