Lauri Allan Törni (28 May 1919 – 18 October 1965), later known as Larry Thorne, was a Finnish Army captain who led an infantry company against the Soviet Union in the Finnish Winter and Continuation Wars and moved to the United States after World War II. He fought under three flags: Finnish, German (when he again fought the Soviets in World War II), and American (where he was known as Larry Thorne) when he served in U.S. Army Special Forces in the Vietnam War. Törni was killed in action during the Vietnam War.
|Lauri Allan Törni
Larry Thorne[nb 1]
Törni in Waffen-SS uniform
28 May 1919|
|Died||18 October 1965
Phước Sơn District, Quảng Nam Province, Vietnam
|Buried||Arlington National Cemetery|
United States Army
|Years of service||1938–1945
Hauptsturmführer (Nazi Germany)
Germany: Sonderkommando Nord
Iron Cross 2nd Class
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Purple Heart (2)
Early life and military serviceEdit
Christened Lauri Allan Törni, he was born in Viipuri, Viipuri Province, Finland, to ship captain Jalmari (Ilmari) Törni, and his wife, Rosa (née Kosonen). He had two sisters: Salme Kyllikki (b. 1920) and Kaija Iris (b. 1922). An athletic youth, Törni was an early friend of future Olympic Boxing Gold Medalist Sten Suvio. After attending business school and serving with the Civil Guard, Törni entered military service in 1938, joining the 4th Independent Jaeger Infantry Battalion stationed at Kiviniemi; as the Winter War began in November 1939, his enlistment was extended and his unit confronted invading Soviet troops at Rautu.
World War IIEdit
His performance during these engagements were noticed by his commanders, and toward the end of the war, he was assigned to officer training where he was commissioned a Vänrikki (2nd lieutenant) in the reserves. After the Winter War, in June 1941, Törni went to Vienna, Austria for seven weeks of training with the Waffen-SS, and returned to Finland in July; as a Finnish officer, he was recognized as a German Untersturmführer. Most of Törni's reputation was based on his successful actions in the Continuation War (1941–44) between the Soviet Union and Finland. In 1943 a unit informally named Detachment Törni was created under his command. This was an infantry unit that penetrated deep behind enemy lines and soon enjoyed a reputation on both sides of the front for its combat effectiveness. One of Törni's men was future President of Finland Mauno Koivisto. Koivisto served in a reconnaissance company under Törni's command during the Battle of Ilomantsi, which was the final Finnish-Soviet engagement of the Continuation War during July and August 1944. Törni's unit inflicted such heavy casualties on Soviet units that the Soviet Army placed a bounty on his head of 3,000,000 Finnish marks. He was decorated with the Mannerheim Cross on 9 July 1944.
The September 1944 Moscow Armistice required Finland to remove German troops from its territory and resulted in the Lapland War; also, much of the Finnish Army was demobilized along with Törni, leaving him unemployed in November 1944. In January 1945, he was recruited by a pro-German resistance movement in Finland and left for saboteur training in Germany, and to organize resistance in case Finland was occupied by the Soviet Union. The training was prematurely ended in March, but as Törni could not secure transportation to Finland, he joined a German unit to fight Soviet troops near Schwerin, Germany. He surrendered to American and British troops in the last stages of World War II and eventually returned to Finland in June 1945 after escaping a British POW camp in Lübeck, Germany.
As his family had been evacuated from Karelia, Törni sought to rejoin them in Helsinki but was arrested by Valpo, the Finnish state police; after escaping, he was arrested a second time in April 1946, and tried for treason for having joined the German army. After a trial from October to November, he received a 6-year sentence in January 1947. Imprisoned at the Turku provincial prison, Törni escaped in June, but was recaptured and sent to the Riihimäki State Prison. Finnish President Juho Paasikivi granted him a pardon in December 1948.
Immigration to the United StatesEdit
In 1949 Törni, accompanied by his wartime executive officer Holger Pitkänen, traveled to Sweden, crossing the border from Tornio to Haparanda (Haaparanta), where many inhabitants were of ethnic Finnish origin. From Haparanda, Törni traveled by railroad to Stockholm where he stayed with Baroness von Essen, who harbored many fugitive Finnish officers following the war. Pitkänen was arrested and repatriated to Finland. Remaining in Sweden, Törni fell in love with a Swedish Finn, Marja Kops, and was soon engaged to be married. Hoping to establish a career before the marriage, Törni traveled under an alias as a Swedish seaman aboard the SS Bolivia, destined for Caracas, Venezuela, where Törni met one of his Winter War commanders, Finnish colonel Matti Aarnio, who was in exile having settled in Venezuela after the war. From Caracas, Törni hired on to a Swedish cargo ship, the MS Skagen, destined for the United States in 1950.
