|This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2013)|
|Lauri Allan Törni, "Lasse"
Larry Thorne in the U.S. Army
May 28, 1919|
|Died||October 18, 1965
Vietnam (Operation Shining Brass)
United States of America
United States Army
|Years of service||1938–1944 (Finnish Army)
1945 (Waffen SS)
1954–1965 (U.S. Army)
|Unit||Infantry Regiment 12 (Finland)
SS Freiwilligen Bataillon Nordost (Germany)
Green Berets, Detachment A743, MACV-SOG
5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
Iron Cross 2nd Class
Purple Heart (2)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Presidential Unit Citation (United States) 2001, Studies and Observations Group
Lauri Allan Törni (28 May 1919 – 18 October 1965), later known as Larry Thorne, was a Finnish Army captain who led an infantry company in the Finnish Winter and Continuation Wars and moved to the United States after World War II. He is known as the soldier who fought under three flags: Finnish, German (when he 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.
Christened Lauri Alan Törni, he was born in Viipuri, Finland, to a ship captain. He entered military service in 1938, attending Reserve Officer school in Hamina in February 1940 during the Winter War.
World War II
In autumn 1939, Törni was completing his enlistment in the Finnish Army when the Soviet Union attacked Finland. Törni's conscription was extended as part of the country's general mobilization, and he was originally assigned to supply troops. During the battles at Lake Ladoga, he was transferred to the front line. He took part in the annihilation of the encircled Russian divisions in Lemetti. His heroic feats during these engagements were quickly noticed by his commanders. Toward the end of the war, he was assigned to officer training where he was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant. After the Winter War, in 1941, Törni went to Germany to train with the Waffen SS, and then returned to Finland.
Most of Törni's reputation was based on his successful feats in the Continuation War (1941–44) between the Soviet Union and Finland. In 1943 a famous 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. The two served together during the Battle of Ilomantsi, which was the final Finnish-Soviet engagement of the Continuation War during July and August 1944. Koivisto participated in the battle as a soldier assigned to a reconnaissance company under the command of Captain Törni.
Törni's unit inflicted such heavy casualties on Russian units that the Soviet Army placed a bounty on his head (3 million Finnish Marks, equivalent to 650,000 USD). He was reputedly the only Finnish officer to have had a bounty. He was decorated with the Mannerheim Cross on 9 July 1944.
Törni was dissatisfied with the terms of the Finnish peace treaty with the Soviets, which required Finland to take up arms against Germany in the Lapland War. The Finnish government believed he had fought enough and discharged him. In 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 were occupied by the Soviet Union. He surrendered to British troops in the last stages of World War II and eventually returned to Finland after escaping a British POW camp. Törni was arrested by ValPo (State Police) upon his return and sentenced to six years in prison for treason for having joined the German army. Törni was pardoned by President Paasikivi in December 1948.
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 the Baroness von Essen, who harbored many fugitive Finnish officers following the war. Pitkänen was arrested and repatriated to Finland, but 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. In Caracas's harbour, Törni met one of his Winter War commanders, Finnish colonel Matti Aarnio, who was in exile having settled in Venezuela after the war. In 1950 Caracas, Törni hired on to a Swedish cargo ship, the MS Skagen, destined for the United States. While in the Gulf of Mexico, near Mobile, Alabama, Törni jumped overboard and swam to shore. Törni traveled to New York City where he was helped by the Finnish-American community living in Brooklyn's "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, the former head of the OSS, America's wartime covert military organization.
Törni joined the U.S. Army in 1954 under the provisions of the Lodge-Philbin Act and adopted the name Larry Thorne. While in the US Army, he was befriended by a group of Finnish-American officers who came to be known as "Marttinen's Men." Similar to Thorne, this group of decorated 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.
With their support, Private 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 quickly advanced in rank, attaining a reserve commission as a 2nd lieutenant in 1957. He later received a regular commission and a promotion to captain in 1960. From 1958 to 1962 he served in the 10th Special Forces Group in West Germany. While there he was second in command of a search and rescue mission in the Zagros mountains of Iran, which gained him a notable reputation.
In 1965, Thorne transferred to MACVSOG, a classified U.S. special operations unit focusing on unconventional warfare in Vietnam, as a military advisor. On 18 October 1965, he left for a clandestine mission during which his helicopter crashed in a mountainous area of Vietnam, 25 miles (40 km) away from Da Nang. When a rescue team arrived, they were unable to locate the crash site.
