(Larry Thorne)[nb 1]
|Birth name||Lauri Allan Törni|
|Other name(s)||Larry Alan Thorne|
|Born||28 May 1919|
|Died||18 October 1965 (aged 46)|
Phước Sơn District, Quảng Nam Province, South Vietnam
|Service/|| Finnish Army|
United States Army
|Years of service||1938–1944 (Finnish Army)|
1941/1945 (German Waffen-SS)
1954–1965 (US Army)
|Rank|| Captain (Finland)|
Major (US) (posthumous)
|Unit||Germany: Sonderkommando Nord|
|Commands held||Detachment Törni|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards|| Mannerheim Cross 2nd Class|
Iron Cross 2nd Class
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Purple Heart (2)
Lauri Allan Törni (28 May 1919 – 18 October 1965), later known as Larry Alan Thorne, was a Finnish-born soldier who fought under three flags: as a Finnish Army officer in the Winter War and the Continuation War ultimately gaining a rank of captain; as a Waffen-SS captain (under the alias Larry Laine) of the Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Waffen-SS when he fought the Red Army on the Eastern Front in World War II; and as a United States Army Major (under the alias "Larry Thorne") when he served in the U.S. Army Special Forces in the Vietnam War.
Törni died in a helicopter crash during the Vietnam War and he was promoted to the rank of major posthumously. His remains were located three decades later and then buried in Arlington National Cemetery; he is the only former member of the Waffen-SS known to be interred there.
Early life and education
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 Jaeger Battalion 4 stationed at Kiviniemi; when the Winter War began in November 1939, his enlistment was extended and his unit confronted invading Soviet troops at Rautu.
World War II
His performance during these engagements was 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, the Germans recognized him as an 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 subordinates was future President of Finland Mauno Koivisto. Koivisto served in a reconnaissance company under Törni's command during the Battle of Ilomantsi, 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 of 3,000,000 Finnish marks on his head. He was decorated with the Mannerheim Cross 2nd Class on 9 July 1944.
The September 1944 Moscow Armistice required the Finnish government to remove German troops from its territory, resulting in the Lapland War; during this period, much of the Finnish Army was demobilized, including Törni, leaving him unemployed in November 1944. In January 1945, he was recruited by the Pro-German resistance movement in Finland and left for saboteur training in Germany, with the intention of organizing 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 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 military. After a trial from October to November, he received a six-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. President Juho Paasikivi granted him a pardon in December 1948.
Emigration to the United States
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 are ethnic Finns. 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 he 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 Army
Törni enlisted in the US 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" (Marttisen miehet).[nb 2]
With their support, Thorne joined the US Army 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 to sergeant. Receiving his US citizenship in 1957, Thorne attended Officer Candidate School, and was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Signal Corps. He later received a Regular Army commission and a promotion to captain in 1960. From 1958–1962, he served in the 10th Special Forces Group in West Germany at Bad Tölz, from 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 death
Deploying to South Vietnam in November 1963 to support Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) 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.
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 US special operations unit focusing on unconventional warfare in Vietnam, as a military advisor.
On 18 October 1965, as part of the operation Shining Brass, Thorne was supervising the first clandestine mission to locate Viet Cong turnaround points along the Ho Chi Minh trail and destroy them with airstrikes. Two Republic of Vietnam Air Force (RVNAF) CH-34 helicopters launched from Kham Duc Special Forces Camp and rendezvoused with a United States Air Force Cessna O-1 Bird Dog Forward Air Controller in inclement weather in a mountainous area of Phước Sơn District, Quảng Nam Province, Vietnam, 25 miles (40 km) from Da Nang. While one CH-34 descended through a gap in the weather to drop off the six-man team, the command CH-34 carrying Thorne and the O-1 loitered nearby. When the drop helicopter returned above the cloud cover, both the CH-34 and the O-1 had disappeared. 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, along with the RVNAF casualties of the mission recovered at the crash site. He was memorialized on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Panel 02E, Line 126. He was survived only by his fiancée, Marja Kops.
- 2nd class Medal of Liberty, 26 July 1940
- 1st class Medal of Liberty, 24 August 1940
- 3rd class Cross of Liberty, 9 October 1941
- 4th class Cross of Liberty, 23 May 1942
- 2nd class Mannerheim Cross, 9 July 1944
- 1st Div. Memorial Cross
- Border Jaeger Troops Cross
- Defense Forces Bronze Medal
United States Army
- Combat Infantryman Badge
- Master Parachutist Badge
- Silver German Parachutist Badge
- Special Forces Tab
- Army Special Forces CSIB
Decorations and medals
- Legion of Merit (posthumous)
- Distinguished Flying Cross (posthumous)
- 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 citation
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 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 rank
- 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
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 US Special Forces. His US 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 and in 2011 he was inducted into the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Commando Hall of Honor.
In their 2013 book Tuntematon Lauri Törni [Unknown Lauri Törni], authors Juha Pohjonen and Oula Silvennoinen write 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 has been challenged by Törni Heritage Guild members Markku Moberg and Pasi Niittymäki, who acknowledge that Törni faced pressure from the war and alcohol consumption, but contend that he did not support Germany. Furthermore, Finnish historian and later Minister of Defence (2015-2019) Jussi Niinistö of the Finns Party argued that Törni's training was actually motivated by patriotism towards his native country, and accused Pohjonen and Silvennoinen of stirring up hatred in order 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 joined the US Army under the Lodge Act. Several were brought into the US 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.