While in the Gulf of Mexico, near Mobile, Alabama, Törni jumped overboard and swam to shore. Now a political refugee, Törni traveled to New York City where he was helped by the Finnish-American community living in Brooklyn's Sunset Park "Finntown". There he worked as a carpenter and cleaner. In 1953, Törni was granted a residence permit through an Act of Congress that was shepherded by the law firm of "Wild Bill" Donovan, former head of the Office of Strategic Services.
United States ArmyEdit
Törni joined the U.S. Army in 1954 under the provisions of the Lodge-Philbin Act and adopted the name Larry Thorne. In the US Army, he was befriended by a group of Finnish-American officers who came to be known as "Marttinen's Men."[nb 2]
With their support, Thorne was soon on his way into the Special Forces. While in the Special Forces, he taught skiing, survival, mountaineering, and guerrilla tactics. In turn he attended airborne school, and advanced in rank; attending Officer Candidate School, he was commissioned as a 1st lieutenant in the Signal Corps in 1957. He later received a regular commission and a promotion to captain in 1960. From 1958–62 he served in the 10th Special Forces Group in West Germany at Bad Tölz, where he was second in command of a search and recovery mission high in the Zagros mountains of Iran, which gained him a notable reputation. When he was in Germany, he briefly visited his relatives in Finland. In an episode of The Big Picture released in 1962 and composed of footage filmed in 1959, Thorne is shown as a lieutenant with the 10th Special Forces Group in the United States Army.
Vietnam War and deathEdit
Deploying to South Vietnam in November 1963 to support South Vietnamese forces in the Vietnam War, Thorne and Special Forces Detachment A-734 were stationed in the Tịnh Biên District and assigned to operate Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) encampments at Châu Lăng and later Tịnh Biên.
During a fierce attack on the CIDG camp in Tịnh Biên, he received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star Medal for valor during the battle. This attack would later be described by author Robin Moore in his book The Green Berets.
Thorne's second tour in Vietnam began in February 1965 with 5th Special Forces Group; he then transferred to Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV–SOG), a classified U.S. special operations unit focusing on unconventional warfare in Vietnam, as a military advisor.
On 18 October 1965, he was supervising a clandestine mission which objective was to locate Viet Cong turnaround points along Ho Chi Minh trail and destroy them with airstrikes. During the operation his Vietnam Air Force CH-34 helicopter crashed in a mountainous area of Phước Sơn District, Quảng Nam Province, Vietnam, 25 miles (40 km) from Da Nang. Rescue teams were unable to locate the crash site. Shortly after his disappearance, Thorne was promoted to the rank of major and posthumously awarded the Legion of Merit and Distinguished Flying Cross.
In 1999, Thorne's remains were found by a Finnish and Joint Task Force-Full Accounting team[nb 3] and repatriated to the United States following a Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport ceremony that included Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Ambassador Pete Peterson.
Formally identified in 2003, his remains were buried on 26 June 2003 at Arlington National Cemetery, section 60, tombstone 8136, along with the South Vietnam Air Force casualties of the mission recovered at the crash site.
- 2nd class medal of Freedom, 26 July 1940
- 1st class medal of Freedom, 24 August 1940
- 3rd class Cross of Liberty, 9 October 1941
- 4th class Cross of Liberty, 23 May 1942
- Mannerheim Cross, 9 July 1944
- 1st Div. Memorial Cross
- Border Jaeger Troops Cross
- Defense Forces Bronze Medal
- Iron Cross, 2 class, 11 December 1943
United States Army
- Combat Infantry Badge
- Master Parachutist Badge
Decorations and Medals
- Legion of Merit
- Distinguished Flying Cross
- Bronze Star Medal with "V" device
- Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster
- Air Medal
- Army Commendation Medal
- Good Conduct Medal
- National Defense Service Medal with star
- Vietnam Service Medal with two campaign stars
- Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
Distinguished Flying Cross citationEdit
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously) to Major (Infantry), (then Captain) Larry Alan Thorne (ASN: 0-2287104), United States Army, for heroism while participating in aerial flight heroism against a hostile force while participating in aerial flight on 18 October 1965, in the Republic of Vietnam. Major Thorne was operations officer responsible for launching a small, combined reconnaissance patrol on an extremely hazardous mission into a suspected .Viet Cong stronghold. Due to the extreme hazards attending this mission, including weather and enemy action, Major Thorne volunteered to accompany submission aircraft during the introduction of the patrol in place of the assigned individual. After delivering the patrol to the landing zone, Major Thorne remained with one aircraft in the immediate area to receive an initial report from the patrol on the ground. This report was mandatory since only the vaguest information was available about enemy disposition near the landing zone. If the patrol were immediately confronted by a superior force, Major Thorne would land and extricate the patrol under fire. This was done with total disregard for the inherent dangers and with selfless concern for the ground forces. In so doing, he exposed himself to extreme personal danger which ultimately led to his disappearance and the loss of his aircraft. He had, however, guaranteed the safe introduction of the patrol into the area, the successful accomplishment of this mission and had positioned himself to react to any immediate calls for assistance from the patrol. Due to Major Thorne's efforts, the mission was accomplished successfully and contributed significantly to the overall mission of interdicting Viet Cong activities within the area. Major Thorne's actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.
