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Lauri Törni

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Lauri Allan Törni, "Lasse"
Larry Thorne
Larry Thorne in the U.S. Army
Born(1919-05-28)May 28, 1919
DiedOctober 18, 1965(1965-10-18) (aged 46)
Buried atArlington National Cemetery
United States of America[1]
Service/branchFinnish Army
Waffen SS
United States Army
Years of service1938–1944 (Finnish Army)
1945 (Waffen SS)
1954–1965 (U.S. Army)
RankCaptain (Finland)
Hauptsturmführer[1] (Germany)
Major (USA)
UnitInfantry Regiment 12 (Finland)
Sondercommando Nord (Germany: January–April 1945)
Green Berets, Detachment A743, MACV-SOG
5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
Battles/warsWorld War II Vietnam War
AwardsMannerheim Cross
Iron Cross 2nd Class[1]
Bronze Star
Purple Heart (2)
Distinguished Flying Cross

Lauri Allan Törni (28 May 1919 – 18 October 1965), later known as Larry Thorne, was a Finnish Army captain. He led an infantry company in the Finnish Winter and Continuation Wars. After the wars, he moved to the United States. He then joined the American Army. 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 (Green Berets) in the Vietnam War.

Early life and military service[change | change source]

Lauri Allan Törni was born in Viipuri, Viipuri Province, Karelia, Finland. His father was a ship captain named Jalmari (Ilmari) Törni. His mother was Rosa (née Kosonen) Törni. He had two sisters: Salme Lesley (b. 1920) and Kaija Iris (b. 1922).[2] When he was a boy, he was athletic. An early friend was future Olympic Boxing Gold Medalist Sten Suvio.[3] He attended business school and served with the Finland Civil Guard. Then he entered military service and joined the 4th Independent Jaeger Infantry Battalion stationed at Kiviniemi.[4]

Career[change | change source]

World War II[change | change source]

Törni as SS- Second Lieutenant

During the Winter War, he fought battles at Lake Ladoga.[5] His courage was noticed by his commanders. At the end of the war, he received officer training. Then he was commissioned a Vänrikki (2nd lieutenant) in the reserves.[6] After the Winter War, in June 1941, Törni went to Vienna, Austria. In Vienna, he received 7 weeks of training with the Waffen SS. Then he returned to Finland in July. Because he was a Finnish officer, he was recognized as a German Untersturmfuhrer.[7]

Törni (in the middle) as Finnish lieutenant

Törni is famous because of his courage in the Continuation War (1941–44) between the Soviet Union and Finland. In 1943 he was the leader of Detachment Törni. His infantry unit went behind enemy lines to attack the Russians. One of Törni's men was future President of Finland, Mauno Koivisto.[8] The two served together during the Battle of Ilomantsi. This was the last Finnish-Soviet battle of the Continuation War.

Törni's unit caused many casualties on the Russian units. The Soviet Army placed a reward of 3 million Finnish Marks, equivalent to 650,000 USD, to anyone who captured Törni. Because of his courage, Törni was decorated with the Mannerheim Cross on 9 July 1944.

Törni was not happy when Finland made peace with the Soviets. The peace agreement required Finland to take up arms against Germany in the Lapland War. He left the Finnish Army. In 1945, he was recruited by a pro-German resistance movement in Finland. He traveled to Germany for saboteur training. He wanted to organize resistance in case Finland was occupied by the Soviet Union. He surrendered to British troops in Germany at the end of World War II. Then he returned to Finland in June 1945.

After he returned to Finland, he was arrested by ValPo, the Finnish national security agency. There was a trial for treason in 1946 because he had joined the German army.[1] After the trial he received a 6 year sentence in January 1947. He went to prison in Turku, but he escaped in June. He was recaptured and went to a different prison. In December 1948, Finnish President Juho Paasikivi gave him a pardon.

Shoulder patch of Detachment Törni

United States[change | change source]

In 1949 Törni, traveled with his wartime executive officer Holger Pitkänen to Sweden. They entered Sweden from Tornio to Haparanda (Haaparanta). From Haparanda they traveled by railroad to Stockholm. Törni stayed with the Baroness von Essen, who helped many Finnish officers following the war. Pitkänen was arrested and returned to Finland. Törni met and fell in love with a Swedish Finn, Marja Kops. They were engaged to be married. Looking for a new job before the marriage, Törni traveled to Caracas, Venezuela. Törni met one of his Winter War commanders, Finnish colonel Matti Aarnio, who lived in Venezuela. From Caracas, Törni hired on to a Swedish cargo ship, the MS Skagen. The Skagen sailed to the United States in 1950. While in the Gulf of Mexico, near Mobile, Alabama, Törni jumped overboard and swam to shore. Now he was a political refugee.[9] He traveled to New York City where he was helped by the Finnish-American community in the Sunset Park, Brooklyn "Finntown." There he worked as a carpenter and cleaner. In 1953, Törni received residence permit through an Act of Congress. The law firm of William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan (the former head of the OSS, America's wartime covert military organization) helped pass the law.

Törni joined the U.S. Army in 1954. The Lodge-Philbin Act was a special law that allowed non-citizens to join the army. He adopted the name Larry Thorne. While in the US Army, his friends were Finnish-American officers known as "Marttinen's Men."[10] They helped Private Thorne join the Special Forces. While in the Special Forces, Thorne taught skiing, survival, mountaineering, and guerrilla tactics. In turn he attended airborne school. He advanced in rank and received a commission as a 2nd lieutenant in 1957. He was promoted to captain in 1960. From 1958 to 1962 he served in the 10th Special Forces Group in West Germany at Bad Tölz. While there he was second in command of a search and rescue mission in the Zagros mountains of Iran. The mission was very difficult and Thorne was praised because of its success.