Shortly after his disappearance, Thorne was promoted to the rank of major.
Thorne's remains were found in 1999 and formally identified in 2003. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, section 60, tombstone 8136, on 26 June 2003.
Details of service
- The Finnish Army
- 3 September 1938 military (reserve)
- 1 March 1939 Reserve Corporal
- 9 May 1940 reserve second lieutenant
- 5 March 1942 reserve lieutenant
- 27 August 1944 reserve captain
- 6 October 1950 removed from officers list
- Finnish decorations:
- 2 class medal of freedom 26 July 1940
- 1 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
- Defence Forces bronze medal
- German army, the Waffen-SS
- 18 May 1941 Untersturmführer ( Nordost )
- 15 April 1945 Hauptsturmführer ( Sonderkommando Nord )
- German decorations:
- 2 class Iron Cross 11 December 1943
- United States Army
- 28 January 1954, enlisted
- 20 December 1954, Private First Class
- 28 April 1955, Corporal
- 17 November 1955, Sergeant
- 9 January 1957, Lieutenant (res.)
- 30 November 1960, Captain (res.)
- 16 December 1965, Major (res., posthumously)
- United States Army decorations:
- Bronze Star
- Army Commendation Medal
- Purple Heart (twice)
- The Legion of Merit
- Army Good Conduct Medal
- National Defense Service Medal
- Vietnam Campaign Medal
- Vietnam Service Medal
- Air Medal
- Combat Infantry Badge
- Parachute Badge (Master)
- Distinguished Flying Cross
- Special Forces, honorary member of the regiment
Thorne's 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.
In Finland, the survivors, friends and families of Detachment Törni formed the Lauri Törni Tradition Guild.
- Cleverley, J. Michael (2008). Born a Soldier, The Times and Life of Larry Thorne. Booksurge. ISBN 978-1439214374. OCLC 299168934.
- Published in 2003 in Finnish as: Syntynyt Sotilaaksi. Otava Publishing. ISBN 9511188534. OCLC 58340971.
- In English in 2002 as: A Scent of Glory: The Times and Life of Larry A. Thorne. Athens: Nike Ekdotike. ISBN 9607663489. OCLC 61516770
- Published in 2008 in Swedish as: Lauri Törni Yrke Soldat. Svenskt Militärhistoriskt Bibliotek. ISBN 978-9185789221.
- Gill III, H. A. (1998). The Soldier Under Three Flags. Pathfinder Publishing. ISBN 0934793654. OCLC 38468782.
- Kallonen, Kari; Sarjanen, Petri (2004). Leijonamieli: 1919–1949: Mannerheim-ristin ritari kapteeni Lauri Törni alias majuri Larry Thorne (in Finnish). Revontuli. ISBN 978-9525170009. OCLC 47915724.
- Pohjonen, Juha; Silvennoinen, Oula (2013). Tuntematon Lauri Törni (in Finnish). Otava. ISBN 978-9511236481.
- Rönnquist, Lars; Vuorenmaa, Anssi (1993). Törnin Jääkärit (in Finnish). Porvoo: W. Söderström. ISBN 978-9510194485. OCLC 36900567.
- Tyrkkö, Jukka (1975). Lauri Törnin tarina: vapaustaistelijan vaiheita Viipurista Vietnamiin (in Finnish). Helsinki: Alea-kirja. ISBN 978-9519272177. OCLC 2645931.
- Salomaa, Markku; Fletcher, Roderick (translator) (2000). "Lauri Torni, soldier". In Marjomaa, Ulpu. 100 Faces from Finland: A Biographical Kaleidoscope. Helsinki: Finnish Academy of Science & Letters. pp. 554–557. ISBN 978-9517462150. OCLC 47683663.
- "The Ideal Green Beret". States New Service. 30 June 2010. Retrieved January 16, 2014 from HighBeam Research.
- More on Larry Thorne, by J. Mike Cleverley
- P.O.W. Network listing on Thorne
- Special Forces Association Larry A. Thorne Memorial Chapter 33 website
- Arlington National Cemetery (unofficial) listing on Thorne
- Lauri Törni Photographs
- Maj Larry Alan Thorne at Find a Grave