General Orders: Department of the Army, General Orders No. 33 (July 26, 1967)
Action Date: October 18, 1965
Dates of rankEdit
- 3 September 1938, Conscript (reserves)
- 1 March 1939, Lance Corporal (reserves)
- 9 May 1940, Second Lieutenant (reserves)
- 5 March 1942, Lieutenant (reserves)
- 27 August 1944, Captain (reserves)
- 6 October 1950, removed from officers list
- 18 May 1941, Untersturmführer (Nordost)
- 15 April 1945, Hauptsturmführer (Sonderkommando Nord)
United States Army
- Private - 28 January 1954
- Private First Class - 20 December 1954
- Corporal - 28 April 1955
- Sergeant - 17 November 1955
- 1st Lieutenant, USAR - 9 January 1957
- Captain, USAR - 30 November 1960
- Major, USAR (posthumous) - 16 December 1965
In the 1990s, Törni's name became better known as a war hero, with numerous books being written about him. He was named 52nd in the Suuret Suomalaiset listing of famous Finns; in the 2006 Suomen Sotilas (Soldier of Finland) magazine listing, he was elected most courageous of the Mannerheim Cross recipients.
In Finland, the survivors, friends, and families of Detachment Törni formed the Lauri Törni Tradition Guild. The Infantry Museum (Jalkaväkimuseo) in Mikkeli, Finland, has an exhibit dedicated to Törni, as does the Military Museum of Finland in Helsinki.
Even before his death, Thorne's name was legendary in U.S. Special Forces. His U.S. memorial is the Larry Thorne Headquarters Building, 10th SFG(A), Fort Carson, Colorado. 10th Group honors him yearly by presenting the Larry Thorne Award to the best Operational Detachment-Alpha in the command. The Special Forces Association Chapter 33 in Cleveland, Tennessee is named after him.
In 2010 he was named as the first Honorary Member of the United States Army Special Forces Regiment. In the book The Green Berets by Robin Moore, the "Sven Kornie" (or Captain Steve Kornie) main character in the first chapter was based on Thorne.[nb 4]
In their 2013 book Tuntematon Lauri Törni [Unknown Lauri Törni], authors Juha Pohjonen and Oula Silvennoinen argue that Törni's conviction for treason was justified because the SS training he received at the end of World War II was provided to help achieve a National Socialist coup in Finland.[page needed][need quotation to verify] This view is widely discredited, including by Törni Heritage Guild members Markku Moberg and Pasi Niittymäki, who acknowledge Törni faced pressure from war and alcohol, but did not support Germany, and Finnish historian Jussi Niinistö who argues that Törni's training was motivated instead by patriotism unlike the book authors who Niinistö contended stirred up hatred to promote sales of their book while disregarding "the fact that in Finland there was a genuine fear that Russia would occupy Finland."
- Gill (1998) gives several aliases used by Törni: "Lauri Laine" when receiving German training (p. 69); "Aulis Haapalainen" after escaping from a British POW camp (p. 83); and "Elino Morsky" when traveling to Venezuela and the United States (pp. 93–94).
- Named after Colonel Alpo K. Marttinen, this group of Finnish wartime officers had immigrated to the United States and were inducted into the US Army under the Lodge Act. Several were brought into the U.S. Special Forces at its inception.
- Per McDowell, Finnish members of the team included publisher Kari Kallonen, reporter Petri Sarjanen, photographer Juha Saxberg, Törni's nephew Juha Rajala, and videographer Tapio Anttila.