In 1962 Thorne is shown as a lieutenant with the 10th Special Forces Group in a United States Army The Big Picture episode.[11]

In November 1963 Thorne joined Special Forces unit A-734 in Vietnam. He fought in the Mekong Delta and received medals for bravery.

In 1965, Thorne transferred to Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV–SOG). This was a classified U.S. special operations unit. The unit focused on unconventional warfare in Vietnam. On 18 October 1965, Thorne was supervising a secret mission on a helicopter. The helicopter crashed in a mountainous area of Vietnam, 25 miles (40 km) from Da Nang.[12] A rescue team went to the crash site. They could not find it because of the mountains and trees.

Shortly after his disappearance, Thorne was promoted to the rank of major.

Thorne's body was found in 1999. Also, the bodies of the helicopter crew were found. The bodies were formally identified in 2003. On 26 June 2003, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, section 60, tombstone 8136.[13] The remains of the Vietnam casualties were buried with him.[14]

Details of service[change | change source]

Shared grave of Thorne and fellow Vietnam casualties in Arlington National Cemetery.

Legacy[change | change source]

In the 1990s, Törni's name became more and more well-known as a martial war hero. Several books were written about him.[15] He was named 52nd in the Suuret Suomalaiset listing of famous Finns. In the 2006 Suomen Sotilas (Finnish Soldier) magazine listing, he was named most courageous of the Mannerheim Cross recipients.[16]

In Finland, the survivors, friends, and families of Detachment Törni formed the Lauri Törni Tradition Guild.[17] The Infantry Museum (Jalkaväkimuseo) in Mikkeli, Finland, has an exhibit dedicated to Törni,[18] as does the Military Museum of Finland in Helsinki.[19] Törni is considered as the primary hero by both Finnish Parachute Rangers and Coastal Rangers, the two elite Finnish army formations.

At Fort Carson, Colorado, headquarters building for Special Forces is named the Larry Thorne Headquarters Building. The Special Forces 10th Group presents the Larry Thorne Award to the best Operational Detachment-Alpha in the command each year.[20] The Special Forces Association Chapter 33 in Cleveland, Tennessee is named after him.[21] In 2010 he was named as the first Honorary Member of the United States Army Special Forces Regiment.[22]

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.[23]

In a 2013 book Tuntematon Lauri Törni [Unknown Lauri Törni], Juha Pohjonen and Oula Silvennoinen say that Törni's conviction for treason was correct. They say the SS training that Törni received at the end of World War II was to support a National Socialist coup in Finland.[24] Törni Heritage Guild members Markku Moberg and Pasi Niittymäki disagree. They say Törni faced pressure from war and alcohol, but did not support Germany.[25] Finnish historian Jussi Niinistö says Törni's training was motivated by patriotism.[26]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Salomaa 2000, pp. 554–7.
  2. Cleverley 2008, pp. 2–3.
  3. Cleverley 2008, p. 5.
  4. Cleverley 2008, pp. 7, 14, 20.
  5. Cleverley 2008, pp. 26–32.
  6. Cleverley 2008, p. 287.
  7. Cleverley 2008, pp. 55, 58.
  8. Bennett, Richard M. (2003). Elite Forces. Random House. ISBN 9780753508237.
  9. 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 9781628950205.
  10. The officers were named after Finnish Colonel Alpo K. Marttinen. Several joined the U.S. Special Forces after World War II.
  11. "Phantom Fighters. USA Special Forces Training." (TV-448) 1962 via LiveLeak.
  12. 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 978-0-9895513-0-4.
  13. Maj Larry Alan Thorne Archived 2013-12-03 at the Wayback Machine at Find a Grave
  14. 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. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  15. 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.
  16. Finland in World War II : history, memory, interpretations. Leiden: Brill. 2012. ISBN 978-90-04-21433-0. OCLC 777548862.
  17. Os Lauri Törni Perinnekilta ry Archived 2014-04-16 at the Wayback Machine (Lauri Törni Tradition Guild)
  18. Nargele, Dominik George (2005). Terror Survivors and Freedom Fighters. Bloomington, IL: AuthorHouse. p. 35. ISBN 9781467837439. OCLC 682903422. Nargele, Dominik George (2009). Endless Cold War. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-4389-9981-4. OCLC 620134604.
  19. "Remember the Military Museum in Helsinki during your summer holiday. 14 June 2012". Archived from the original on 17 April 2014. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  20. Gregory, Jim (30 June 2010). "The Ideal Green Beret". United States European Command Public Affairs Office.
  21. Special Forces Association Larry A. Thorne Memorial Chapter 33 website
  22. "Lauri Törni sai kunnianosoituksen USA:n erikoisjoukoilta [Larry Thorne honored by U.S. Special Forces]". Kotimaa (in Finnish). Ilta-Sanomat. 9 September 2010. Archived from the original on 19 April 2014. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  23. 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 called The Green Berets. The movie starred John Wayne. The Green Berets
  24. Pohjonen, Juha; Silvennoinen, Oula (2013). Tuntematon Lauri Törni [Unknown Lauri Törni] (in Finnish). (See: University of Helsinki bibliographic data Archived 2014-04-15 at the Wayback Machine). Reviewed in Määttänen, Markus (24 October 2013). "Juha Pohjonen ja Oula Silvennoinen: Tuntematon Lauri Törni". Aamulehti (in Finnish). Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2014. Also see: 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.
  25. "Perinnekilta: Lauri Törni ei ollut natsi [Heritage Guild: Larry Thorne was not a Nazi]". Uutiset (in Finnish). Yle. 24 October 2013.
  26. Hirsimäki, Tiina (21 October 2013). "Niinistö: Lauri Törnin menneisyyttä ei ole siloteltu [Niinistö, Lauri Törni's past not smooth]". Uutiset. Yle.

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