- "John Mullins: MACV-SOG, Phoenix Program, Blue Light, and security consultant: Ep. 48." Archived 2021-07-24 at the Wayback Machine Interview with John Mullins. The Team House. Archived 2021-02-04 at the Wayback Machine Streamed live on YouTube on June 26, 2020. "John served in Special Forces, including tours in Vietnam, Central and South America, and the Middle East. After his military service, John worked as a security consultant all over the world. He was also the inspiration for the Soldier of Fortune video game."
- "Insane Soldier Who Fought In 3 Different Armies - YouTube". www.youtube.com. Archived from the original on 2020-12-25. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
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- 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. Archived from the original on 2021-07-24. Retrieved 2020-12-12.
- Jowett, Philip; Snodgrass, Brent (2006). Finland at War 1939–1945. Oxford: Osprey. p. 32. ISBN 978-1782001256. OCLC 824780162.
- Knights of the Mannerheim Cross Archived 2014-04-19 at the Wayback Machine (Finnish); accessed 20 September 2014.
- Gill 1998, pp. 67–68.
- 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 (ed.). Finns in the United States: A History of Settlement, Dissent, and Integration. Michigan State University Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-1628950205. Archived from the original on 24 July 2021. 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. 67: A60. 12 August 1953. Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 June 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
- Gill 1998, pp. 117–19.
- Gill 1998, pp. 127–35.
- Phantom Fighters – The Big Picture Archived 2020-11-20 at the Wayback Machine, via YouTube.
- Cleverley 2008, pp. 239–45.
- LeFavor, Paul D. (2013). "Ch. 1: Special Forces History – Operation Shining Brass". In Blackburn, Michael (ed.). US Army Special Forces Small Unit Tactics Handbook. Fayetteville, NC: Blacksmith. pp. 50–51. ISBN 978-0989551304. Archived from the original on 2021-07-24. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
- Maitland, Terrence; McInerney, Peter (1983). The Vietnam Experience: A Contagion of War. Boston Publishing Company. pp. 123-4. ISBN 0939526050.
- "Burial Detail: Thorne, Larry A. (Section 60, Grave 8136) Birth Date: 05/28/1919; Death Date: 10/18/1965; Interment Date: 06/26/2003". ANC Explorer. Arlington National Cemetery. (Official website). Archived from the original on 2020-10-16. Retrieved 2021-01-15.
- 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. Archived from the original on 17 April 2014.
- "Larry Alan Thorne Major SD-5891, HQ, MACV Advisors, MACV. Army of the United States, Norwalk, Connecticut". virtualwall.org. The Virtual Wall® Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Archived from the original on 13 September 2017. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
- "Lauri Törni rakastui kunnolla vain kerran, mutta onnellinen tarina päättyi erittäin lyhyeen" (in Finnish). Ilta-Sanomat. 29 September 2015. Archived from the original on 23 February 2019. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
- Cleverley 2008, p. 302.
- 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. S2CID 143665356. Archived from the original on 24 July 2021. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
- 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 (eds.). Finland in World War II: History, Memory, Interpretations. Brill. p. 464. ISBN 978-9004208940. OCLC 748330780. Archived from the original on 2021-07-24. Retrieved 2020-12-12.
- Os Lauri Törni Perinnekilta ry Archived 2014-04-16 at the Wayback Machine (Lauri Törni Tradition Guild)
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- James, Chuck. "Larry A Thorne Special Forces Memorial Chapter XXXIII". chapterxxxiii.sfsarge.com. Archived from the original on 2007-10-16. Retrieved 2007-10-18.
- "Lauri Törni sai kunnianosoituksen USA:n erikoisjoukoilta [Larry Thorne honored by US Special Forces]". Kotimaa (in Finnish). Ilta-Sanomat. 9 September 2010. Archived from the original on 19 April 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
- "Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment: Major Larry Thorne" (PDF). Ft. Bragg, NC: U.S. Army Special Operations Center of Excellence. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 October 2017. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
Inducted June 2010
- "Commando Hall of Honor". www.socom.mil. US Special Operations Command. Archived from the original on 31 August 2017. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
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- "Tuntematon Lauri Törni - Research database Tuhat - University of Helsinki". April 15, 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-04-15.
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- 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. Archived from the original on 25 October 2013. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
- "Perinnekilta: Lauri Törni ei ollut natsi [Heritage Guild: Larry Thorne was not a Nazi]". Uutiset (in Finnish). Yle. 24 October 2013. Archived from the original on 21 October 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
- Hirsimäki, Tiina (21 October 2013). "Niinistö: Lauri Törnin menneisyyttä ei ole siloteltu [Niinistö: Lauri Törni's past not smooth]". Uutiset. Yle. Archived from the original on 16 February 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
- Cleverley, J. Michael (2008). Born a Soldier: The Times and Life of Larry Thorne. Booksurge. ISBN 978-1439214374. OCLC 299168934.
- 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.
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- Salomaa, Markku (2000). "Lauri Torni, soldier". In Marjomaa, Ulpu (ed.). 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.
- Elliot, Adriane (13 April 2016). "Nation committed to bringing home missing heroes". www.army.mil. U.S. Army. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
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- Karttunen, Mika (Director), Franzén, Peter (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.
- 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.
- Plaster, John L. (2000). "3: Shining Brass". SOG: A Photo History of the Secret Wars. Boulder, CO: Paladin. ISBN 978-1581600582. OCLC 445847740.
- "More on Larry Thorne", by J. Mike Cleverley
- Temmes, Asko (17 June 2001). "Thorne, Larry Alan – Remains Found 1999 – Identified 2003, Buried Arlington June 26, 2003". POWNetwork.org. The POW Network. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
- Salomaa, Markku; Roderick, Fletcher (trans.). "Törni, Lauri (1919–1965)". Kansallisbiografia.fi. Biografiakeskus – National Biography of Finland. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
- Törni – Sotilaan Tarina at IMDb