- Moore's book was published the same year Thorne died. OCLC 422663434 "Kornie, originally a Finn, fought the Russians when they invaded his native land. Later he had joined the German Army and miraculously survived two years of fighting the Russians on the eastern front." (p. 30) The book was later made into a movie by the same name, starring John Wayne. The Green Berets at the American Film Institute Catalog.
- McDowell 2002.
- Salomaa 2000, pp. 554–57.
- Cleverley 2008, pp. 2–3.
- Cleverley 2008, pp. 5, 7, 14, 20.
- Cleverley 2008, pp. 26–32.
- Cleverley 2008, p. 287.
- Cleverley 2008, pp. 55, 58.
- Bennett, Richard M. (2003). Elite Forces. Random House. ISBN 978-0753508237.
- Jowett, Philip; Snodgrass, Brent (2006). Finland at War 1939–1945. Oxford: Osprey. p. 32. ISBN 9781782001256. OCLC 824780162.
- Knights of the Mannerheim Cross (Finnish); accessed 20 September 2014.
- Gill 1998, pp. 67–8.
- Gill 1998, pp. 69, 72.
- Gill 1998, pp. 75–76.
- Gill 1998, pp. 77, 82.
- Gill 1998, pp. 85–86.
- Gill 1998, pp. 90–92.
- Kero, Reino (2014). "Part 3: Seamen, Masses, and Individual Migrants of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Migration from Finland to North America". In Kostianinen, Auvo. Finns in the United States: A History of Settlement, Dissent, and Integration. Michigan State University Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-1628950205. Retrieved 20 September 2014.
- "Chapter 422 [H.R. 2604], Private Law 83-168 – An Act for the relief of Lauri Allan Torni" (PDF). 83rd Congress, 1st Session, 1953. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. 67: A60. 12 August 1953.
- Gill 1998, pp. 117–19.
- Gill 1998, pp. 127–35.
- "Phantom Fighters. USA Special Forces Training" (TV-448) 1962, via LiveLeak.
- Cleverley 2008, pp. 239–45.
- Cleverley 2008, p. 302.
- LeFavor, Paul D. (2013). "Ch. 1: Special Forces History – Operation Shining Brass". In Blackburn, Michael. US Army Special Forces Small Unit Tactics Handbook. Fayetteville, NC: Blacksmith. pp. 50–51. ISBN 978-0989551304.
- Maj Larry Alan Thorne at Find a Grave
- Lauri Allan Torni at Find a Grave
- Temmes, Asko (12 June 2003). "Legendary Finnish war hero Lauri Törni (Larry Thorne) to get final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery: Remains of victims of 1965 helicopter crash will be interred simultaneously". Helsingin Sanomat.
- Kivimäki, Ville (12 May 2012). "Between Defeat and Victory: Finnish memory culture of the Second World War". Scandinavian Journal of History. 37 (4): 482–504. doi:10.1080/03468755.2012.680178.
- Kinnunen, Tiina; Jokisipilä, Markku (2011). "Part Four: Wars of Memory; Chapter 10: Shifting Images of "Our Wars": Finnish Memory Culture of World War II". In Kinnunen, Tiina; Kivimäki, Ville. Finland in World War II: History, Memory, Interpretations. Brill. p. 464. ISBN 978-9004208940. OCLC 748330780.
- Os Lauri Törni Perinnekilta ry (Lauri Törni Tradition Guild)
- Nargele, Dominik George (2005). Terror Survivors and Freedom Fighters. Bloomington, IL: AuthorHouse. p. 35. ISBN 978-1467837439. OCLC 682903422. Nargele, Dominik George (2009). Endless Cold War. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse. p. 42. ISBN 978-1438999814. OCLC 620134604.
- Remember the Military Museum in Helsinki during your summer holiday. 14 June 2012
- Corns, John H. (2009). Our Time in Vietnam. iUniverse. p. 13. ISBN 978-1440183249. OCLC 620150268.
- Gregory, Jim (30 June 2010). "The Ideal Green Beret". United States European Command Public Affairs Office.
- Special Forces Association Larry A. Thorne Memorial Chapter 33 website
- "Lauri Törni sai kunnianosoituksen USA:n erikoisjoukoilta [Larry Thorne honored by U.S. Special Forces]". Kotimaa (in Finnish). Ilta-Sanomat. 9 September 2010.
- Pohjonen, Juha; Silvennoinen, Oula (2013). Tuntematon Lauri Törni [Unknown Lauri Törni] (in Finnish).
- University of Helsinki bibliographic data
- Määttänen, Markus (24 October 2013). "Juha Pohjonen ja Oula Silvennoinen: Tuntematon Lauri Törni". Aamulehti (in Finnish).
- Pilke, Antti (20 October 2013). "Historioitsija: Lauri Törni sekaantui natsikumouksen ajamiseen Suomeen [Historian: Larry Thorne was involved in Nazism in Finland]". Uutiset (in Finnish). Yle.
- "Perinnekilta: Lauri Törni ei ollut natsi [Heritage Guild: Larry Thorne was not a Nazi]". Uutiset (in Finnish). Yle. 24 October 2013.
- Hirsimäki, Tiina (21 October 2013). "Niinistö: Lauri Törnin menneisyyttä ei ole siloteltu [Niinistö: Lauri Törni's past not smooth]". Uutiset. Yle.
- Cleverley, J. Michael (2008). Born a Soldier: The Times and Life of Larry Thorne. Booksurge. ISBN 978-1439214374. OCLC 299168934. Reviewed at Goodreads
- Gill III, Henry A. (1998). Soldier Under Three Flags: The Exploits of Special Forces' Captain Larry A. Thorne. Ventura, CA: Pathfinder Publishing. ISBN 978-0934793650. OCLC 38468782. Reviewed at Goodreads
- Kallonen, Kari; Sarjanen, Petri (2004). Leijonamieli: 1919–1949: Mannerheim-ristin ritari kapteeni Lauri Törni alias majuri Larry Thorne [Lionheart 1919–1949: Mannerheim Cross Knight Captain Lauri Törni aka Major Larry Thorne] (in Finnish). Revontuli. ISBN 978-9525170009. OCLC 47915724.
- Lindholm-Ventola, Antti (1988). Lauri Törni ja hänen korpraalinsa, Sotapäiväkirjaa ja muistelmia vuosilta 1942–1944 [Lauri Törni and his Corporal, war diaries and memoirs of the years 1942–1944] (in Finnish). Helsinki: Alea-kirja. ISBN 978-9519429427. OCLC 57842473.
- McDowell, Jeffrey B. (May–June 2002). "The Search for Larry A. Thorne: Missing in Action, Vietnam". Military Review. 82 (3): 77+. ISSN 0026-4148. OCLC 2558412. Retrieved 7 May 2014. – via Questia (subscription required)
- Rönnquist, Lars; Vuorenmaa, Anssi (1993). Törnin Jääkärit [Törnin Light Infantry] (in Finnish). Porvoo: W. Söderström. ISBN 978-9510194485. OCLC 36900567.
- Salomaa, Markku (2000). "Lauri Torni, soldier". In Marjomaa, Ulpu. 100 Faces from Finland: A Biographical Kaleidoscope. Fletcher, Roderick (trans.). Helsinki: Finnish Academy of Science & Letters (Finnish Literature Society). pp. 554–57. ISBN 978-9517462150. OCLC 47683663.
- Tyrkkö, Jukka (1975). Lauri Törnin tarina: vapaustaistelijan vaiheita Viipurista Vietnamiin [Lauri Törni story. Freedom Fighter's steps from Vyborg to Vietnam] (in Finnish). Helsinki: Alea-kirja. ISBN 978-9519272177. OCLC 2645931.
- Ekberg, Henrik. "Mannen som inte kunde sluta strida" [The man who could not stop fighting] (in Swedish). Svenskt Militarhistoriskt Bibliotek. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
- Lunde, Henrik O. (2011). Finland's War of Choice: The Troubled German-Finnish Coalition in WWII. Havertown, PA: Casemate. ISBN 978-1935149484. OCLC 635489135.
- Reviewed in The Bugle, June 2011
- Nieme, Jarto; Folsom, Russ; Pipes, Jason. "Finnish Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WWII". Feldgrau.com. Jason Pipes.
- Kairinen, Paavo A. (1987). Marttisen Miehet: Asekätkijäveljet [Marttinen's Men – The Brotherhood of the Armament Concealers] (in Finnish). W. Söderström: Porvoo. ISBN 978-9510146644. OCLC 18680922.
- Plaster, John L. (2000). "3: Shining Brass". SOG: A Photo History of the Secret Wars. Boulder, CO: Paladin. ISBN 978-1581600582. OCLC 445847740.
- Mika Karttunen (Director), Peter Franzén (Narrator) (2007). Törni – Sotilaan Tarina [The Story of Larry Thorne] (DVD (58 minutes)) (in Finnish). Solar Films/Nordisk Special Marketing (NSM). ASIN B0021GXH2E. OCLC 731877681.